He helped stabilize the dysfunctional Butler County vet board. Now he gets another 5-year term.

Displaying confidence in the way the once-dysfunctional Butler County Veterans Service Commission has been operating, Common Pleas Court Presiding Judge Noah Powers reappointed Tom Jeffers to the five-member board.

Jeffers, a retired Air Force veteran, joined the board at the height of a tumultuous period in March 2015. He will begin another five-year stint as the American Legion member on the board in January, after Powers selected him from a field of six candidates.

“Tom has been an asset, that entire organization has turned around, it does good work, I’m happy with the outreach they do and I’m happy they spend the money on the veterans,” Powers said.

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Jeffers, of American Legion Post 138 in Hamilton, joined the vet board under unusual circumstances.

The veterans board had been missing one commissioner since former commissioner Tom Stamper’s term expired Jan. 1, 2015. Filling Stamper’s vacant seat was delayed due to a series of issues with the appointment process.

Under state law, the county’s common pleas judges must select commissioners from a list of recommended candidates compiled by area veterans chapters, including the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and AMVETS. That year, it was the American Legion’s turn to recommend names.

Now-retired Common Pleas Judge Patricia Oney picked Jeffers from a field of six candidates from the Hamilton and West Chester Twp. legion posts. The Middletown post’s submission was disqualified because members nominated Stamper, who was not a post member at the time he was recommended.

Jeffers could not be reached for comment on his reappointment, but when he first got the job his mission was, “Working together, let’s listen and work together and accomplish our mission. I think that’s the biggest thing we need to bring, we need to get on the same board.”

Vet Board Executive Director Caroline Dineen said he has done more than just reach his goal.

“I just think there was a turning point when he came and we just have kept being positive ever since he came,” Dineen said. “His positivity, his communication, he comes in and talks to me frequently, he knows the other staff members and talks to them about things that may be going on. It’s just a different feel than what it was before he was here.”

The board served 6,286 veterans in 2018, which was a 127 percent increase from 16 years ago. It spent almost $1 million on emergency assistance for veterans for things like housing, food, utilities, indigent burials and transportation.

Service officers made 25,814 contacts — some individual veterans may have been helped multiple times — with vets through office visits, email and phone calls, performing numerous services such as help in filling out forms and filing new VA claims.

Jeffers was one of the commissioners to break the logjam that had kept the agency a virtual secret, approving what is now an aggressive advertising campaign to communicate they are there to help veterans in many ways. The board helps veterans navigate Veterans Administration rules, regulations and benefits, it provides emergency financial assistance and transportation to medical appointments, to name a few services.

Jeffers also was instrumental in capping the five commissioners’ salaries. As a new commissioner was appointed each year, the newest member would get 2 percent higher pay than the last appointee. As of last year, all five of the commissioners’ annual salaries are capped at $8,868.

Commission President Chuck Weber, the last reappointment, said he was thrilled the judge “is keeping the gang together.”

He said when he needed the board’s help prior to his joining the commission, he recalls dealing with a “bunch of frumpy naysayers,” and he is glad now they are like-minded.

“I think it’s wonderful, it’s not even a matter of just liking somebody, it’s knowing that they’re as committed as yourself to the cause,” Weber said. “That the goals are virtually identical and once you have the right person in the job it’s good that you keep that person as long as he or she is motivated to stay there.”

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