Thompson reviews, chooses duties as newly elected Northern District commissioner

Monday, December 10, 2012 | 7:00 p.m. CST; updated 8:07 p.m. CST, Monday, December 10, 2012
Newly elected Northern District Commissioner Janet Thompson caresses her horse Lily's nose on Oct. 8. Thompson defeated Don Bormann during the general election last month and will replace Skip Elkin.

COLUMBIA — An array of 3-by-5 index cards lay spread out on a conference table, hinting at the the chores and responsibilities that Boone County commissioners will face over the next two years.

During the Monday morning meeting, Northern District Commissioner-elect Janet Thompson, Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller and Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill divided the responsibilities they would have as liaisons to and members of various boards and commissions. They also picked one of three primary "issues in flux" for which each will take the lead.

The selections are effective Jan. 1, Miller said. "We do this every two years, after a new election. So, if there's a new person, then we flip."

Miller added that commissioners can occasionally swap duties based on scheduling conflicts or past areas of expertise.

Thompson selected the Boone County Fairgrounds as her issue of focus. The fairgrounds, which has been renamed the Central Missouri Events Center, has been trying to improve its bottom line, its accounting, its facilities and its ability to lure bigger events. Toward that end, it entered a contract at the beginning of the year with TAG Events.

Thompson said during her campaign that she believes the fairgrounds property needs a higher profile and better marketing.

Miller will continue to take the commission lead with Putting Kids First, a group that placed a sales tax to fund mental health services for teenagers and children on the November ballot. The sales tax passed with more than 57 percent of the vote, and now the commission must appoint a board that will decide how the estimated $5.4 million in annual revenue will be spent.

Atwill will remain focused on efforts to reorganize the city and county's 911 joint communications and emergency management systems. A committee of city, county and public safety representatives has been meeting for months and anticipates placing a sales tax to fund a new system, which might be under the county's control, on the April ballot.

Commissioners work with dozens of other advisory groups, including the Boone County Fire Protection District board, the Mid-Missouri Regional Planning Commission, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the University of Missouri Extension Council and Regional Economic Development, Inc.

As the newcomer, Thompson chose to work with the Extension Council and the county's Judicial and Law Enforcement Task Force. Those play to her strengths; Thompson raises horses and she has been an attorney on capital cases for several years. She also chose to work with the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau Advisory Board and the board of directors of Boone County Senior Citizens Services Inc., which governs The Bluffs retirement community. 

Miller chose to represent the county on the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council and the Boone County Regional Sewer District board of directors, among others. Atwill's choices included the Columbia Area Transportation Study Organization and the Mid-Missouri Solid Waste District.

Thompson said the selection process, where each commissioner took a turn choosing a card, fit well with the "three different personalities and three different skill sets" the commissioners possess.

The meeting maintained a cordial air, with some lighthearted exchanges peppering the discussion.

"As you can see, it's highly scientific," Atwill quipped about the index cards. Chuckles filled the room.

"It works. That's the thing," Miller replied with a smile.

"It's all to a factor of .275," Thompson added, eliciting more laughs.

Thompson defeated Don Bormann during the general election last month and will replace Skip Elkin, who did not seek re-election. Elkin discussed the duties of the Northern District commissioner with Thompson during an earlier meeting.

"The other commissioners have been very welcoming," Thompson said. So far, she has attended meetings for groups such as the Missouri Association of Counties and the West Central Commissioners Association.

Miller and Atwill, who like Thompson are Democrats, also won election in November. Miller defeated James Pounds; Atwill was unopposed.

For now, Thompson is looking ahead with optimism. Commissioners will be sworn into their new terms on Jan. 1.

"I think we just have to do as much as we can, and that's what we're sent here to do, to try to better the lives of people here in Boone County," Thompson said.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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