By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
There are five seats occupied by county commissioners in the commission chamber in the Seward County Administration Building, and starting in January of 2011, three new commissioners will fill chairs at the board’s meetings.
Incumbent chairman Joyce Hibler, along with fellow commissioners Toby Hale and Steve “Ike” Eisenhauer, were defeated by challengers in elections earlier this year.
Hibler and Eisenhauer have each served two terms, totaling eight years, on the commission, while Hale is currently finishing his only term on the board.
Hibler said the time she has served has been a good run in office.
“I’ve had a good eight years,” she said. “I got to go to D.C. I got to go to Nashville. One of my main goals was to have WIC back in Seward County. I’ve done that. I have no regrets. I’ve had a good time. I’ve had a good 20 years at Seward County. I would like to have stayed four more, but it didn’t work out that way. I’ve enjoyed Seward County.”
In addition to bringing the Women, Infants and Children program back to the health department, Hibler said other accomplishments made during her terms include the completion of the Seward County Administration Building, the county’s step and grade pay system and getting both a local cotton warehouse and ethanol plant. One of her biggest highlights, however, came in April of 2009.
“Getting to flip the coin for the school board,” she said of the race between former USD No. 480 Board of Education member Cliff Abbott and current member Nick Hatcher, in which both received 1,169 votes after the election canvass count. “That was a neat thing to do. That was a once in a lifetime thing.”
Hibler said she has had a good time working for Seward County.
“The people have all been good to me,” she said. “I have no regrets.”
Hibler said she has no plans for retirement in the near future.
“I’ve already been offered a job to go to Washington D.C. and to go to Topeka, but I need to tend to (husband) Bud,” she said.
Hibler currently works at Garfield Elementary. She said she will continue to do so, and in addition to this, she also operates a sewing business. Although she has no plans for retirement, there are possibly some for relocating.
“We may move,” she said. “Someday, we’re going to have to move where the children are at if Bud gets where he can’t walk. I got to have help. Right now, I haven’t turned down the job to D.C., but I haven’t accepted it. I had an interview.”
Hibler said saying goodbye to the commission and the county government entity will be sad.
“I’m going to miss everybody,” she said. “Not only have I been a commissioner. I’ve been an employee. I’ve been here since 1988. It’s going to be hard to imagine not coming to work at Seward County. I’ve had a good time. I’ve enjoyed it.”
Hibler said she has seen and done a lot at the county, much of which few people get to experience.
“It’s not every day you get to sit down with the governor and eat,” she said. “It’s not every day you get to visit with people higher than you. I have no regrets. God’s been good to me. I’m sure He’s got something planned for me.”
Hale said in the time he has served on the commission, the board has been beneficial in lowering Liberal’s crime rate.
“We got no credit,” he said. “They say they don’t see how the commission figures in on that, but it was the commission that put together the crime commission. We’ve had some good times. The last year’s been tough with the financial problems, but overall, it’s been a good ride. I’m glad I did it. I’m not sad because I’m leaving.”
Hale said he has received advice from others about life in the political arena.
“State treasurer Dennis McKinney said to me, ‘You ride horses a lot, sometimes, you get bucked off,’” he said. “That’s kind of the way this job is.”
Hale said he wishes the new commissioners, Doug LaFreniere, who will take Hale’s seat in January, Ada Linenbroker and Randy Malin, well on their endeavors with the board.
“I have no regrets for anything we’ve done,” he said. “I can leave with my head up because I wasn’t voted out for anything I did or didn’t do.”
Rather, Hale said he was not re-elected due to his party status.
“It’s because I had a D by my name,” he said, referring to the Democratic party. “I’m surprised and disgusted that that’s the issue at a local level, but whatever comes along, I leave with no regrets. I’ve done my part. I know that nothing I’ve done or have not done is why I’m not re-elected, and at my age, it was questionable whether I even wanted to run again or not. I’m going out with my head up.”
As for Eisenhauer, he said it has been a privilege to serve the people of Seward County.
“The one accomplishment that I hang my hat on is the step and grade system that we put in five or six years ago to even the score and make the playing field level for all the employees,” he said. “I appreciate everybody that works for the county. We’ve got quite a good crew here. It’s been a privilege.”