Stewart sworn in as Clark County councilor

Ceremony reflects changes tied to passage of home-rule charter

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter

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Jeanne Stewart was sworn in Monday as a Clark County councilor, formally beginning the four-year term she was elected to in November.

It wasn’t the first time Stewart had taken the oath of office since the election. But besides the new title — Clark County commissioners became county councilors on Jan. 1, thanks to a voter-approved charter — Monday’s ceremony also carried a different tone. “It feels a lot different,” Stewart said.

The Republican was also sworn in on Nov. 25, shortly after election results were certified, to finish the term of former Commissioner Steve Stuart, who was temporarily succeeded by interim Commissioner Ed Barnes. That began a whirlwind few weeks on the board for Stewart, without the extra time in November and December to prepare, she said.

“It was definitely plunging right in,” Stewart said.

Stewart joins the board at a transitional time for the county. She, along with county Councilors David Madore and Tom Mielke, assumed their new roles on Jan. 1. Two additional councilors, including a county chair, will be elected this year. And County Administrator Mark McCauley became interim county manager, a position that carries new executive authority. All of those changes are part of the home-rule charter, a new form of government that takes effect this year.

That transition won’t be simple, Stewart said. Discussions and negotiations in coming months shouldn’t be perceived as leaders dragging their feet, she said.

“Moving forward carefully is better than blundering along the way, and that’s our responsibility,” Stewart said.

Stewart was among a handful of elected officials who participated in Monday’s swearing-in ceremony. County Auditor Greg Kimsey also took the oath of office. Other leaders, including the county sheriff and treasurer, took their oaths earlier but attended the gathering.

County Treasurer Doug Lasher recently began his eighth four-year term in the position. He first became treasurer in 1984, and has served with many county leaders during that tenure, he said.

Though the number of staff in the treasurer’s office hasn’t changed much since the 1980s, the nature of the job has, Lasher said.

“Technology is what’s really made the difference,” he said. “It’s changed dramatically.”

Administering the oaths Monday was Clark County Superior Court Judge Barbara Johnson, who recently announced that she will retire this year.

The gathering was an introduction for new faces in county government or new titles. It was also a celebration, Madore said.

“We just want to congratulate the citizens of Clark County for making some very wise choices,” he said.