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Fayette veterans weigh in on their choice for VA director

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

A group of veterans on Tuesday asked Fayette County commissioners to appoint a longtime county employee as veterans affairs director.

The former director, Tod Conner, left in August to take a job in California. He held the position for about 2 12 years, but he was the seventh director to resign in the past eight years.

Leo Smith, chairman of the county veterans liaison committee, joined three other veterans on Tuesday in recommending that commissioners hire Madonna Nicklow as director.

Nicklow is a 27-year county employee who has worked in the Veterans Affairs Office for 11 years. She holds the title of chief veterans service officer, but she is not a veteran.

Smith said the office typically has been led by a veteran, but Nicklow received the group's recommendation because of her longtime dedication.

“We've always had a veteran in there, but Madonna knows the job so well, and she's done it through several directors,” said Smith, an Air Force veteran who served in Africa in 1960.

Three other veterans, Larry Vilk of Uniontown, Donald Maruniak of Bittner and Chester Prinkey of Connellsville, voiced their support for Nicklow.

“She's been our rock in that office,” said Prinkey, who served in Vietnam with the Army. “That office has always been able to help me.”

Dominick Carnicella, human resources director, said 29 people applied for the post. Of the nine who were interviewed, three were given second interviews, including Nicklow and two veterans.

Carnicella said the county is not required to offer the job to a veteran. Commissioners on Tuesday will decide who to hire.

In addition to hiring a veterans affairs director, commissioners will consider hiring a director for the tax assessment office. The position was formerly held by Jim Hercik, who retired earlier this year.

Carnicella said only two individuals applied for the tax assessor's position. He anticipates both applicants will be interviewed this week.

Commissioners will meet 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Public Service Building, 22 E. Main St., Uniontown.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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