Summit County's transition from a commission form of government to a council-manager format wasn't easy. The politically charged issue was broached in the 1990s and studied extensively before being torpedoed by entrenched local politicians. When it came up again more than a decade later, voters passed the measure by a hair.
Support for and against shifting from a three-member commission to a five-member council with an appointed manager was largely divided along geographic lines with the East Side favoring the status quo and the West Side endorsing the new format. So, it is safe to assume that when Bob Jasper arrived for his first day on the job at the county courthouse in Coalville, the reception was mixed.
The rocky economy in 2010 had citizens and elected department heads on edge. Due to a sharp drop in revenues, Summit County's Olympic heyday had come to a crashing halt, the county's budget was in the red and layoffs were inevitable. Adding a new paid administrative position to the equation wasn't particularly popular.
But Jasper, with a folksy demeanor that belies an astute grasp of financial management, managed to unruffle feathers, diffuse the geopolitical tension and carefully rein in spending to balance the budget.
Now four years later, residents, council members and elected department heads have come to appreciate the advantages of a central clearinghouse for setting agendas, directing questions to the right departments and taking the brunt of disgruntled complaints.
Whereas in the past, residents often complained of getting the courthouse runaround when presenting their issues, these days they go right to the county manager who, with his affable manner absorbs some of the heated rhetoric before directing a calmer citizen along to the proper department.
Last week, Jasper announced that he will retire at the end of the year. His ample notice gives the council plenty of time to recruit a professional replacement but we are also hoping they will find someone with same knack for diplomacy that our first county manager brought to the table.
Summit County's council/manager form of government is a marked improvement over the old three-member commission but its success is due in large part to Bob Jasper's humble leadership. If we haven't already said it: Thanks Bob.