Commissioner Schlumbohm listens intently during a meeting on energy aggregation held at the courthouse last week - Putnam Sentinel
Commissioner Schlumbohm listens intently during a meeting on energy aggregation held at the courthouse last week. (Putnam Sentinel/Martin Verni)

PUTNAM COUNTY — A little over one-year ago, in December 2018, Pandora’s John Schlumbohm was sworn-in as one of Putnam County’s three commissioners. In joining county government Mr. Schlumbohm continued a dedication to service to his community that began over 40 years prior.

In 1978, Mr. Schlumbohm joined the Riley Township/Pandora Volunteer Fire Department. Then in 1983, his neighbors in Pandora elected him to serve on village council. Sometime later, his colleagues on council selected him as their Council President. In 2005, he again won the backing of his community, becoming Pandora’s Mayor, a position Mr. Schlumbohm held until assuming the County Commissioner role.

During the reorganization held at the beginning of this current year, his fellow commissioners, Mr. Michael Lammers and Mr. Vince Schroeder, selected Mr. Schlumbohm to be their Chairman. With a year under his belt, new responsibilities, and plenty of experience prior to that, Mr. Schlumbohm was asked how he felt his first year as a commissioner went.

“I would say that my first word would be, Learning,’ ” Mr. Schlumbohm begins, speaking of the past year. “I’ve learned a lot. I know I’ve brought some experience with me, being Mayor of Pandora, but I’ve learned a lot about the county and its operations.”

“One of the biggest things that I didn’t realize was ditch maintenance,” he continues. “I had no idea how much the commissioners are involved in the ditches of Putnam County.”

When asked specifically what he had learned about the county’s ditch maintenance process, or what the general public might themselves not entirely understand, he answers, “Well, I guess what you have to take under consideration first is that most of Putnam County was in a swamp, probably all of it at one time. Therefore, we probably have more drainage ditches than a lot of counties south to us that were not in a swamp.”

“And, [Putnam’s ditches] are fairly flat, which means they collect sediment easier than a ditch with a lot of fall in it. So therefore, they take more maintenance to keep that cleaned out and running. And, farmers are very passionate about keeping their ditches running smoothly.”

“One of the things that we’re doing now…Once they’reon maintenance, they don’t have to be petitioned again to be cleaned. The engineer takes it upon himself to maintain the ditches in good working order.”

Asked then how being Mayor of Pandora had contributed to his position as Commissioner, Mr. Schlumbohm responds, “Probably the biggest thing is the water distribution and the sewer collection part of it. I learned a lot being in Pandora. We did our whole sewer separation, and I was at the helm for at least half of that. With water, we replaced a number of waterlines while I was there.”

“[The County] now does not have a water district. We turned that over to Ottawa, and we would like, eventually, once we get the sewers at the appropriate level, we would like to turn the sewers over to Ottawa too. I think some of my knowledge on how all that works has helped.”

When explicitly asked how that experience and knowledge had helped Mr. Schlumbohm to serve his constituents living in Sewer District 2, he first compliments Tim Schnipke, the county’s Maintenance Superintendent for his diligence and expertise.

Mr. Schlumbohm then says, “We’ve got the pumps in good working order now. The pumps were in terrible condition. Some of the backflow preventers were not working properly. They are now working properly. All that being said, they’re running probably 80% more efficient than they were when we first started the year last year. It’s a huge savings for the residents in Sewer District 2.”

“I’ve enjoyed the job,” he says a little later when discussing the role more generally. “I’ve enjoyed meeting a ton of new people. Coworkers here in the courthouse have been fantastic to work with. They’ve taken the time to explain stuff to me — especially the Auditor’s Office. I didn’t realize how much they did there. [County Auditor Robert Benroth] has been fantastic, explaining everything to me and how that department runs.”

Referring back to his fellow commissioners, Mr. Schlumbohm adds, “I really think we have a really good working relationship. Obviously, we do not agree on a number of issues, but we always, I think, come to a consensus on what is best for John Q. Public, for our constituents. I really do.”