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Fewer people apply for Eau Claire city manager job
  • Updated

EAU CLAIRE — City leaders are getting a smaller pool of applicants for Eau Claire’s city manager position than they received in prior attempts to fill the position.

There were 37 who applied for the job opening from when it was first posted on Oct. 8 until the end of December, according to the latest update provided to the city by Washington, D.C.-based executive search firm Polihire.

When Eau Claire previously sought city manager candidates in summer 2020 with help of consulting firm Baker Tilly, 61 people had applied. That search ultimately ended in early 2021 when the city’s top pick took another job, which led the council to pause and then begin the recruitment process over again.

This afternoon will be a city committee’s first opportunity to review applicants from the search done by Polihire.

The five-member ad hoc City Manger Recruitment Committee is scheduled to have a closed-door meeting at 4 p.m. to consider candidate materials.

Council President Terry Weld, one of five council members on the committee, said how the meeting goes will determine the schedule for the next steps in choosing a new city manager.

If the search committee feels it is ready to present a group of candidates to the council, a closed session meeting to do that is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday.

That would be pushed back though if the search committee decides it needs more time before making its recommendations to the full council, Weld said.

The resolution that created the search committee set a loose goal of Jan. 15 for the group to deliver its recommendations.

The full City Council decided in September to create the ad hoc committee to winnow the pool of candidates and work with the consultant. The whole council will still determine finalists, conduct interviews with them, select the next city manager and approve a contract.

David Solberg, who usually leads the city’s Engineering Division, has been serving as interim city manager since Dale Peters retired in October 2020.

Peters, a longtime city employee, was named city manager in December 2015 after an internal search.

Prior to that, Eau Claire had done a nationwide search for city manager in 2012, which attracted 49 applicants. Russell Van Gompel was hired as city manager and served three years in the position, but then the council opted not to renew his contract.

Recalling Jan. 6: A national day of infamy, half remembered

NEW YORK — Beneath a pale winter light and the glare of television cameras, it seemed hard not to see the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot for what it was. The violent storming of the Capitol by Donald Trump supporters bent on upending the election of Joe Biden was as clear as day: democracy under siege, live-streamed in real time.

Yet a year later, when it comes to a where-were-you moment in U.S. history, there is far from national consensus.

A Quinnipiac poll found that 93% of Democrats considered it an attack on the government, but only 29% of Republicans agreed. A poll by The Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 4 in 10 Republicans recall the attack — in which five people died — as violent, while 9 in 10 Democrats do.

Such a disparity in memory may be inevitable in our hyper-polarized politics, but it’s striking given the stark clarity of Jan. 6 at the time and in its immediate aftermath. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said then that “the president bears responsibility” for the attacks. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., then the majority leader, said: “They tried to disrupt our democracy. They failed.”

But since that day, separate versions — one factual, one fanciful — have taken hold. The Capitol riot — the violent culmination of a bid to delegitimize the 2020 election and block its certification — has morphed into a partisan “Rashomon,” the classic Japanese film about a slaying told from varying and conflicting points of view. Indeed, the act of remembering can be a highly mercurial thing — particularly when deep-seated political views are involved.

“We keep using terms like post-factual, but it almost feels like there’s this national psychosis or amnesia about what happened a year ago,” says Charles Sykes, the former conservative Wisconsin radio host and founder of the website The Bulwark. “It’s not just that we’re two nations. It’s as if we live on two different reality planets when it comes to the memory of Jan. 6.”

Nations remember the way people do: imperfectly. Neuroscientist Lisa Genova, author of “Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting,” describes how even the most searing memories are edited each time they’re revisited. An original memory is replaced with a 2.0 version, a 3.0 version and beyond.

“Outside influences can sneak in every time we revisit and recall a memory for what happened. So for these collective memories, we have a lot of chances to revisit them,” says Genova.

“Depending on your political point of view, the news channels you watch, what this meant to you, this memory is going to have a different slant based on the story that you tell yourself.”

And a lot of people have been working hard to chip away at the memory of Jan. 6. Rep. Andrew S. Clyde, R-Ga., has described it as like “a normal tourist visit.” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., has claimed the rioters were leftist militants “masquerading as Trump supporters.” Trump has continued to insist that the election — Biden won by a wide margin, with scant evidence of fraud — was the real insurrection.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson has attempted to frame the Capitol attack as a “false flag” operation, orchestrated by the FBI. Carlson created a series on the riot that aired on Fox News’ subscription streaming service.

To counter such misrepresentations, other documentary projects have tried to capture Jan. 6 in rigorous, methodical detail. Jamie Roberts’ HBO documentary “Four Hours at the Capitol” was motivated in part to firmly establish a visual chronology of that day, with the rampage following Trump’s incitement to his followers to “fight like hell.”

Roberts interviewed witnesses and participants. Some of those in the mob praised his film only to later complain after seeing Carlson’s series.

“I had people who were in the film texting me saying: ‘Why the hell didn’t you put that in your film? You’re liars,’” Roberts says. “What I was hoping with the project was to put some very hard and fast facts together with people who can tell the story from a witness perspective. But for some people, it’s still not going to reach them.”

