Indiana County Commissioner David Frick, nearing completion of his 10th year in office, will resign at the end of December, leaving two years remaining in his current term.
Frick confirmed Tuesday he will formally announce in October his plans to leave office at the end of the year, a move he hopes will allow time for a successor to be chosen and sworn in as he leaves, possibly avoiding a vacancy on the three-member board of commissioners.
Frick, 78, said he views his decision to step down as the considerate and professional thing to do because he doesn’t want the “slippage” caused by advancing age to hamper what he considers to be the good work being done by the commissioners and the progress and improvements being made across Indiana County.
Frick also said he’s making his intentions known months before he resigns to allow plenty of time for people interested in finishing his term to complete the needed steps to be considered for appointment to the office.
First elected in 2003, Frick, a Republican, won re-election in 2007 and 2011 and has served in an era when the county commissioners have undertaken some of the biggest projects in Indiana County in recent memory: Construction of a new county jail, an extension of the runway at the Indiana County/Jimmy Stewart Airport, major renovations to the interior of the Indiana County Court House, an overhaul of the county’s public safety radio network and a countywide reassessment of real estate properties.
Frick said he’s been contemplating resignation for nearly a year, and in a letter written Tuesday he formally told Commissioners Rodney Ruddock and Patricia Evanko and Indiana County President Judge William Martin he has decided to leave office Dec. 31.
Frick said he told the other commissioners and Martin in his letter that “as you age you realize that a number of things maybe have slipped from what they used to be, like memory and comprehension and decision-making. And when you realize that that’s going on, then to just tread water with that kind of knowledge is putting the whole county and the team of commissioners at risk. And I don’t want to do that. Indiana County is where I’ve lived all my life and I don’t want to do anything to hurt Indiana County. And 10 years with this board of commissioners has built a tremendous respect for them. And I don’t want to damage that.”
Frick also said his hearing ability has diminished and he’s ordered new hearing aids.
“Some of my frustration as a commissioner is going to meetings and hearing people mumble without actually hearing what it is they’re saying,” he said.
Frick said close friends have told him the decision to announce his resignation now, a couple months before he actually steps down, is a responsible thing to do “to give the GOP, and the public, the time they need to respond.”
Frick sees it as a “considerate, professional way to move out” of the office.
Frick was one of eight candidates who vied for two Republican nominations for commissioner in 2003.
He said then he became a candidate for commissioner for the same reasons that led him to serve eight years on the Indiana Area School board and to be a candidate for state legislator in 1998: He believed he had valuable life experiences to offer, and he wanted to give back “in a meaningful way” to the county that provided a comfortable, fulfilling life for him and his family.
He also said during his first campaign that extending Indiana County Airport’s runway to accommodate business planes would become his pet project in his freshman term as commissioner.
“I’ve heard about it since I was a kid,” Frick said then of the proposed longer runway. “In the back of my mind I’ve been thinking, ‘That would be a great project for David Frick to complete as a commissioner.’”
While campaigning for re-election in 2007, he said one of the most satisfying aspects of his first term was his creation of the Frick Advisory Board — a group of residents from around the county who counseled him as a candidate and after he took office.
In December 2010, as he announced his candidacy for a third term, Frick said his personal life had been challenged by the 2009 death of his wife, Marty, and that on a professional level the first seven years he served as a commissioner tested his ability, knowledge and commitment to be a public servant “for the most good for the most people.”
During that last re-election campaign, Frick also responded to occasional criticism for easily agreeing and cooperating with his Democratic colleague, Patricia Evanko.
“I refuse to let Democrat-Republican things get in the way” of doing what is right for the county, he said.
Among the commissioners’ accomplishments over the past decade, Frick said construction of a new county jail was one of the most satisfying for him.
“When we walked in the door (as newly elected commissioners), we had a shanty over here for a jail,” Frick said. “The joke was. ‘It’s easier to get out than to get in.’”
“Some of the things I’m proud of is the quality of the people we have hired,” he said, and added, “I’ve never worked with anybody as qualified and capable as Rod Ruddock. And the other real blessing is that Patty has a lot of experience being in the courthouse” as an auditor before being appointed and then elected as a commissioner.
Frick said his life experiences were the most valuable attributes he brought to the commissioners’ office. He had graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, had served as a U.S. Army officer and was teaching in Pittsburgh when he had an opportunity to move back to Indiana for a position in the insurance business. He retired in 1991 after a successful 42-year career with The MONY Group.
“And as a result of that I was able to meet people and enjoy people that I never would have dreamed,” he said.
“Being a county commissioner is like being a CEO of a company with 25 different departments,” he said. “I realize we have extremely valuable department heads and there’s no way I can know as much as they do about their departments. … We’re fortunate to have good department heads.”
It’s expected several people will be interested in completing the remaining two years of Frick’s term, and he was asked what advice he would give those candidates.
“You’re moving into a very fortunate situation where you have two quality, capable comrades,” he said. “And the satisfaction you’ll get out of the job depends on how much time and effort and interest you’re willing to put into it.”
“It didn’t come as a total surprise to me,” commission chairman Ruddock said of Frick’s letter formally announcing his plans to resign. “The letter carries the message that our team continues to work for the community. … He has a lot to give to the county yet.”
Ruddock said that following the death of Marty Frick, Commissioner Frick filled the void in his life with the county.
“He has saturated his life with his love of the county,” Ruddock said. “He’s been a valuable colleague and friend.”
“Dave’s a great person, easy to work with. I’ll miss him,” Commissioner Evanko said. “He is a very caring person, and cares about people in general. … I respect his reasons for why he’s stepping down. He recognizes it’s time to step down and we have to honor that.”
Frick said after he leaves the commissioners’ office he wants to spend more time on physical fitness and in working on the Washington Township beef cattle farm he formerly owned. His daughter now owns the farm.
Under the County Code, the Court of Common Pleas — most likely based on a recommendation from the Indiana County Republican Committee — will approve a successor to complete Frick’s term. The appointee, like Frick, must be a Republican.