Macomb County Board of Commissioners selects new chair

By: Thomas Franz | C&G Newspapers | Published January 17, 2017

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MOUNT CLEMENS — The Macomb County Board of Commissioners has a new chair for the 2017-18 term.

Bob Smith, D-Clinton Township, was unanimously selected by the 13-person board to be the chair.

“It feels great. It’s an honor and it’s humbling to have a 13-0 vote on a board that’s Republican and Democrat,” Smith said. “Everyone came together and voted for me, and I can’t explain how good it feels.”

Smith, 53, is a retired fire marshal of 25 years in Clinton Township. He recently earned a law degree from Cooley Law School, and practices elder law. 

By a 7-6 vote, Jim Carabelli, R-Shelby Township, was named vice chair over Veronica Klinefelt, D-Eastpointe. New board member Elizabeth Lucido, D-Mount Clemens, was unanimously picked to be sergeant-at-arms. 

Smith acknowledged the work of previous board chairs Kathy Vosburg and Dave Flynn. He credited Vosburg for guiding the board through uncertain times after the county established an executive form of government in 2010, and he pointed to Flynn’s work in improving the board’s relationship with the executive branch.

“We’re getting along with the Executive’s Office. We’re getting along well with all of the departments, and I’d like to keep that going and keep adding to things that (the) board is legislatively responsible for,” Smith said.

Smith said he had some ambitions to be board chair someday when he initially joined the board in 2010, and the timing worked out for him this year.

“When I joined the board, I was just starting law school, so I had a little bit of a deterrent to running for board chair. I’ve since become an attorney, so it has then become more of a goal of mine,” Smith said. “It’s been kind of a plan to eventually get to this spot, and it’s worked out well.”

Smith said he will be giving up his attorney duties to put all of his efforts into his new full-time position, which pays $90,000 per year. Other commissioners earn $35,000 annually.

Under his leadership, Smith said he hopes the board can identify more sources of funding for senior and veterans services. He also hopes to create more opportunities for commissioners to hold events for the purpose of connecting with their respective districts.

Smith also said the board has budget approval for a legislative analyst position for the primary function of working on the annual county budget.

“We’ll have an earlier idea of what’s going on with the budget, so budget season won’t be so condensed and a little tough to understand for everybody,” Smith said.

Although there are five new commissioners, there remains eight Democrats and five Republicans. Despite being partisan posts, Smith hopes the board will continue to avoid party politics and vote for what’s best for county residents. 

“Being bipartisan on this board has worked well. We find very few votes go down the party lines with this board,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of new commissioners, but I expect that most of them vote for what’s right for the citizens, not what the party might think at the end of the day.”

Smith is a 1980 graduate of Chippewa Valley High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.

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