The Indiana County Center for Economic Operations recently presented David Frick with a framed montage of photographs of groundbreaking ceremonies around the county in the past decade. Frick, along with several county officials, is wielding a shovel in all of them.
The photos are just one keepsake in a collection of memories Frick will take with him when he steps away from his seat as a county commissioner Tuesday, ending 10 years in office.
[PHOTO: County Commissioners Dave Frick, left, Patty Evanko and Rod Ruddock attended the recent swearing-in ceremony of Mike Baker, who will fill Frick’s position beginning Wednesday (Tom Peel/Gazette phoyo).]
In a pair of recent retrospective interviews, Frick, 78, reflected on his years as a commissioner, his philosophy and his long life as an Indiana County resident.
On the value of hard work.
“Everyone — bar none — should be self-employed at some point in their life. Because when you don’t work, you don’t eat,” Frick said.
Frick grew up on a farm and later owned a Washington Township beef cattle farm (as an “expensive hobby”), served two years as an Army officer and taught school in Pittsburgh before returning to Indiana and starting a successful 42-year career in the insurance and financial consulting industry. During those four decades he worked only on straight commission.
“Being self-employed developed a work ethic,” Frick said. “You’re only as successful as the effort you put in.”
Those experiences on the farm and in the insurance business taught him the value of hard work, and as he has grown older he has increasingly realized the significance of those years in self-employment and their importance in learning to use time wisely, he said.
On the dedication of department heads.
Frick, and Commissioners Rodney Ruddock and Patty Evanko, have frequently praised the county’s department heads for their skill, expertise and dedication.
“The departments probably are as successful as the vision of the department heads, and his or her ability to motivate people,” Frick said. “The most significant thing about being a county commissioner is what you can learn and how vital you realize these department heads are. There’s no way I could have learned enough, or known enough, to run a department. But I would go to these meetings and you could just see the departments that worked together well. The whole experience was a learning experience for me.”
On the cooperation between the commissioners.
Frick has often emphasized the present commissioners have accomplished much because of their cooperative teamwork and willingness to include all three in any decision-making process.
Frick recently praised commission chairman Ruddock as a “visionary.”
“Rod is such a great chairman. He is just outstanding,” Frick said. “And of course Patty (Evanko), she’s a precious jewel to me as a sister I never had.
“We’ve only ever had one split vote in all the years we’ve been commissioners,” Frick said, referring to their approval in July of a $35,000 loan from the county’s revolving loan fund to help Disobedient Spirits LLC, a startup craft distillery, launch a business beside the Homer City United Methodist Church, which hosts Celebrate Recovery meetings for alcoholics.
“I thought, you know, there’s got to be another location for a brewery instead of right beside a church,” Frick said. “So I voted no. That’s the only split vote in 10 years. Now that isn’t to say that there weren’t discussions, pro and con, on these various issues.”
On the challenges of the county’s Department of Human Services.
In addition to declining state and federal funding, Frick believes the county’s social services agencies face another challenge.
“My greatest concern … is that we lack the participation of parents of the very kids we’re trying to serve” through the human services programs, Frick said. The shortage of involved parents represents “giant holes” the human services agencies must work against, he said.
“I’m getting more radical as I go along” whenever asked to discuss fathers, broken homes and dysfunctional families, he said. “I’m soundly convinced that dads play a significant role. If those dads don’t have good attitudes about faith, or working, or loving, or being present, there’s a good chance that family’s going to crash.”
On the importance of faith.
Frick frequently demonstrated while in office that faith is an important part of his everyday life.
“I’d been in church all my life. … I’d been a good faithful Sunday school and church attender. … I went to church all the time I was in the Army, all the time I was in Pittsburgh,” he said. But it was a conscious decision he made a few years after he entered the insurance business to be born again “that changed everything,” he said.
“I’m a Christian,” Frick said, adding that one of the promises he made to God was, “to be as helpful to him, and to the people around me, as I can. And that’s the foundation of who I am.”
On his decision to step down and the selection of his successor.
“If you knew how many letters and phone calls I’ve gotten from people since I made this announcement” to resign, he said. “Those letters have been congratulatory, those letters have been, ‘Dave, I’m proud of you for recognizing that maybe it’s time for you to bow out. Because only you know that.’
“I’m getting letters and calls and conversations from people who say, ‘Look, Dave. Just because you’re moving out as a commissioner … you are not disappearing. … Just because you’re retiring, that’s no excuse not to see you at our board meeting.’ … I’ve probably gone to a lot more meetings than I would have had to. … I’ve enjoyed them all, and I’ve enjoyed the people. … It’s all been great. The Lord’s allowed me to stay healthy. I’ve been blessed by working with great people …
“Jesse Daniel, chairman of the Indiana County Republican Party, has handled the selection of a replacement commissioner beautifully,” Frick said. “He handled it very professionally, very well.”
Former county coroner Michael Baker will take office Wednesday as Frick’s successor and will serve through the end of 2015.
Frick was asked if, based on his 10 years of experience, someone could be a commissioner on a part-time basis?
“You’re not doing your job” to only do it part time, he said. “It was morning, noon and night. And I enjoyed it from start to finish.”