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Death leaves opening on county board

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Last week, the community was shook with the deaths of Levi Grant and Mimi Wheeler-Groves folllowing a motorcycle accident in Utah.

Wheeler-Groves owned several rental properties in Chadron and owned Helen’s Pancake House and Steakhouse/The Grove in Chadron for more than 20 years.

Grant, the owner of Levi’s Auto and Metal Recycling, was a former Chadron City Council member and was elected Dawes County Commissioner for District 3 in 2020.

With Grant’s death, a vacancy has formed on the Board of the Dawes County Commission, though the process is in motion to fill it.

Commissioner Jake Stewart explained County Clerk Cheryl Feist, County Treasurer Sam Wellnitz and County Attorney Vance Haug will form a three-person panel, as governed by the State of Nebraska, to appoint the vacancy on the Board.

The panel has a 45-day window, and can choose whether to advertise for the opening. Stewart further added people can just come into the Dawes County Clerk’s Office and express their interest in filling the spot. They are eligible as long as they’re a registered voter and live in District 3.

The district includes the Kenwood area of Chadron, the village of Whitney and the city of Crawford, as well as areas south of Crawford and Whitney.

Interested and eligible people will be put on a list for interviews, with the panel making the final selection to fill Grant’s vacancy.

With only 45 days to make the decision, Stewart said the panel hopes to have at least three or four names by the week of June 21 to start setting up interviews. Though the vacancy doesn’t have to be advertised, Stewart pointed out the meeting of the panel does.

Whomever is chosen to fill the vacancy, Stewart said they will be taking on “all the responsibilities of a county commissioner.” Grant was also on several boards, including: Area Aging, Crawford Senior Citizens Board, Office of Human Development, Resources Conservation and Development, and Panhandle Area Development District.

The person chosen will certainly have a trial by fire, as Stewart pointed out he or she would be coming on right in time for valuation protests and budget work. “You couldn’t have picked a worse time to get somebody who doesn’t know what’s going on to come into this spot,” he said. “It is going to be very tricky and overwhelming.”

He added having someone like Webb Johnson, who was a commissioner for 16 years before Grant, come back on the Board would be a fairly seamless transition.

The selected person would fill out the remainder of Grant’s term, which will come up again in 2024, for about 2.5 years of service.

Funeral services for Grant are today, June 8, at 2 p.m. at the Dawes County Ag Society Exhibit Hall at the fairgrounds.

Memorial services for Wheeler-Groves will be Wednesday, June 15 at 2 p.m. at Chamberlain Chapel.

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