NEW PALESTINE — A member of the town council submitted her resignation on Thursday, Sept. 17, becoming the second elected official in the past 10 days to step down.
Jan Jarson sent a letter to members of the town council and the county clerk. It said, in part: “It has become increasingly apparent that I cannot devote the necessary time and energy I feel is necessary to the office of Town Council Member.”
Jarson, who was not at the council’s meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 16, took office in 2012 and was reelected twice.
Jarson said in her letter that she spent a great deal of time and thought before arriving at her decision to leave the council and noted her priorities should be with her family and serving the community in other “less stressful” pursuits.
She closed the letter saying, “I have enjoyed the honor and privilege of serving our community and look forward to the future.”
Jarson has been at odds with the council majority since the first of the year when the council expanded from three to five members. During the first council meeting of the new year in January, Jarson petitioned to be the council president, saying it was her turn, but she lost out to current council president Brandee Bastin.
Things continued to deteriorate between Jarson and other council members when it became evident they had issues with the performance of then-town manager Dave Book and then-Clerk-Treasurer Tonii Pyle, who Jarson had publicly supported.
Book was fired by the council in March and died in July. Pyle resigned last week after months of turmoil between her office and the other members of the council.
Jarson did not return phone calls from the Daily Reporter seeking comment. Her fellow council members noted Jarson didn’t appear to be pleased with the direction the town was headed, even though she did vote to fire Book six months ago.
In August, the council criticized a secret meeting in 2019 involving Jarson, Book and former Clerk-Treasurer Becky Hilligoss during which changes were made to the employee handbook that appeared to benefit Book. The changes were never presented to the full council for approval, council members said. The matter came up at a public meeting in August, and the discussion put Jarson on the spot. She told the council she could not recall the meeting or what might have been discussed.
Council member Bill Niemier said it’s best to look toward to the future and the appointment of a replacement. He wished Jarson well but didn’t want to comment on her departure. It was the same response from Councilwoman Angie Fahrnow, who said, “I wish her well.”
County Clerk Lisa Lofgreen said in an email to the Daily Reporter on Thursday afternoon that she had received the letter of resignation from Jarson.
The next step in replacing Jarson will be taken by the county Republican Party. Since Jarson was elected as a candidate of a major political party, the vacancy will be filled through a party caucus.
Janice Silvey, county Republican Party chair, noted the party will have 30 days to fill the vacancy. Once the date of the caucus is set, prospective candidates will have to submit paperwork 72 hours before it is held.
Republican precinct committee members within the town’s limits will be the ones to select the new council member, Silvey said.