Cass County administrator resigns

CASSOPOLIS — Cass County is beginning 2019 with a shakeup of its leadership.

During its first meeting of the year Thursday evening, the Cass County Board of Commissioners voted to approve the resignation of County Administrator Karen Folks. Folks had been administrator since June 2016.

“This is overwhelming,” Folks said Thursday. “What a pleasure it has been to work for the Cass County organization and the greater Cass County Community. This community so embraced and supported me, and I am forever grateful.”

Karen Folks

The motion to accept Folks’ resignation was approved 6-1, with Commissioner Clark Cobb opposing.

Before Thursday’s meeting, a motion had been placed on the agenda to terminate Folks’ contract as administrator and her employment with Cass County effective immediately. However, during the Committee of the Whole Meeting preceding the regular Board of Commissioners meeting, that motion was amended to accept Folks’ resignation.

Commissioner Robert Benjamin, who was elected in November 2018, brought forth the original motion to terminate Folks’ employment with the county. He said though he respected the work that she did on projects such as Imagine Cass, which partnered with Michigan State University Extension to redesign the county seat in Cassopolis, as well as her work with the historic county courthouse, he had heard from county employees, elected officials and community members that Folks was not a good fit for the direction he wants to see the county go in.

“I had heard that there was a morale issue within the employee base as well as that the culture was kind of a toxic culture,” he said. “I made the recommendation that we go in a different direction.”

Commissioner Terry Ausra put forth an amendment to accept Folks’ resignation in place of termination. He said the amendment was meant to prevent a split between commissioners.

“It would have been a controversial issue, and I didn’t want to see that in this county,” Ausra said.

Folks had been the Cass County administrator since 2016. She has worked more than 20 years in various government and emergency management positions in the state of Michigan including as a clerk with the Michigan Seventh Circuit Court, chief legal officer in Flint and city attorney of Ecorse. Prior to serving as Cass County administrator, she served as city administrator in Allen Park, where she was voted to be suspended by the Allen Park City Council, citing concerns over lack of transparency and making decisions without council approval, in 2015.

Folks said she came to Cass County with the goal of addressing foundational issues in the county and that she is proud of what she was able to accomplish during her time as administrator. Now, she said she is excited about her next step.

“Thank you to you all,” she said. “I wish Cass County the very best as it chooses to move in a new direction.”

During public comment, several community members and commissioners thanked Folks for her service to the county throughout her tenure, particularly her work during the last year on the county’s Imagine Cass project.

“This is a sad day,” said Commissioner Dixie Ann File.

“Karen has done a great job and has had a whole lot of energy,” added Commissioner Clark Cobb. “I have the utmost respect for [Folks] and want to thank [her] for all [her] hard work.”

Angie Steinman, the county’s finance director, was appointed Thursday by the board to act as Cass County Administrator until a permanent administrator can be hired. The board also voted to discuss creating an updated Cass County Administrator job description and hiring process at the next Committee of the Whole meeting.

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Berrien County reports one new COVID-19 death

Business

Biggby Coffee location coming to Edwardsburg

Berrien County

Berrien County Board of Health discusses COVID-19 vaccine deployment

News

Teens arraigned on felony charges following police pursuit

Berrien County

Honor Credit Union announces new southwest Michigan regional manager

Dowagiac

National Guard to host TroopsGiving Food Drive in Dowagiac

Berrien County

Michigan State Police seeks participants for National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest

Business

Shelton’s Farm Market helping to feed families in need with holiday gift baskets

Giving

Niles dealership collects food, toys for those in need

News

With stolen cars on the rise, Niles police urge drivers to lock vehicles

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Rotary Club, Rotary Foundation gifts $1,000 to C. Wimberley’s Feed the Hungry campaign

Berrien County

PACE of Southwest Michigan announces new CEO

News

Niles teens arrested following vehicle pursuit

News

Two sheriff’s deputies treated following Niles Township apartment fire

Dowagiac

Construction begins on Dowagiac District Library’s Carnegie building

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Southwest Michigan counties report new COVID-19 deaths

Business

Cottage Gallery to host Santa for holiday event

Dowagiac

Tree of Love Campaign to host virtual celebration Thursday

Giving

Michigan Gateway Community Foundation grants $20,000 to help City of Niles fund home repairs

News

Niles River Santa sets sail

Business

Dowagiac tree farm sees business soar amid pandemic

News

PHOTO STORY: Niles Amtrak depot gets dressed for Christmas

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Following Thanksgiving weekend, Michigan reports 360,449 cases, 9,134 deaths

Dowagiac

SMC Foundation Board stakes annual appeal to Strong Start