Switch in county engineer proof Warren County’s leadership has changed

Published 3:05 pm Tuesday, January 7, 2020

While Monday’s meeting of the Warren County Board of Supervisors was the first for four of the five supervisors, one vote signaled it was no longer business as usual in Warren County.

The selection of Neel-Schaffer vice president Keith O’Keefe as county engineer ended a decades-long term by John McKee and a hand-in-hand partnership with Stantec Engineering.

The move was strongly criticized by returning District 2 Supervisor William Banks, but that criticism and his lone vote did little to change minds or the outcome.

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And in his criticism, he called on Stantec to not work with O’Keefe in the transition, saying O’Keefe should do the work himself figuring out what projects are underway or in the works. If that is what occurs, it will be a loss for Warren County and its taxpayers.

It is a shame Supervisor Banks took such a tone in his comments, in his criticism and in his defeat.

The move to O’Keefe, according to District 4 Supervisor Jeff Holland, who was elected as the board’s president, was a structured, straight-forward process where supervisors met and reviewed the credentials of four firms, four engineers, including Stantec. In the end, Holland said the thoughtful process landed on O’Keefe.

And according to O’Keefe’s bio and public record, he is a strong choice.

When voters went to the polls in August and again in November, they voted for significant change in county leadership. They got change Monday.

Stantec’s service and McKee’s service to the county has been long and distinguished, but change comes and when it does it is sometimes fast and uncomfortable.

We expect the move to O’Keefe will open the engineering service field to a number of firms; to a more competitive, cost-friendly process that we expect will at times include O’Keefe’s firm Neel-Schaffer.

The move Monday by the four new supervisors was part of a commitment they made to voters in Warren County to think differently, act differently and signal to businesses, industries and agencies — both at the state and federal level — that things have changed in Warren County and that we are, in fact, ready and open for business.