Arthaud assumes gavel as Stark County commission chair; Marsh vice-chair

The first Stark County commission meeting of the new year brought with it a surprise changing of the guard that broke traditions in more than one facet.

In the first commission meeting of 2022, commissioners updated county policy, appointed a new chair and vice-chair and established portfolio assignments. (Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press)

Dickinson — The Stark County Commission is starting the new year under new leadership via a 3-2 vote that marked an apparent departure a historically male dominated chair of the commission.

With the changing of the guard, Carla Arthaud will serve as county commission chair until the beginning of 2023 — should she retain her seat as the incumbent following the mid-term elections. Arthaud was elected to the council in 2018 when she defeated incumbent Russ Hoff for the District 4 seat, and is currently on her final year of her first term.

Arthaud assumes the gavel from former chair Dean Franchuk, who won the District 3 vacant seat following Duane "Bucky" Wolf's retirement in 2016, and he had filled the role of chair since January of 2021.

Prior to Franchuk, Pete Kuntz served one year as chair and prior to that Ken Zander served one year as chair.

Franchuk noted that his time as chair had its fair share of challenges, but was pleased with the successes the commission had achieved through his tenure and said he hoped his successor would continue the steady positive direction the commission was moving in.


”It was a good experience, we had some bumps through the year but overall it was a great learning experience. We've had a great year as a county and overall I think we did a good job," Franchuk said. "While I was the chair, I tried to get everyone involved. For budgeting we decided to go with having all five of the commissioners input on those matters. Prior to that it was just one or two of the commissioners. I don't foresee any issues with the leadership change, it was a decision made by the full board. Though in the past it has been customary to have chairs serve two or more years, based on reelections and what not, but we made the changes today as a full board and so that is what it is."

The vote for chair and vice chair was split 2-2, with nominees Arthaud and Bernie Marsh voting in favor of the change while Neal Messer and Franchuk voted in opposition. The deciding vote fell to Zander, whose vote in favor of the change ushered in a final 3-2 decision.

The leadership changes on Tuesday mark the first time The Press could find record where two first term members assumed leadership roles on the commission, and broke from tradition with Arthaud being the first female chairperson in county history — a feat that Arthaud said she was both deeply honored and excited for.

"I'm very proud to be the first woman chairperson of the Stark County Commission," Arthaud said following the meeting. "I have pondered deeply on whether or not I wanted to continue on the commission, but considering the great strides we made this year and what I expect to be an even better 2022, I have decided to seek reelection and continue my service to Stark County and my constituents. We have work to do."

Commissioner Carla Arthaud became the first female chair of the Stark County Commission on January 4, 2022. (Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press)

In a parallel vote, Marsh was elected in a 3-2 vote to assume the vice-chair position. Marsh is a first term commission who was elected in an unexpectedly competitive race for Stark County’s District 1 Commission seat. Marsh unseated longtime incumbent and former chair Kuntz in a race settled by nearly 3,000 votes in 2020.

Other agenda items

  • Commissioners voted to retain their assigned portfolios from 2021, with a tabled discussion on assignment of a portfolio holder for the Auditor's Office.
  • Stark County Auditor Karen Richard outlined the ongoing work needed to update the Voices Redistricting System, a system that tracks residents by new local, congressional and state legislative district boundaries. According to Richard, the updates will take a month or more to complete and requested the assistance of the Stark County Emergency Management Office.
  • Stark County Human Resources Director Policy Joetta Pearcy brought forward recommended changes to the county policy handbook, to include restrictions on employee eligibility for donated medical time off until after an individual has used all their own medical and personal time off. Pearcy argued that the policy would be best practice and was in keeping with the standard operating procedures of many private and government entities.
  • Commissioners were assigned various board positions in keeping with their currently assigned portfolios.
James B. Miller, Jr. is the Editor of The Dickinson Press in Dickinson, North Dakota. He strives to bring community-driven, professional and hyper-local focused news coverage of southwest North Dakota.
What To Read Next
Get Local