By: Benjamin J. Gohs, News Editor
Unanimously selected for another term as the Charlevoix County Board’s Chairman, Joel Evans seeks to improve cooperation among county employees and openness between county government and the citizenry.
Now heading into his fourth year as chairman of the board, Evans, who represents the 4th District—City of East Jordan and South Arm Township—said he is looking to focus as much on people as he does on projects.
“I’m just one of six commissioners who happens to have a little more responsibility,” Evans said. “I am really honored and humbled that the rest of the board members unanimously voted me in as chair again.”
Two of the main issues currently facing the board are the proposed Beaver Island garage facility and a lawsuit against the county and its former prosecutor by a former employee.
“We are lacking good facilities over there for those three entities—road commission, transit and sheriff (office),” Evans said. “I’m not sure if we’re going to be able to do this right away because it is at great cost; but, it is important to get that established to take care of the county’s equipment.”
Evans said he blames this latest in a number of lawsuits against the county over the past few years on a lack of communication and willingness of people to work together.
“The hardest thing I find in my position as chairman is people working together,” he said. “This case may cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars because people cannot work together.”
Evans added, “My mission is to get all our county employees to work together and understand they need to focus on Charlevoix County and set these petty little things aside.”
Evans said he also blames a failed legal system for incentivizing lawsuits against public entities.
“It’s unfortunate that anybody can sue anybody at any time for anything and end up with dollars they did not earn—I am ashamed of it,” he said.
Evans said often employees will contact him with a problem they should have first taken to their supervisor and that that lack of communication among employees tends to foment discord.
“I encourage people—citizens of Charlevoix County or county employees—to call me if they are upset about things,” Evans said. “But, I like to see people take the proper steps. If an employee is having trouble with a department, they need to discuss that with the department head first and see if they can get this thing resolved.”
He added, “If someone calls me upset about things and there is no department to go to I ask them to come to a county board meeting and tell the commissioners what their request is.”
Maintaining openness in governance is another of Evans’ ongoing goals.
“That’s the whole bottom line: we serve the people,” he said. “People sometimes call me with a question and apologize for bothering me and I say ‘listen, I serve you. I listen to the citizens of the county,’”
Evans added, “I know there many times some people get into a position of authority and use that authority against our public, and it happens that they don’t want to share information and they feel like it’s ‘us against them’ but I don’t feel that way at all.”
Evans said, despite sometimes dealing with tough issues, he is optimistic about the new year for Charlevoix County and its board of commissioners.
“I’m a servant and I love to serve,” he said. “I want all our employees and citizens of the county to be happy and I want more people to get involved in our county government.”
Evans added, “I appreciate and look forward to hearing everybody’s opinions and comments.”