The Bartholomew County Commissioners appointed 24-year Army veteran Tom Crawford as the county’s first full-time veterans service officer on Thursday.
The vote in favor of Crawford was 3-0.
Crawford, whose military police career took him to Korea, Germany and numerous stops in the United States, retired from military service in early 2009 as a sergeant first class. He spent the past few years working as a corrections officer at the Johnson County jail in Franklin and more recently with Area Wide Protective private contractors as a flag person on road crews.
County commissioner Paul Franke said Crawford’s background as a noncommissioned officer in the Army and his familiarity with military benefits and processes should serve him well in the new job.
The 51-year-old Crawford will begin work Wednesday.
Crawford’s appointment got generally positive reaction from Bartholomew County veterans groups.
“He has more than 20 years in the military, and that means he knows about veterans’ needs,” said Rick Caldwell, senior vice commander for AmVets in Indiana.
In the past, the job was a part-time post, supplemented with a full-time secretarial worker. But local veterans groups complained about what they perceived as poor performance and a lack of responsiveness when veterans tried to work with the office.
“We were asked by veterans’ groups to make changes, and we feel this is a step in the right direction, having a full-time veterans service officer,” Franke said.
“You can never make everyone happy, but we chose the person we felt could best serve our veterans,” said Larry Kleinhenz, chairman of the Bartholomew County Commissioners.
“We were impressed with his energy and enthusiasm.”
Crawford will earn an annual salary of $33,261. The veterans service officer is
generally charged with helping veterans wade through federal rules and appeals processes when they seek benefits linked to their military careers, including health care and disability payments.
Matt Taylor, who was working part time as a veterans service officer for the county, is stepping down from that post.
He also works full time at Duke Energy.
Separately, a farewell luncheon is being organized by some Columbus area veterans for Judy Devening, who will step down at the end of the year as an assistant in the county’s veterans office. That event will take place at 11 a.m. Thursday at Sirloin Stockade in Columbus.