It takes 4 ballots but Jan Occhi elected Knox County Board Chair


By Norm Winick

Reminiscent of old-time political conventions, the Knox County Board took four ballots to break a deadlock and decide on a chairperson. Jan Occhi, a Democrat from District Three, was the choice of the Democratic caucus and, eventually, of the slim 8—7 Democratic majority on the full board.

The one member not at the caucus, Dana Shallenberger (District 2) was the lone holdout on the first three ballots. While publicly stating that she preferred the Republican nominee, Wayne Saline (District 4) she was reportedly lobbied heavily by individuals in both parties to withhold her support from Occhi.

Occhi said after her election that the vote for chair and vice-chair are the only ones that follow party lines. "After that, we’ll be voting on the issues." That was borne out by the succeeding vote to meet twice a month as a committee of the whole. Occhi, in supporting the committee of the whole structure, said that she hopes "it will help all the Board members to know all aspects of county government."

Member Gayle Keiser presented an alternative proposal for four committees which was discussed but never voted upon. Occhi also had a hybrid bipartisan committee structure prepared if that was the direction the board chose. She had four committees with two Republicans and two Democrats chairing them. The full board would do the work of the current finance and executive committee.

Occhi did say she intends to name ad hoc committees as the need arises for such things as contract negotiations.

Saline seemed perturbed by the whole process and the seemingly endless discussion of future meeting dates. "We have business we have to do. I know that’s a new concept for many of you."