Manager gets first look at County Council

YORK -- Jim Baker finally got his first glimpse at what he's gotten himself into.

On the eve of his expected debut as York County manager, Baker sat in on a council meeting Monday night that stretched well past four hours.

He listened as one councilman compared a plan to extend Dave Lyle Boulevard to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A lengthy discussion on Lake Wylie buffer zones included talk of whether swingsets should be banned close to the shoreline.

Stepping out into the hallway to speak briefly to The Herald, Baker said he remains eager to get started.

"They all have their own perspectives on things," he said. "That's fine. I'm much more comfortable when somebody will tell me how they feel, even if we don't agree. The hardest thing to work with is when you have people that don't communicate."

That's not a problem Baker is likely to encounter in York County.

Councilmen have squabbled over a host of issues in recent months, with disputes often erupting in angry exchanges during meetings. Baker says he hopes to be a unifying force. The meeting he watched Monday was relatively peaceful, though it lasted until well after 10 p.m.

The council was expected to vote late Monday night on Baker's salary and contract, after an executive session. In his former position as manager in St. Louis County, Mo., Baker earned more than $142,000.

York County has been without a manager since Al Greene resigned in December.

During his first few weeks, Baker will live in an apartment in downtown York, a block from the county offices.

His wife, Susan, will remain in Missouri, where she serves on the City Council in Wildwood, a city of about 36,000 outside St. Louis. She'll stay there until the couple's youngest son, Patrick, completes his senior year of high school next spring.

Baker has already discovered at least one thing he likes about his anticipated new job: "The luxury of being able to walk to work really is kind of nice," he said.