By Tia Lynn Ivey
The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) welcomed two new commissioners at their first regular meeting of 2017. Philipp Von Hanstein, the District 4 commissioner, and Ben Riden Jr., the District 3 Commissioner, were eager to begin their new roles as elected officials.
“I am happy to be here and I look forward to working with the other commissioners or Morgan County,” said Von Hanstein. “I want to help make this great place even better. And I look forward to representing the citizens of District 4.”
Commissioner Riden promised to be a trustworthy official for the county. “I am just excited to be here and get started to give fair and honest representation,” said Riden.
Both Von Hanstein and Riden ran as Republicans who emphasized fiscal responsibility and questioned the feasibility of building a new hospital in the county.
Riden made a bid for the District 3 seat last year, aiming to replace Commissioner Philip Clack who did not wish to seek another term. “I am not a politician. I have never been one and I have never wanted to be one,” said Riden last year. “But a lot of people in my district have approached me and asked me to do this, thinking that all my experience in the governmental arena, as well as my reputation for honesty and being straightforward, would make me a viable candidate.”
Riden, 58, is a life-long Morgan County resident. He graduated from Morgan County High School in 1975 and earned his accounting degree in from the University of Georgia in 1979. According to Riden, he has 35 years of experience in auditing, accounting and governmental finance. Riden, who is now retired from his CPA-position from the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, currently still works part-time as a consultant for the board. Ben Riden is married to Terri Riden, a retired teacher from Morgan County Primary School. The couple has raised two sons, Matt Riden and Garrett Riden, who attended Morgan County schools all their lives, too. According to Riden, the people of his district are primarily concerned about fiscal responsibility, especially concerning the county’s role in funding the new hospital project for Morgan Memorial Hospital. “Those are the issues I hear most about,” said Riden during his campaign.”I look forward to visiting with the residents in District 3 to get a sense of their wishes and concerns so that I can work toward addressing those issues. I think I can contribute to making the proper decisions in those areas.” Riden promised to hold off on declaring his opinions on various county matters until serving in office for a little while. “I need to get in and look at the situation and look at the budget and what’s going on first,” said Riden. “I need to get a better feeling as to where things are before I make any judgments on what my opinions are at this point.”
Hanstein, who beat out long-time county commissioner Ellen Warren for the District 4 seat on the BOC during the November election, also promised to bring more fiscal responsibility and transparency to the BOC.
Von Hanstein, a Morgan County farmer, ran on a platform to improve city and county relations and to be the mouthpiece of the people of District 4. Von Hanstein also promised to address the county’s depleted fund balance and debt and to secure a water source for the county. He also expressed skepticism over the feasibility of the new hospital project launched by Morgan Memorial Hospital. Von Hanstein owns and operates a beef and row-cropping farm and is a certified police officer that works part-time as a deputy at the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office. Von Hanstein was born in Germany and moved with his family to Morgan County in 1981 and he soon became a naturalized American citizen. He currently serves on board of directors of the Morgan County Farm Bureau and the Madison-Morgan Conservancy and is a past president of the Morgan County Farm Bureau. He also is a graduate of both “Leadership Morgan County” and the Georgia Agri Leaders Forum Foundation, where he also served on the board. Von Hanstein said he would use his leadership skills to repair what he says is a “division between the county and city (of Madison).” “We all live in the same house.”