CUMBERLAND — Vance Ishler is back. At least, he’s supposed to be first thing this morning.

Allegany County Commissioner Jim Stakem said Thursday the county administrator had received his doctor’s clearance to return to work. Unspecified medical issues have kept Ishler, 45, of Frostburg off duty since April 2. The current absence came after a two-week leave in February.

Ishler at one point was covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which provides workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons. County officials said Ishler would have exhausted his accrued personal and sick leave at the end of this month.

Stakem said Ishler has been in touch with the commissioners and county staff, including County Attorney Bill Rudd and Brian Westfall, director of human resources, and has indicated he is eager to return to work.

He’s “been bitin’ at the bit to get back,” Stakem said after the commissioners’ public meeting.

And there will be a host of issues that have cropped up since he was last in his office nearly five months ago. The top priority will be helping the commissioners move forward with the expansion of the county Bureau of Police.

Ishler also will help seal the deal in the sale of the Allegany County Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center. The commissioners announced Feb. 7 they were interested in selling the nursing home. Ishler was present during that announcement.

He has missed the paring down of the list of candidates from 13 businesses to three. Stakem said he expected Ishler to play a role in the upcoming negotiations with Jim Bestpitch and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1521, the union that represents the facility’s workers. Those talks could begin as early as next week and will focus on ensuring the workers’ benefits accrued stay intact if the nursing home is sold.

The issue puts on the back burner, for now, any concerns the commissioners or top county staff had about Ishler’s return and its impact on the county budget. The Times-News obtained a copy of Ishler’s contract through a Public Information Act request. According to the contract, should Ishler retire after working 10 years for the county, “the county shall provide health insurance coverage to (Ishler), his spouse and dependent children, if (Ishler) has no other health care coverage available to him and said dependents.”

Ishler is set to reach the 10-year mark in April 2009. County officials said earlier this month they were aware of that particular clause in Ishler’s contract.

Commissioner Bob Hutcheson said acting County Administrator David Eberly has done an “excellent and outstanding job” while standing in for Ishler.

Commissioner Dale Lewis called Eberly’s effort “tremendous.”

Stakem said it appeared as if Eberly, who will return to his role as director of community services, had gotten his feet wet during his term as the top appointed county official. Eberly disagreed about the depth of the water.

“I learned how to swim,” Eberly quipped.

Contact Kevin Spradlin at

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