by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune
---- — Cass County officials have swapped out health department office administrators in the hopes that by taking on additional responsibilities, the replacement will lead the department in a more favorable direction.
Bob Vernon, who had been an officer with the Logansport Police Department for 27 years, has replaced Lynda Kennedy as the office administrator.
Vernon said his goals for the department include improving the timeliness of handling permits and conducting inspections.
In order to help accomplish this, Vernon said he is in the process of acquiring the necessary certifications to assist with inspections during busy periods.
Dave Arnold, president of the Cass County Commissioners, said this was part of the reason Vernon was chosen as the replacement.
“We were looking to change directions for the health department and that office administrator position would be moved into a full-time position,” Arnold said. “Not only would it be managing the office, but also working out in the field with environmentalists... with Bob, he’s going to be put out on inspections, he’s going to be out in the field too.”
Vernon said he’ll be bringing a “commonsense approach” to the department.
“We are employed by the public, not the other way around,” he said, adding that he encourages restaurant owners and citizens to call him with questions and concerns and that he will respond to them in a timely manner.
Vernon went on to say along with becoming certified and handling the office administrative duties of bookkeeping and handling records, he’ll also play a role in helping to update the county’s emergency preparedness plan, which outlines a course of action if and when natural disasters, outbreaks and other emergencies occur.
“The health department does a lot more than people may think,” he said.
The office administrator position was formerly part-time. In a 7-0 vote Friday, the Cass County Council approved a full-time salary of $32,000 for the position and prorated Vernon’s 2013 wages in accordance to the remainder of the year.
“It’s pretty hard to run a department part time,” said Cass County Council President George Stebbins, explaining his vote in an interview after the meeting.
Stebbins went on to say no extra money was appropriated for the salary change. The health department had to have it established in its own budget, he added, making cuts in other areas if necessary.
Vernon said the department has the amount budgeted and that he has decided not to pursue filling the position of a receptionist who recently left to further ensure the cuts are met.
“Right now, we can run efficiently enough,” Vernon said, adding that sometime in 2014, the department may be able take on more hires.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.