By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY —
The new-look Floyd County Council had its first meeting of the year Tuesday night, and several leadership positions were filled.
John Schellenberger, a six-year member on the council, was elected president. He served as vice-president last year. He replaces Ted Heavrin, who lost his bid for re-election during the Democratic primary last year.
Another council veteran, Dana Fendley, was elected as vice-president by her peers while Chris Lane was appointed council attorney.
Lee Cotner served as council attorney for several years when Democrats held the majority on the board. But once Republicans took control for the first time following the November election, they decided to go with a different attorney.
The meeting also marked the debut of Republicans Steve Burks and Jim Wathen, who were elected in November. Republicans now hold a 5-2 majority, with Brad Striegel and Tom Pickett the only Democrats.
The meeting, held at the Pine View Government Center, lasted more than two hours but Schellenberger said many of the questions asked by members were legitimate and “a good thing.”
“We had a lot of questions from the new members, but that is OK,” he said. “They wanted some answers before they voted.”
The council, the fiscal body of the county, faces a number of challenges this year, including funding two murder trials — William Gibson and David Camm. Schellenberger said he is “ready for the job.”
“We have to spend our money wisely,” Schellenberger said. “We are dependent on taxpayers’ money ... It’s going to be a challenge.
“This is our [Republicans] first year in the majority, but we are still a council and we will continue to work together.”
Schellenberger said he remembers being new to the council six years ago and said there is a lot to learn.
“Both Steve and Jim asked good questions. That is their job,” he said.
There was no major action taken Tuesday.
Wathen said he is excited to represent the people, and will continue to ask questions when it comes to spending.
“It’s a little different being on the other side of the podium,” he said. “Their [council] expectations are to come in there and vote for 10 or 15 line items for one department. They make a motion to pass all of them at once and before you know it, you have spent $400,000 to $500,000. Steve and I probably irritated a few of the folks ... we asked a few questions but I wanted some explanation.”
Wathen said he was surprised a new attorney was hired at the first meeting, without any input from all of the members.
“I found it interesting that a new contract was negotiated with a new attorney, with all of the conditions, and the council didn’t have anything to do with it,” he said. “I think the process is quite flawed. I would think the council would have a little more input on that.”
Veteran councilwoman Lana Aebersold said she is excited about the council and the upcoming year.
“I think we will do fine,” she said. “It’s a lot to take in for a new member. We always work well together so I don’t see that being a problem.”
Fendley said a work session or two to bring the two new members up to date on issues might be in order.
“We will continue to work for what we think is best for the community,” she said.
The meeting was also the first for Amanda Ault, the new chief deputy auditor. Ault, a Scottsburg resident, is a graduate from the Indiana University Southeast School of Business.
“She has demonstrated and proven abilities that will serve her well in her position working for taxpayers and is sure to be a fantastic addition,” said Floyd County Auditor Darin Coddington.