Lyon County manager prefers a more formal approach

Lyon County Manager Dennis Stark would like a little more formality to commission meetings. But not too much more.

"We're not a cowtown anymore," he said. "We're not so rural that all decorum and all formality goes out the window. We need some structure."

To try and provide that structure, he has created a Protocol Manual, a set of guidelines on how commissioners, staff and the public should behave and address one another at county meetings.

He said when people approach the podium to speak, they should first be addressed by their last name with the title of Mr., Ms. or Mrs., then later addressed by their first name.

"Use the formal address first," he said. "I would never address a commissioner as Larry (McPherson) or Phyllis (Hunewill). That's not appropriate."

Some say adding formality to the meetings won't go over well with everyone. Commissioner Larry McPherson said some commissioners don't think the manual is necessary.

"(The) commission and staff have always had a pretty good rapport and I don't think that should stop."

Commissioners tend to address each other, county staff and many in the audience who are known to them by their first names. It's not unusual in a county where people have known each other for years, but the makeup of the commission has changed since January, with the impending retirements of Bob Milz and LeRoy Goodman.

"Our meetings are run very well at most times, but then again you have people that are up there that have been around for awhile," Stark said. "When you get new people, what do they use as a training tool other than going to meetings and winging it? This is only an aide, it's not an answer to everything. It's to get them acclimated to the commission."

The manual also outlines the duties and responsibilities of and "appropriate interaction" among commissioners and county staff.

Stark said he thinks there is general support for such a manual.

"Generally they think it's a good idea," he said. "The county has certainly changed. We really need to become more professional, based not on past history but on the changing economic and financial climate."

Commissioners Phyllis Hunewill, LeRoy Goodman, Bob Milz and Don Tibbals could not be reached for comment.

Three commission candidates said they weren't sure if it would be helpful to them or not, if any of them were elected.

Donna Kristaponis, a candidate for the District I seat, said it might be helpful to people in the audience for speakers to be referred to more formally, but she also said people need to be flexible.

"There are times when the informality is not a bad thing," she said.

Planning commissioner and candidate Chuck Roberts said he preferred a casual atmosphere.

"Government should be approachable and comfortable," he said. "My preference is casual. I think it makes people more comfortable and we are able to address the issues more than the protocol."

Rich Zierenberg, who is running for the District II seat, said he didn't want to comment since he hadn't seen the manual or knew the reasoning behind it.

Commissioners are expected to discuss and take action on the manual at their meeting Thursday.

Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or call 881-7351.


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