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BLOOMINGTON — Some new McLean County Board members delivered on a key campaign promise within minutes of taking office Monday morning.

After a push to change when the board meets failed in 2016, candidates in last month's election took up the cause, and those efforts combined to move full board meetings from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., starting next month.

The board will still meet on the third Tuesday of each month, and committee meetings will continue to be held throughout the workday. Full board meetings, but not committees, are streamed on the county's Facebook page.

"Really it's about giving people access to be able to see first-hand their elected officials at work," said board member Josh Barnett, who stumped for a change previously. "I'm very excited."

Chairman John McIntyre, who proposed the change in the board's new rules, disputed that the previous time was "a white old man thing, as was said" — meaning it was convenient for retirees on the board — and said he doesn't "believe this had anything to do with transparency," as supporters claimed.

"However, there is the availability of people running for this board, and if people are working in the time it might require them to (serve)," he said.

"I think this will make it much simpler for especially our younger, newer board members who have to work to get here," said board member Laurie Wollrab.

Board member Chuck Erickson noted, however, that residents should still plan to address committees, where most of the board's work is done, before taking a problem to a meeting of the full board.

"It's very important for our public to understand that we are not a council that meets and conducts business as such," said McIntyre. "We want (the public) to come to our committees and have first-hand experience with our seven people on (each) committee."

The board delayed a proposed change to post audio recordings of committee meetings on the county's website. County staff sought to post recordings in lieu of detailed transcripts to satisfy transparency requirements under state law, but board members objected to cutting the transcripts.

The board's rules subcommittee is expected to make a recommendation to the full board by its March meeting.

Audio recordings of full board meetings already are posted to the site.

The discussion over the meeting times followed the swearing-in of officials elected Nov. 6, including six new board members: District 1 Republican Gerald Thompson, District 4 Democrat Logan Smith, District 5 Democrat Elizabeth Johnston, District 7 Democrat Sharon Chung, District 8 Democrat Shayna Watchinski and District 9 Republican Lyndsay Bloomfield.

"I never tire of these ceremonies whatsoever. They serve not only as a reminder of the passage of time, but also as a breath of enthusiasm, fresh faces, new ideas," said 11th Circuit Chief Judge Mark Fellheimer, who swore in the officials — except Watchinski, who was sworn in by friend and State Sen. Daniel Biss, an Evanston Democrat who became a notary for the occasion.

"I used to give a little speech when I was coaching, and the phrase that I liked was 'unconditional positive regard,'" McIntyre told the board. "(That) meant to me, regardless of the conditions, regardless of your race, background, occupation, political beliefs, whatever it is, we unconditionally come in here and work together to help everyone."

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Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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Normal and McLean County Reporter

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