Alpena County back to the future

One of my favorite movies is “Back to the Future.”

It matters not that I know each scene by heart. I can watch Marty McFly and Doc Brown for hours more as they try to grapple with time travel. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd were outstanding in their roles as those two characters.

As I read all the stories coming from the Alpena County commissioners recently, I kind of feel like I’m driving the DeLorean from the movie through the streets around the county courthouse.

All I need are some jumper cables and long enough wire to attach to the clock on top of the courthouse.

The problems facing commissioners and some of the names that surface surrounding the issues seem like a mix of the past, present, and — probably — future.

Take, for instance, county finances.

Now, in fairness, the financial predicament in which the county finds itself is not much different from hundreds of other local governments around the country today.

The difference, however, is a person by the name of Alpena County Treasurer Kim Ludlow, who has consistently preached from her pulpit about financial responsibility.

If commissioners were being blindsided by the financial troubles they are facing, that would be one thing. The truth is, that is not the case here, however. Eventually, after a can is kicked down the road enough times, someone has to stop and pick it up.

That is where county commissioners and residents find themselves today.

The financial shortfalls commissioners face is a story residents have read many times over the years. Savings have been whittled down in recent years, and there are no more federal American Rescue Plan Act funds from which to draw.

The financial situation is why the selection of a county administrator is so important right now. Whoever the commissioners hire will play a huge role in helping the county navigate through the economic minefield in which they find themselves standing.

Which brings the conservation back to the future.

In their search for a new county administrator recently, commissioners said that they have three finalists for the position.

Ironically, one — Jeff Thornton — is a former county administrator here in Alpena County, and another — Jesse Osmer — is a current county commissioner. Osmer has been consistently recusing himself from any business commissioners have conducted in recent months regarding the county administrator position.

So, of the three, one candidate from the past might lead the county into the future. Or one candidate from the present with close ties to the operation could lead the county into the future.

Or, perhaps, it will be the other candidate, who has no connection to Alpena County at all.

One thing is for sure, and that is that commissioners need to get the hire right.

As was the case with Marty and Doc from the movie, there will be no second chances.

In the words of Marty McFly, “Great Scott!”

Commissioners have to make a good choice and get that person into place as quickly as possible.

Talk about pressure.

I hope the DeLorean is up to the task.

Bill Speer retired in 2021 as the publisher and editor of The News. He can be reached at bspeer@thealpenanews.com.


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