Commissioners split on EM Director, marking of cars

LAGRANGE – The LaGrange County Commissioners split in hiring a new emergency management director Monday morning.

By a 2-1 vote they hired current zoning code enforcement officer Don Wismer to fill the EM director’s position last held by Topeka Fire Chief Stuart Bender.

Eleven people applied for the position and five were interviewed last week. Out of those interviews came a recommendation to hire Wismer.

But Commissioner Dennis Kratz disagreed.

"I think he is probably the least qualified of them. He'll require the most training and he doesn't have any fire department experience. His background is in law enforcement and this isn't an enforcement position."

Commissioner Terry Martin supported the hiring of Wismer.

"I'm going to disagree with you there Dennis. I think (he) is the only applicant who came with a plan for the EMA Director's position. I don't think you necessarily have to be a firefighter for an EMA person. We've seen him work here in the county for the last couple of years and he's done a really good job where he's at."

Commission President Larry Miller joined Martin in voting 2-1 to hire Wismer, who expects to start his new duties in two weeks.

The commissioners also split on the need to mark all county-owned vehicles. Originally they agreed to mark vehicles for the building, planning and surveyor departments. But Martin said he felt all county-owned vehicles should be marked as county employees are serving the public and should be identifiable.

Martin and Kratz voted in favor of marking all vehicles. Miller felt it should be up to the department heads.