SIDNEY – Parking issues and abandoned vehicles. Substandard housing and maybe even a deserted homeless camp along the railroad tracks.
The town of Sidney is like a microcosm of many other small towns that face similar issues, but with a population of less than 100, it has fewer people to choose from who will step up and serve in a public capacity to address those issues and run the town.
On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the town saw its latest vacancy filled with the appointment of Lydia Neal to serve as the town clerk-treasurer.
Neal is the fourth person to be appointed to an elected position in the town in the past two months after it was realized a town councilman and the clerk-treasurer had been serving without being properly elected or appointed. Another councilman resigned along with others due to health issues.
Neal replaces Etta Hurd, who had been appointed as clerk-treasurer in January, but resigned just a few weeks later because of personal issues.
“My town needs me,” Neal told reporters and a handful of people who had gathered at the Sidney-Jackson Township Community Building on Tuesday night.
“This town needs some help and I want to step up and do what I can,” she said.
Neal grew up outside of Sidney, moved away at the age of 18 and returned about 22 years ago. She describes her work history as being a “jack of all trades,” but said she loves working with numbers and sounded eager to get to work.
Neal, accompanied by her husband, Ron, said she once served on the town council years ago, but could not recall exactly when.
Those in attendance, as well as Republican leaders – Kosciusko County Chair Mike Ragan and precinct committeeman Tony Ciriello – applauded her willingness to serve.
While some view Sidney as a town with little activity, Ciriello underscored the importance of serving the community.
“There’s a lot of activity down here. There’s a lot of lives affected by this and a lot of lives affected by the town board decisions and what the clerk-treasurer will do,” Ciriello said.
“I hope you all will have a good working relationship and get things done for the benefit of the citizens here because it’s so important that Sidney remains thriving as it is – even as small as it is,” he said.
Neal was set to begin work one day after her appointment and a big part of her job will be to update town records.
The town council’s next meeting will be on March 9.
Along with a new clerk-treasurer, the town council is now comprised of council president Jack Wolfe and newcomers Sharon Rancourt and Gavin Parrett.
Council’s first meeting with new leadership earlier this month led to proposals from Rancourt to improve communications and transparency.
Rancourt said she’s been working with the clerk-treasurer in Silver Lake and the Kosciusko County Auditor to make sure the town is doing things correctly.
She said that based on previous audits from the state, the town needs to get up to speed on training compliance, which is fairly simple. She said there also appear to be discrepancies in bookkeeping.
Rancourt said she’d learned that the town had been maintaining the status quo in ways that were acceptable to local officials, but were not in compliance with the state.
“We can’t do that anymore. We’re in 2020. We have to be willing to make changes and we have to be willing to make hard decisions that may buck the system as it used to be, but you have to sometimes make hard decision now so that you can look to the future and make decisions for what is best for the community,” Rancourt said Tuesday night after the appointment was announced.
Ragan made the appointment himself because there is only one precinct committeeman – Cirilello – representing Jackson Township.
After two months of unexpected transitions, officials hope the town finds some stability.
“I hope this is the last time that we’re called upon to do something like this,” Ragan said of the recent number of caucuses called to fill vacancies in Sidney.