Ed Robb to be sworn in despite hospital visit

Friday, December 31, 2010 | 1:14 p.m. CST; updated 4:17 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 1, 2011
Ed Robb hugs his campaign manager, Matthew McGee, seconds after learning he had won the race for Boone County presiding commissioner Nov. 2. Robb and his supporters were gathered at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Columbia.

Ed Robb will be sworn in as presiding Boone County commissioner Saturday, but he's not attending the official ceremony in the county courthouse.

Robb, 68, was hospitalized Wednesday for an abnormal heart rhythm after passing out at home Wednesday.

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Auditor June Pitchford

Recorder of Deeds Bettie Johnson

Collector Pat Lensmeyer

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Associate Circuit Judges Larry Bryson, Christine Carpenter, Leslie Schneider and Deborah Daniels

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His doctor successfully installed a pacemaker, and the new commissioner is expected to make a quick and full recovery. Other county officials will be sworn in as planned, and County Clerk Wendy Noren will swear Robb in separately sometime over the weekend.

In November's election, Robb garnered 24,967 votes, or 50.5 percent, to narrowly beat Democrat J. Scott Christianson. He replaces Democrat Ken Pearson, who was elected as presiding commissioner in 2006.

Robb is the only Republican elected to a Boone County office, yet he remains optimistic that he can win bipartisan cooperation with his fellow commissioners.

“I’ve known both of (the other commissioners) forever and we have a good working relationship,” Robb said in an interview earlier this week. “The vast majority of the issues in government have nothing to do with politics. It’s getting down to the nuts and bolts of an issue and finding solutions. I don’t see any problems there.”

Robb has not been idly waiting to take office since his November victory. In preparation for his new office, he has attended numerous commission meetings and work sessions to acquaint himself with both the workings of county government and the particulars of his job.

“I’ve been to every meeting since the election except for one,” he said, adding that he has no concerns about a smooth transition between himself and Pearson. “It’s a learning process, and I have a lot to learn about specific operations.

“I also did find out that the presiding commissioner signs every piece of paper that goes through the county government, so I’ve been doing hand exercises to keep loose for that,” he said with a chuckle.

Lightheartedness aside, the former MU economics professor said he plans to tackle some of Boone County’s budgetary issues immediately. For one thing, he wants to change how the county distributes its money for roads and bridges.

“That will come up very quickly and get us into some interesting philosophies about how much influence the commission should have in that process,” Robb said.

“We also have the issue with Hinkson Creek that will take up more time than it should,” Robb said, referring to strict Environmental Protection Agency proposals to clean up the Hinkson Creek watershed. The clean up could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Robb, and is therefore a serious budgetary concern for the county.

Robb also will push to establish a charter form of government for Boone County, also known as “home rule” government. A major campaign point for Robb, home rule would allow Boone County to pass its own governing ordinances as long as they don’t interfere with state or federal law.

The problem, Robb said, is that the powers of county government are limited to those granted by the state legislature. He used the example of minimum rental standards, something he said is a major issue for many college students living in the county.

“We would need legislative approval to even say that you must provide heat and running water (to tenants), and it would need to be specific to Boone County,” he explained.

The citizens of Boone County have rejected proposals for a charter twice before, in 1982 and 1996, but Robb said he is optimistic.

“I think you have to look at why (the proposals) were rejected. In both instances people said ‘No, I don’t like what the charter committee came up with.’ I think we need to have a discussion in the county about how far the changes should go,” Robb said.

He said that once the county establishes an initial charter, it can make gradual changes later. “I don’t think that sweeping changes are what we need. If you try to make too much change at once, people will shoot it down.”

Robb said he hopes a charter, by building on the established system, will allow Boone County to be more responsive to the needs of its citizens.

“Hopefully over the next four years we can make Boone County a better governmental operation,” he said, adding that the first step would be authorizing a vote to see whether county residents would even consider a charter. “This is a long process,” he said.

Robb seems undaunted by the job ahead of him.

“I’m looking forward to work on Monday,” he said.

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