ROCKINGHAM — Jimmy Maske’s 36-year stint on the Richmond County Board of Commissioners ended with a show of sincere thanks and heartffelt gratitude Monday.
Commissioners paused to pay tribute to Maske during the board’s afternoon meeting. Family members and state lawmakers joined the board in applauding Maske for nearly a half-century of service to his community.
“On behalf of Richmond County and the Board of Commissioners, thank you for 46 years of public service,” Board of Commissioners Chairman Kenneth Robinette said as he presented Maske with a commemorative plaque.
Robinette also talked about the tens of thousands of people Maske and his family have helped over the years.
“What a great leader for Richmond County,” the chairman added.
Maske’s resignation, which became effective on Saturday, followed a political career that began as a member of the Richmond County Board of Education in 1966 and lasted 10 years until he joined the Board of Commissioners in 1976.
Commissioner John Garner spoke of watching Maske over the years and watching how he operated. Garner said he appreciated his mentorship and thanked Maske.
Fellow commissioner Thad Ussery said, “I’ve enjoyed serving 18 years with Jimmy, not just on the Board of Commissioners, but on quite a few boards at our church. Jimmy loves people. He wants to do what feels right in his heart. Thank you for the contributions that you’ve made.”
State Rep. Ken Goodman called Maske a “fixture” in Richmond County and an “icon” who helped build this community. State Sen. Gene McLaurin told Maske he had exceeded residents’ expectations and called his service a blessing to the community.
Commissioners on Monday also approved a $48.2-million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year. County Manager Rick Sago presented the budget for final inspection and questions at a 1 p.m. work session held Monday before a public hearing at the 5:30 p.m. regular meeting
“This budget has been a challenge for me and for the entire staff,” Sago wrote in his budget message to commissioners. “In fact, when I received the budget, I had an almost $3.5-million gap to close. Some of this gap was closed by using fund balance, including transfers from other funds and cuts to departmental budgets.”
One major change to the budget this year, said Sago, includes health insurance plans for county employees, who will see a current deductible of $500 go up to $1,500. A cost that will save the county $262,000, Sago said.
“Between 11 and 15 percent of employees are going to hit the deductible,” he said during the meeting. “Right now, we’re doing what we can to pay 100 percent of employees’ health insurance.”
Another change will be a 1 percent raise for all county employees in the new fiscal year. The total from the raises comes to $156,910, which will be appropriated out of the general fund budget, said Sago. Commissioners decided to do away with the five furlough days employees received this year.
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-997-3111, ext. 18.