Dell Takes Full Charge Of Council

Alliance With Lippy Turns Honorarytitle Into A Fact

May 05, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

The titles the County Commissioners bestow on themselves are considered honorary.

But try telling that to newly elected President Donald I. Dell.

While he and Commissioner Vice President Elmer C. Lippy Jr. and lone-incumbent Commissioner Julia W. Gouge have, in theory, the same amount of power, Dell has been wielding his deftly throughout Carroll's sometimes acrimonious budget process.

"I'm not trying to overwhelm anyone," the 66-year-old dairy farmer-turned-commissioner said. "Idon't consider myself any more elected than any of the others."

Dell, who received the highest amount of votes in the November election, never hesitates to speak his mind or to suggest budget cuts -- no matter how mundane -- and runs commissioner meetings with an efficiency observers say was lacking in the prior board.

"I think it's important to have order," he said. "But I don't feel that I've been as aggressive as I should be. I'm an informal person, but some of these meetings need to be formal."

One former county official remarked, "At least he's holding meetings."

Some recent examples:

* When confronted with another round of bad economic news by Management and Budget Director Steven D. Powell several weeks ago, Dell outlined morethan $48,000 in cuts, ranging from eliminating travel in the Planning Department to reducing funding for the Art Council. All $48,000 wastrimmed from the proposed budget.

* At the beginning of the commissioners' quarterly meeting with the local media in March, Dell did something his predecessor rarely did -- he banged a gavel, calling themeeting to order. While the gathering is supposed to be informal, Dell limited the amount of time people could speak, he made sure interruptions of speakers were brief and brought a semblance of control to what is usually a rather spirited meeting.

* During the endless stream of staff meetings, Dell often runs the sessions as if they were a meeting. More often than not, formal votes are taken on matters that used to be informally agreed upon.

"I don't plan to be a strict parliamentarian," he said. "But I don't want to lose the point of whywe're there."

The point of why they are there, Dell says, is to conduct the business of running the county. And though he and his colleagues have complained about staff meetings running long, scheduling conflicts and shifting appointments, Dell said his role as commissioner president is to keep such disruptions to a minimum.

Another difference in the first five months or so of the new Board of Commissioners is the seemingly solid relationship between Dell and Lippy.

A glance at the weekly commissioners' schedule often shows the two making appearances together. And throughout the three-month budget process, Dell and Lippy were in almost total agreement on recommended cuts and priorities.

"I'm aware of that," Dell said. "I really think that has more to do with age. Elmer and I came through the Depression; she (Gouge) didn't. She's also been in county government for four years. The two of us are seeing things for the first time."

While seeing things for the first time, Dell has used his position as board president to advantage.

The budget season just behind the commissioners was considered the worst the county has faced in decades.

And while previous commissioners did not always treat budget office recommendations as gospel, Dell seems to have taken charge firmly, sometimes going directly counter to the office's suggestions.

"I felt that we weren't getting to the line items as soon as I wanted to," Dell said. "So, I took the budget home and looked at areas where I felt wecould still make some cuts. I was successful in getting those cuts."

Dell's tenure as president is assured until at least December. because board offices are bestowed at the commissioners' pleasure, the length of a Dell presidency depends on the board.

"I just think it's important to have some leadership," he said.

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