Starke County Commissioners Discuss Contract for Highway Superintendent

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler
Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen “Rik” Ritzler

A philosophical disconnect between the Starke County Commissioners may keep them from offering county highway superintendent Rik Ritzler a long-term employment contract. His is one of the jobs appointed each year by the commissioners. President of the Commissioners Jennifer Davis would like to change that.

“This is to our advantage to have a contract with our current highway superintendent, because of the job that he has demonstrated that he has done. I hope that we will be able to consider that at our next meeting,” Davis said during the Monday, Nov. 3 Starke County Commissioners meeting.

That will require a unanimous vote. Commissioner Kathy Norem supports the notion, but Commissioner Kent Danford does not.

“We open up a can of worms here where it’s gonna tie our hands,” Danford said. “Say we fire him, are we going to have to pay him severance pay? Other departments are going to go hey, wait a minute. I want a contract.”

Norem noted the commissioners can structure the terms of the contract as they see fit and include performance goals and expectations. Davis said the commissioners have to look at what is best for the county.

“I do think there are jobs that are politically appointed jobs that sometimes we use as leverage, and in the old days of patronage, and I certainly grew up with that system, that’s the way it worked. Nowadays, I mean the highway department couldn’t be functioning much better than it is right now, and with what has been done and what has been demonstrated I think it behooves us for our own benefit to put this in,” Davis said.

The commissioners will consider the matter next month. Danford admits he’s not likely to change his mind with regard to whether Ritzler should be offered a long-term contract.