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Fayette resumes VA chief search

| Friday, Dec. 23, 2005

Although the veterans affairs director tried to withdraw his resignation, Fayette County commissioners voted, 2-1, Thursday to open the position and resume the search for a fourth director since March.

Gregory H. Robertson submitted a resignation letter to the commissioners in late November after some members of a committee that advises the board on veterans issues questioned his commitment to the job.

After the news of his pending departure, Robertson said he received encouraging comments from many of the county's veterans and decided he wanted to keep the position.

However, commissioners Vincent Vicites and Joe Hardy passed a motion yesterday to accept the resignation. Commissioner Chairwoman Angela Zimmerlink dissented.

On Dec. 8, Robertson said he received a signed letter from Vicites and Hardy accepting the resignation -- one day after he wrote the board to withdraw the resignation. The letter from Vicites and Hardy was dated Dec. 2, which was one day after the three commissioners and Robertson met at Robertson's request.

When Robertson asked the board yesterday to reconsider its decision, Zimmerlink made a motion that died for the lack of a second vote.

After the meeting, Robertson said the job has been "very stressful," but rewarding because of what he's learned through working with the county's veterans.

The German Township resident said he's disappointed by the commissioners' decision to accept the resignation, but he doesn't want to create a burden for the county.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to have served in this capacity, and I can only hope that my successor will have better luck and success than I have had," Robertson said.

Robertson, a master sergeant retired from the U.S. Air Force, replaced Frank Staszko on Sept. 12. Staszko resigned in August, only five months after he followed Robert Hixson.

Hixson left the office after three years to continue his education.

Staszko and Hixson have said they were frustrated by some aspects of working in the public sector. Staszko said he felt restricted by the county's budgeting for the office, while Hixson said the position involved a bit of politicking, which he didn't care for.

Another of their complaints about working for the county is shared by Robertson.

All three admit they believe the county's VA director, who serves as a liaison for about 17,000 veterans, should be paid more than $26,812 annually.

Staszko, who attended the commissioners' meeting yesterday, wrote a critical letter in a local newspaper this week in which he said Robertson should leave the job.

After the meeting, Staszko said initial complaints about Robertson's training and the time he reserved for veterans were overshadowed by worries about his dedication.

"The person that's going to do this job has to want to do it from the heart," Staszko said.

Robertson was recommended to the commissioners after a veterans committee and the county's human resources manager interviewed eight candidates. Hixson and Staszko also were recommended by a veterans advisory group.

Robertson will remain the director until the end of the year.

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