Time to serve

County officials take the oath of office, get right to work

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Jai Nelson is congratulated by Evelyn Adams, who served as a commissioner 25 years ago, following a ceremony Monday where elected county officials were sworn in at the Kootenai County Administration Building in Coeur d'Alene.

COEUR d'ALENE - Diligence and change is what they promise.

And they expect to deliver right away.

Speeches were full of thanks and hope on Monday morning at the swearing-in ceremony for Kootenai County's newly elected officials, including two new commissioners, a new clerk and new coroner.

"I'm going to give 100 percent of myself all the time," said new district 3 Commissioner Dan Green, addressing the standing-room only crowd inside the Kootenai County Administration Building. "I want to thank all the people who supported me, I'll work hard to keep your trust and confidence. For those who don't know me, I'll work even harder to earn your trust and confidence."

Standing before District Judge John Mitchell, each new official swore to uphold the U.S. and Idaho constitutions and fulfill their roles to the best of their abilities.

Green, a retired businessman and former chairman of the county planning commission, had hugs and smiles afterward for his wife, Linda, and his two sons, Ryan and Brett.

He is eager to start work right away, he said, adding that his plans include restructuring county government and developing regulations to implement the newly updated Comprehensive Plan.

"I just want to dive in," Green said.

Jai Nelson, new district 2 commissioner, promised to the room of citizens and county staff that she would be open to all input.

"This is your building, your government and your county, and I am your public servant," said Nelson, a businesswoman and registered nurse.

Afterward, Nelson faced a long line of individuals eager to bid her welcome.

"Our (the commissioners') first meeting is at 11," she said, glancing at the clock that read 10:30. "We're ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work."

Cliff Hayes, new county clerk, acknowledged he has many issues to address in his new office, like the county employee being investigated for embezzlement, and tax dollars not properly distributed.

"Many things have shown up from the clerk's office," said Hayes, the former police chief of Post Falls. "I spent the last two and a half hours this morning in my office, and I realized, 'I've got to get back to work.'"

Debbie Wilkey was sworn in as county coroner, replacing the retiring Dr. Robert West.

"It's definitely an experience to take over for you know who," said Wilkey, who has been deputy coroner for six years. "But he's taught me well, especially in the ethics of the coroner."

Treasurer Tom Malzahn, re-elected to his office for the fourth time, also took his oath on Monday.

"I'm going to continue the job I have been doing," Malzahn said.

The new commissioners faced a busy first day of getting up to speed on current business, dividing up the 30 departments among themselves and picking a new chairman.

Commissioner Todd Tondee, whose seat wasn't up for election in November, said he looked forward to working with the new officials.

"We're just going to keep moving forward with things we're working on," Tondee said. "I'm just excited for the new challenges in 2011."

Nelson was voted in over former Commissioner Rick Currie, and Green defeated former Commissioner Rich Piazza. Hayes was elected to replace former Clerk Dan English.

Citizens attending the ceremony included Evalyn Adams, who served two terms as commissioner 25 years ago and wanted to welcome Nelson as the newest female commissioner.

She remembers the position as very challenging, she said.

"I didn't sleep much for the first six months," she said with a laugh. "I feel the hardest part is just trying to absorb and learn all the many facets of the county. But it's very exciting and stimulating."

Post Falls resident Bruce Noble said he hopes Hayes, his neighbor, will bring more transparency to the clerk's office, and that the commissioners will be open to changes.

"I hope they will bring in an alternate form of county government that would support bringing in a county administrator position," Noble said.

Fred Ostermeyer, who had been part of Hayes' campaign, said the commissioners will have to decide the most important issues to tackle.

"I think that's something that sitting in that position, they'll have to decide for themselves," he said. "All we can ask is for them to do their best."

Incoming Kootenai County Commissioner, Dan Green, hugs his son, Brett, 18, following a swearing-in ceremony.

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