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Published: Saturday, 12/7/2002

When it's time to go

No one is trying to hustle Bill Copeland out the door, but he should recognize that Lucas County will be handicapped without a full complement of three working commissioners.

Bowing to advancing age and serious health problems, Mr. Copeland, 80, announced his resignation to the other commissioners and county officials last month. He agreed to make his exit official yesterday, but now he's having second thoughts and has put off retirement indefinitely, frustrating Democratic Party leaders who want the situation resolved.

After a long career in local politics, it is understandable that the veteran Democrat's heart would urge him to stay in office, even when his mind and body are telling him it's time to go.

Mr. Copeland is, of course, entitled to serve out the remaining two years of the four-year term to which voters elected him. That would be preferable to giving political party bosses, rather than voters, yet another opportunity to fill a vacancy in an elected post.

But if a change is to be made in the board of county commissioners, the time is now.

With the defeat of veteran Sandy Isenberg in the Nov. 5 election, the board already was slated to start important budget deliberations in the new year with one novice commissioner, Maggie Thurber, though we have no doubt she'll be a quick study. With Mr. Copeland no longer able to devote full time to his work, and with his departure a moving target, the problem is accentuated.

Commissioner Harry Barlos, a fellow Democrat, is not trying to push Mr. Copeland out but he can't be criticized for wanting a full three-member board ready to tackle what promises to be a tough county budget.

Political considerations are less important, although they cannot be ignored either. County Democrats will by law appoint a successor and they should be allowed to do so as soon as possible.

As we have said, the person who succeeds Mr. Copeland will not have an automatic lock on the job when it comes open in 2004. Whoever is appointed will have to prove he or she can be an effective commissioner and should be given the full two years to demonstrate it.

After a lifetime of public service, Mr. Copeland can show Lucas County he still cares by letting go of the office he so obviously loves.

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