Monday, October 15, 2018

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Interest shown in Chippewa County Board leadership

Previous chairman didn’t seek re-election; vice chairman was defeated

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    Chippewa County Courthouse

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CHIPPEWA FALLS — Although 12 of the 15 Chippewa County Board members retained their seats in the April 3 elections, the board once again will be selecting a new chairman and vice chairman.

Board Chairman Anson Albarado of Cadott was the only board member who didn’t seek re-election, and Vice Chairman Florian Skwiercyznski of Eau Claire was defeated.

On Tuesday, the board will meet and select new leadership positions. It is the only time of the year when the board can cast secret ballots.

The board chairman sets the agenda, runs the meetings and helps form committee memberships.

Supervisor Larry Willkom has served on the board for more than 30 years — and more than twice as long as any other current board member. He also served as chairman for one term, from 2010 to 2012, before losing his position on a 9-6 vote.

“I am interested in serving again as chair,” Willkom said. “My primary objective would be to reorganize the County Board and have more (members) involved in policy decisions. Right now, five people (those who serve on the Executive Committee) control 95 percent of board activity.”

Supervisor Steve Gerrish of Lake Hallie currently serves on the Executive Committee, and he also is mulling a run as chairman.

“I’ve only talked to a couple (members) so far, so I haven’t done my due diligence,” Gerrish said. “I think with the changeover on the board, it is just the natural progression, and someone needs to step up. It’s not an easy position.”

Gerrish said it helps that the board recently hired Randy Scholz to be the county’s new administrator.

“With the new administrator, I think it’s time to move forward,” Gerrish said.

Supervisor Chuck Hull of Chippewa Falls sought the chairman position in 2016, ultimately losing to Albarado. Hull said he is seeking it again.

“My thoughts are known,” Hull said. “I’ve had some board members who have reached out to me. We need a chairman who is able to rein in the board, follow Robert’s Rules of Order and follow rules of decorum and stop the personal attacks.”

Hull noted he has experience not just on the County Board but has a decade of serving on the Chippewa Falls City Council. However, Hull will be traveling to Israel next week and will miss the reorganizational meeting.

Supervisor Annette Hunt of Chippewa Falls was first elected in 2016. At this point, Hunt said, she isn’t ready to seek the position.

“We moved to Chippewa to get out of the rat race of Washington and spend time with my boys,” Hunt said. “I don’t think it’s the right time for me. I’m pursuing my master’s degree. To do (the chairman position), I’d have to give something up.”

Hunt said she’s excited about the growth in the county.

“I really do think, in this term, we’re poised to do some good things,” she said.

Supervisor Tom Thornton of Stanley also was first elected in 2016, alongside Hunt. He is conflicted about whether he would seek the position.

“I personally think the chairman should have more than one term of experience,” Thornton said. “If you are working full time, I don’t know how you invest the time if you’re not (at the courthouse) during the day.”

Supervisor Dean Gullickson of the town of Tilden also said he plans to seek the top spot.

“It’s to bring some continuity to the board,” Gullickson said. “I’ve got the time.”

Gullickson said addressing the growing meth issue would be his top priority; he noted the county added six positions across three different departments in the past year, all related directly or indirectly to meth.

This is the second consecutive election cycle in which the top two board spots were vacated. In 2016, board Chairman Paul Michels and Vice Chairman Henry Shakal were both defeated. They each ran this spring to regain their seats, but both lost again.


Chippewa County Board: Meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Room 302 of the courthouse, 711 N. Bridge St., Chippewa Falls.

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