By LISA M. HOFFMANN
IRON MOUNTAIN - Frank Smith, District 3 representative on the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners the past 16 years, has enjoyed his time on the board.
Frank Smith of Breitung Township sits at his desk at Smith Steel in Kingsford. Smith has been a member of the Dickinson County Board of Commissioners for the past 16 years and says his time on the board has been very interesting.
Smith explained some interesting issues that have affected the county and offered advice to others seeking a local government position.
"It's been a real pleasure working with our board, county employees, clerks and department heads," he said.
Smith has always been interested in government. When Commissioner Ernie Mariucci wasn't going to run again, Smith decided to run as a write-in candidate for District 3, which covers Breitung Township and the north side of Iron Mountain.
At that time, Smith said, it was legal to hand out stickers with candidate names. Voters then placed the stickers on the ballots.
And Smith won the election.
"The board has been great to work with and we consider each other friends and are very careful to respect the authority of the court system," he said.
Smith said Dickinson County's problems are varied and the board has come up with interesting solutions.
One of those issues was the Hardwood Dam. Smith said this was once a vulnerable dam and the county was financially responsible if something happened. The dam has been fixed and should last 100 years.
Smith said the county has overcome financial problems with the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department and Dickinson Home Health.
He added there have been improvements to the county parks with the upgrading of its pavilions.
The county has had a continuous problem of nuisance plants, milfoil and zebra mussels. The cost to treat these invasive species is very high.
Smith said those who run for a local government board probably want to serve their community, have their name in the paper, are interested in good government, or want to help promote the community.
"Almost everyone has something they can contribute to a board," Smith said. "If people would like to get into government, get on a school board. They are structured; there are negotiations and you will learn about the Open Meetings Act."
Smith added that a church board is also a good place to start for anyone interested in being on a governing board.
Smith said he didn't know about dams when he first got elected.
"I didn't know about dams, and then I was frightened of them breaking," he said.
Smith added he doesn't know much about forestry.
"Fumee Lake Natural Area can't be harvested, and that was very interesting and educational," he said.
Smith said the most humorous issue that was brought to the county board's attention was when a tree fell on a neighbor's yard and broke the fence.
"What could we do about that?" he said. "It was not that serious."
The neighbors eventually got together and resolved the issue.
A matter addressed by the county board in the past few years was the Crystal Lake Community Center.
"It was a real drag. Membership was low and the YMCA expressed interest in it," Smith said. "After rather rocky negotiations, the county and the YMCA reached an agreement. The YMCA blossomed."
The Northern Lights YMCA now has more than 1,200 members.
"They made great improvements, especially to the pool," Smith said. "The board is completely pleased with how well it is working. We are hoping the YMCA sees fit to take over the building completely."
The county board has looked into moving the MSU Extension Office from the Crystal Lake Community Center to a rental place in Norway near Lofholm's Lumber.
The county board is also concerned about 4-H and Camp Molinare and have had meetings with their boards.
"We have not figured out yet how to make progress," Smith said.
Smith encourages anyone who is a self leader or knows how to work with people to run for local government.
"A person never knows until they try it," he said. "Overall it's quite satisfying being with people I have a common goal with. We are kind of like a team. If you have luck, it's wonderful and you feel good."
Smith lives in Breitung Township. He owns Smith Steel in Kingsford, a metal collecting and fabrication business in operation since 1996.
Lisa M. Hoffmann's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.