Baker to begin county commissioner appointment in January
The Indiana County Commissioners' Dec. 18 meeting was an emotional one for Commissioner David Frick, who will retire at the end of the year. His replacement on the board, formally appointed a few days prior to the meeting by Indiana County President Judge William Martin, will be outgoing county coroner Michael Baker.
Frick said the advice he could give Baker would be limited, as his entire time as a commissioner was spent attempting to learn as much as he could from the experience.
“Over 10 years, I've gone to meeting after meeting after meeting, so the bottom line to that is that it has been a massive learning experience,” Frick said. “You just learn and learn and learn in preparation for the day when you may be called upon to make decisions. It takes going to meetings year after year to have that experience. He's going to have to learn a lot of those things on his own, just like I did ....
“I've just learned so much, lots of which I didn't need to know because the boards were so good and so efficient that they made the decisions. Had it come to me, I was knowledgeable enough to have something valuable to lend to the decisions.”
Baker beat out 12 other candidates to earn the Republican Party's recommendation to fill out the remaining two years of Frick's term. “The committee is very pleased with the judge's decision,” said Jesse Daniel, Indiana County Republican Committee chairman. “Mike Baker is a dedicated public servant ready to add to an already outstanding team of county commissioners.”
Baker served as the county's coroner for eight years after 22 years as its chief deputy coroner. He accepted a job in April as operations manager for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office in Pittsburgh and withdrew from the November election ballot for coroner after running unopposed and winning the primary.
Former chief deputy coroner Jerry Overman, Jr. was elected to replace Baker as coroner in November's polling.
Baker will join commissioners Rodney Ruddock, a fellow Republican, and Patricia Evanko, a Democrat, starting Jan. 1, and the commissioners don't foresee any major hurdles during the transition.
“After working with somebody as long as we've worked with Dave, we've been used to each other. It's a nice routine that we have, and we work well together. I really think that's going to carry over to Mike because Mike's a familiar face. He's been around the courthouse a long time,” Evanko said. “I've been at the courthouse for 24 years and Mike's been there as a deputy coroner for 22 and then as an elected official as a coroner.
“I know Mike, he's a great guy, he's a dedicated coroner, and I think he'll bring that same thing to the commissioners' office. I think it's going to be a good working relationship for all three of us together. Certainly Dave will be missed because he was a vital part of our commissioner team.”
Frick said Baker's familiarity with holding a public office and working with the commissioners will serve him well as he begins his new appointment.
“That's the advantage he has coming in,” Frick said of Baker's experience. “I came in with none of that, so Mike is coming in with an advantage that should stand him in good stead.... I think my fellow commissioners are grateful for the experience that he brings.”
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or g firstname.lastname@example.org.