Cass County welcomes new commissioners

CASSOPOLIS — The first meeting of 2021 for the Cass County Board of Commissioners was a productive one.

In addition to welcoming two new commissioners, the board appointed officers and heard a presentation from a regional agency.

The first order of business was to elect and approve new officers for the year 2021. Longtime commissioner Skip Dyes, district three, was voted board chair, while Michael Grice, district six, was voted vice-chair. The chair and vice-chair positions are one-year terms.

After the officers’ appointment, the board welcomed two new commissioners, who were voted in by Cass County residents during the November 2020 election. Ryan Laylin, R, of Silver Creek Township, takes the district one seat, previously occupied by Terry Ausra. Jeremiah Jones, R, of Pokagon Township, takes the district seven seat, formerly occupied by Clark Cobb.

Following introductions, Julie Pioch, Michigan State University Extension District 13 director, took over the call to provide MSU Extension’s annual report.

“Despite all we have been through this past year, MSU Extension has continued to work hard and made an impact with Cass County residents,” Pioch said.

For more than 100 years, MSU Extension has worked in Michigan counties to respond to issues related to agriculture, children and youth development, health and nutrition, and community and economic development.

“How I describe it is that we are the educational arm of county government,” Pioch said.

Pioch reported that in 2020 MSU Extension took a deeper dive into diversity, equity and inclusion in both its community and internal programming.

“Our leadership team has made a commitment to continue our [diversity and inclusion] efforts as long as it takes to become a more diverse organization and one that truly represents the communities we work in,” Pioch said. “We offered listening sessions to employees, had conversations and encouraged self-reflection and professional development related to systemic racism, Black Lives Matter, white privilege, hiring practices, gender differences and more.”

Going into 2021, Pioch said programs would continue to be hosted virtually for the time being due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she said staff is working on ways to allow 4-H clubs and other programs to begin to meet face-to-face.

Additionally, Pioch said MSU administration recommended in its 2021 budget plan that commissioners start a committee to explore programming with MSU Extension.

“I would welcome the opportunity to be a part of that committee to be able to provide the information needed to help them make the best decisions and recommendations about our partnership, as well as how to expand the 4-H program,” Pioch said.

In other business, commissioners approved the following appointments and reappointments to county boards and positions:

  • The reappointment of Bill Saunders to the Building Authority for a three-year term expiring on Dec. 31, 2023.
  • The reappointment of Nancy Stoner to the Cass District Library Board for a four-year

term expiring on Dec. 31, 2024.

  • The appointment of Bruce Campbell to the Parks Board for a three-year term expiring on

Dec. 31, 2023.

  • The reappointment of Marty Kleva to the Cass County Road Commissioner for a six-year

term ending Dec. 31, 2026.

  • The reappointment of Lance Lyons to the Kinexus Board for a three-year term ending

Dec. 31, 2023.

  • The reappointment of Dan Wyant to the Kinexus Board for a three-year term ending

Dec. 31, 2023.

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