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Florence native leads department

Staff writer

A job as administrative assistant at a power plant north of Great Bend prepared Sharon Omstead Box for her current role as Marion County Planning and Zoning director. She moved back to her hometown of Florence in 2013. Her mother, Connie Omstead, lives there.

“Working at the power plant was one of my favorite jobs,” Box said, “but I wanted to be close to family, so I moved back.”

After a short stint with Marion County Special Education Cooperative at OASIS in Florence, she was hired as assistant planning and zoning director. Emma Tajchman retired in September, and Box became interim director. She was hired fulltime in October.

As assistant director, Box, who keeps her professional name as Sharon Omstead, took numerous training classes offered by the state. Her duties are broad-based, including zoning, environmental health, and flood plain management.

“There is a lot more flood plain acreage in the county than most people realize,” she said.

She oversees private wastewater systems and inspects private water wells. She collects well samples upon request and tests them for contaminants in her office at 203 S. Third St. in Marion.

When the Diamond Vista Wind Farm was in its planning stage, she inspected project sites, permitted towers, and checked on flood plain situations.

“It was pretty busy,” she said. “With a department of two people, it really overwhelmed us for a while.”

Her office has permitted nine new homes in the county this year. She is working on 104 cases right now, covering five different areas including waste water, infractions, splits, and building permits.

Box likes the challenges of the job.

“I like to learn new things, and new things come up all the time,” she said. “Most people who come into the office are upset about something but 99.9 percent are happy when they leave. We help them with compliance.”

She is married to Joe Box, a supervisor at Excel Industries in Hesston. They have a combined family of five daughters ranging from 4 to 14 years old.

“I’m glad I got the opportunity to do this job,” she said.

She frequently seeks out other county offices for help in doing her job and they seek her help, too, especially the appraiser’s office.

“I think there are a lot of genuine, caring people who work for the county right now and have been helpful to me,” she said. “Everyone works well together.”

Box is assisted by Brandon Meierhoff of Marion, who has been on the job for three weeks. Chris and Kathy Meierhoff are his parents.

Last modified Dec. 13, 2018

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