Starting Monday morning, there was one new face on the Barton County Commission. Fourth District Commissioner Alicia Straub took her seat at the table after taking the oath of office.
In addition to Straub, returning commissioners Kenny Schremmer of the First District and Jennifer Schartz of the Fifth District were sworn in as well. The ceremony took place in the main Barton County District Court courtroom with District Judge Steve Johnson presiding.
Following the ceremony, there was a reception in the courthouse rotunda.
“I’ve been getting ready for this for a number of months now,” Straub said, adding she’s been attending meetings regularly. “I think I am prepared.”
Straub defeated incumbent Ken Lebbin in the primary and survived a general election write-in campaign mounted by Lebbin.
Following the reception, Straub took her place along side her four peers.
Schremmer, who ran unopposed and has served on the commission since 2003, was then reelected as chairperson. “I feel very honored,” he said after being selected for a second term leading the commission.
Losses in revenue will bring challenges, he said, adding he will always seek ways to keep taxes down.
But, “things are going to get tougher and tougher,” he said. Thankfully, there are a host of qualified department heads that help keep Barton County in better shape than most others in the state.
None the less, he vowed to always listen to constituents.
Schartz was then reelected as chairperson pro tem. Schartz, who has served for 10 years, won reelection after defeating then Great Bend Police Chief Dean Akings in the August primary.
Prior to the swearing in, the commission recognized out-going Commissioner Ken Lebbin.
“The county recognizes that persons holding elected positions give a great deal of themselves,” Schremmer said. “Elected officials must always be available to the public, taking away a great deal of time from personal commitments.”
Lebbin, he said, went above and beyond. “He was always available to his constituents. You were a very, very good commissioner.”
The Ellinwood native was named the Barton County District 4 commissioner after the death of Commissioner Don Cates in a agricultural airplane crash in April 2014.
“You came in under very difficult circumstances,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. But, “you carried on in many ways the way he (Cates) would have done. You hit the ground running.”
He lost to Straub in the primary and ran an unsuccessful write-in campaign.
Lebbin was presented with a clock honoring his service.
He recently retired from the ONEOK Hydrocarbon L.P. facility at Bushton where he was employed for 22 years. Prior to that, he owned and operated a retail/wholesale Phillips 66 distributorship in Ellinwood for 13 years.
Lebbin served the Ellinwood City Council for over 21 years. He also served on the Ellinwood Fire Department for 22 years.
He is a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran who served as an air traffic controller and control tower chief. He returned to and has resided in Ellinwood since 1977.