The three current members of the Ottawa County Commission Board recently rotated their chairmanship.

Russell Earls, District III, who has been the Chairman for the past four years will continue his regular duties as a commissioner while John Clark, District I, has stepped into the chairmanship role.

“What’s exciting to me at this point is that I can get back to road and bridge projects and looking for additional dollars to do them,” Earls said. “In the past I’ve been consumed as chairman.

“The point I want to get across to my constituents is that I’m going to be out working on the road and bridge projects and hustling money for additional road and bridge projects,” the senior commissioner added.

Earls has every confidence in Clark to fulfill the Chairman’s role.

“Mr. Clark is solid as a rock,” Earls said. “He’ll do an excellent job. Maybe after a year or two Gary Wyrick (District II commissioner) will have his feet on the ground and then he can rotate into the position.”

As the senior member of the commission Earls will help the new chairman.

“It’s ideal that you have a senior member still on board to help the new guys get their feet on the ground as chairman,” Earls said. “When Commissioner (James) Leak lost his election four years ago I was cast into the chairmanship and hadn’t filled that role in any capacity before. I was Vice-Chairman, but, you know, usually the chairman was always there and took care of business and that’s what James did and that’s what I’ve done for the past four years.”

Earls believes that rotating the chairmanship among the commissioners makes for a stronger board.

“Most counties will take turns from one commissioner to the next sitting as chairman. That’s to help share the responsibility,” Earls explained.

“In Ottawa County in particular it’s kind of been where one commissioner has always been the chairman,” Earls said. “As I sat as chairman for four years I realized just how much more knowledge you gain as the chairman and how much better understanding you get of how things work. It makes for a healthier board for each commissioner to rotate in as chairman.”

It was that insight that led Earls to make the changes in the chairmanship.

“I wanted to wait until the first of the year before we tried to re-arrange the board,” Earls said. “I told that to the board in open session when they re-nominated me as chairman (last year). I told them that I appreciated the vote of confidence but said that after we get into the new courthouse and the elections are behind us we’ll re-arrange the board and one of the other commissioners will need to take the chairmanship.”

With the successful rotation of the chairmanship completed Earls has turned his attention to his district. Earlier this week District III held a County Fair Board election that saw Jeffery Reynolds and Mark Merrit, both of Fairland, and Miami’s Seth McCormick assume positions on the board.

The board’s duties include maintenance of fairground facilities and construction of various projects on the grounds but their largest responsibility arrives in August when the county Free Fair is held.

“When the Free Fair rolls around there’s probably thirty days of major preparation that they are all involved in,” said Earls. “It’s a hands-on administrative position.

“As I’ve visited with county commissioners statewide they all ask how we manage to have such a large Free Fair,” Earls said. “We’ve got one of the best Free Fair’s in the state and it’s because of the Fair Board and the merchants in Ottawa County.”