Alexander Keyssar, a professor of history and social policy at Harvard and author of “Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College?”, believes a full-fledged investigative commission, like the one that followed the Sept. 11 attacks, might have fostered more national consensus on Jan. 6. In May, Senate Republicans used their filibuster power to block the creation of such a commission. (A House committee is to soon make public some of the findings from its six-month investigation.)

Instead, many Trump supporters have adopted the former president’s denial over the 2020 election. In the last year, Republicans have passed dozens of laws in 19 states to restrict voting. More election battles loom in the 2022 midterms and beyond.

“It’s obviously dangerous because it becomes precedent,” Keyssar says of the Capitol riot. “It has become a prism through which events are viewed. The prism for a large segment of Republican adherents is that you can’t trust the outcome of elections. If you can’t trust the outcome of elections, that will be true in the future as well. It becomes, as the great historian Bernard Bailyn once said, ‘a grammar of thought.’”

Instead of receding into the past as an anomalous threat to the heart of American democracy, the history of the Capitol riot is yet to be fully written. Some projects are ongoing. To tell the story of Jan. 6, the Capitol Historical Society is creating an oral history. Some of the stories — like those of staffers who have since quit government and returned home — are particularly haunting for the society’s president, Jane L. Campbell.

Meanwhile, the Capitol remains closed to the public. Where tours once regularly paraded, now only those with an appointment may enter.

“When people say ‘Oh, it’s never been this bad,’ well, we did have a civil war. That was bad. That was truly bad,” Campbell says. “But during the Civil War, Lincoln made a decision to finish the dome of the Capitol. We tell that story a hundred times over.”

Bates among seven county supervisors not running for reelection
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EAU CLAIRE — After four decades as an Eau Claire County Board supervisor, Colleen Bates is stepping down soon.

Bates, the current County Board vice-chairwoman, is one of seven supervisors not running for reelection in April. All 29 County Board supervisors are up for reelection every two years.

Supervisors expressed thankfulness for being on the board and said it was a tough choice not to run. They did so for various reasons, including time management and personal priorities.

Bates, the District 12 supervisor who was first elected in 1982, is not running again because of the time commitment during the next phase of her life.

“It’s a time in my life to think about, ‘What are the next few years going to look like?” Bates said. “I’m not feeling anything except gratitude for the opportunity to have served. My time on the board has been really meaningful to me. I’ve done my fair share, and it’s time for some new faces.”

Supervisor Sandra McKinney shared similar sentiments. McKinney is stepping down after six years representing District 2 to pursue other work and interests.

McKinney enjoyed the experiences and people she met while on the County Board.

“It was almost like going to college for civics,” McKinney said. “It was a good six years … It just felt like it was the right time for a change.”

Bates also said it was time for a change, though she wonders how her life will feel without supervisor responsibilities.

“You fill out the papers and you think, ‘Man, is this really what I want to do?’” Bates said. “I’ve always worked, so it’s very hard to think about the notion of not having something on your calendar that says, ‘I have something to do today.’”

Bates will miss having “a sense of purpose,” she said. “Will I feel kind of empty? Will I feel like, ‘Oh man, what do I do with the rest of the time that I have?’”

Bates said the best part of being a supervisor was working with people to achieve similar goals.

Supervisor Zoe Roberts agreed, saying she will miss collaborating with friends on the County Board.

Roberts was appointed to represent District 27 in October 2019 and then elected to a two-year term in April 2020.

Roberts is not running for reelection because of the time commitment. In addition to being a supervisor, Roberts has a full-time job and said it wasn’t sustainable to devote so much energy to both roles.

“It’s all about time management, and I don’t want to short the public and not do the job to the best of my ability,” Roberts said. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m just trying to make time for myself.”

Supervisor Melissa Janssen had similar reasons. Janssen is not running for reelection because she recently received a work promotion that requires more of her time.

Janssen represented District 25 for four years and said being a supervisor was an illuminating, rewarding experience.

“It was definitely a bittersweet decision (not to run), but I am excited to give somebody else the opportunity to learn and grow and have their voice heard,” Janssen said.

Janssen will still be involved in the community, and she might apply to be a citizen member on a county committee.

Janssen appreciated getting to know the area better and listening to citizens.

“There are so many people and organizations that are working hard every day to make it a better place to live,” Janssen said.

Supervisor Martha Nieman agreed. As a board member, Nieman found it crucial to hear different perspectives before voting on issues.

“It was enlightening to see how important that dialogue is,” Nieman said.

After four years as District 17 supervisor, Nieman is not running again so she can devote more time to her personal life.

Supervisor Chris Hambuch-Boyle is also not running for reelection. Hambuch-Boyle represented District 16 for nearly two years after being appointed to the County Board in May 2020.

Supervisor Gary Gibson will miss working with supervisors and county staff.

“There’s a lot of great people in those departments, and they do a hell of a (good) job,” Gibson said.

Gibson, who has represented District 1 since 2004, is stepping down because of the time commitment. He aims to travel and see family more often.

Bates, too, wants to travel and spend time with friends and family. She plans to continue working on community issues such as homelessness and mental health.

“I’m trying to figure out, ‘What are my priorities over the next number of years?’” Bates said. “I’m going to have to figure out where I fit now … I see a lot of opportunity to continue to be involved in some way.”

Seven supervisors’ time on the County Board will end in three months, but their community work will not.