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New Kalamazoo County Commission chair looks toward brighter future

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New Kalamazoo County Commission chair looks toward brighter future. (WWMT/File)

After years of gridlock and partisan bickering, members of the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners looked to the future.

Julie Rogers was elected serve as chair of the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners for the next two years. She was nominated as the new chair in a 9-1 vote Tuesday night.

Rogers said as part of her mission as chair she will look to repair the tarnished reputation of the Kalamazoo County Commission.

"We frankly don’t have time for distractions," Rogers said during the commission meeting Tuesday.

Rogers, who is serving her fourth consecutive term since 2012, replaces Democrat Commissioner Stephanie Moore.

"My hope is that this board of commissioners can come together with a laser focus for what is important for our county," Rogers said during Tuesday's meeting.

"I'm very excited to turn a new page," Rogers said.

Observers said not much was done in 2018, the Board of Commissioners under then-Chair Stephanie Moore was divided along party lines. In-fighting and outbursts during meetings gave the board a bad reputation.

At Tuesday's meeting outgoing-Chair Stephanie Moore said she felt happy not to be the target of "petty antics" and discrimination.

Moore said “I feel relieved that noose is not around my neck any longer."

Rogers said she has reason to believe 2019 will be different.

"We have three new people that are very positive, positive in energy and wanting to get things done," Rogers said.

Last month, three Democrats were elected to the board of commissioners, including two women. All were sworn in on Tuesday

Commissioner Tracy Hall, a long-time board member, was elected Vice Chair on Tuesday.

Democrats now hold a sizable 8-3 majority on the board.

"The voters sent a very clear message they want change," Newly-elected Commissioner Meredith Place said.

Place said she's wants to help repair the board's image.

"We are role models for other employees in this county and have to raise that bar, and we're going to set it high," she said.

Looking forward Rogers said her top priority is to get the county court and administration building "back on track." The nearly $100 million project was put on hold after an idea for a new downtown arena was pitched.

"Whatever we decide we need to get back on track with that building, so we can move forward with that project," Rogers said.

Rogers said other priorities for 2019 include joining a class action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers for their alleged responsibility in an addiction epidemic and reconvening a Criminal Justice Council to work on reforms to benefit young adults.