Experience trumped the popular vote Monday as the chairwoman of the Somerset County commissioners was selected.

Eight-year incumbent Pamela Tokar-Ickes was elected Monday as chairwoman of the three-member board at its reorganizational meeting, although newcomer John Vatavuk received the most votes in the November election.

Vatavuk began his career as commissioner by disagreeing with Tokar-Ickes and former Chairman Jimmy Marker about the chairmanship, a rarity on a board in which consensus is the norm.

“I was the top vote-getter. That should merit something,” said Vatavuk, a retired teacher from the North Star School District who campaigned on a platform of change. “A lot of people out there thought I should be chairman.”

Marker, the lone Republican commissioner, nominated Tokar-Ickes, who seconded his motion.

“In a lot of ways, the chairman is the face and voice of the county,” Marker said.

“I felt experience was the overwhelming factor.

“It has nothing to do with John personally, but he doesn’t have a track record at this point as commissioner.”

Tokar-Ickes took the responsibility in stride. “I’d like to thank Jimmy for his eight-year tenure as chairman of the board,” she said. “You did a fantastic job. I hope I can do half as well.”

All of the other votes were unanimous.

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