CHIPPEWA FALLS — Lee McIlquham was a quiet leader during his 14-year tenure on the Chippewa County Board, colleagues say. McIlquham, a lifelong farmer in the town of Anson, died Tuesday at age 69.
Board member Ken Schmitt from the town of Howard said McIlquham was thoughtful but had a quiet demeanor.
“He had a very nice way of talking to people and debating the subject,” Schmitt said. “He wasn’t vindictive; he was a gentleman. He was always ready to compliment someone. He was good at thanking people for their service to the county.”
Former board member Allan Schlaugat from the town of Howard praised McIlquham for being a leader.
“He was one of the kindest guys on the board,” Schlaugat said. “He was one of the quiet warriors. He never got in your face and said ‘this is the way it should be.’ He was so well-spoken, in everything he said.”
Schlaugat said he wasn’t afraid to stand up for farmers’ rights.
“His strength was property rights — he was huge into the right-to-farm,” he said. “He made sure the farmers and ranchers had their voices heard.”
Former board member Larry Marquardt of the town of Hallie said he met McIlquham when they were in high school, and he encouraged McIlquham to run for County Board.
“He was a straight shooter,” Marquardt said. “It was his down-to-earth and common sense. He told it like it was. He voted ‘no’ a lot, just because he could sometimes.”
Former board Chairman Paul Michels of Bloomer said he enjoyed working alongside McIlquham.
“Lee constantly searched for ways to make Chippewa County a better place with the best balance of governing (government) and our God-given rights along with our constitutional rights to have the best civil community possible for the people,” Michels said. “Lee’s big smile is what caught your attention, but when you got to know him, it covered a man that cared for everyone else more than most people will ever know. Chippewa County will always be a better place because of the impact Lee McIlquham left on it.”
McIlquham earned a degree in agriculture from what is now Chippewa Valley Technical College. He joined the board in 2002, defeating Mary Lindquist on a mere 61-57 vote. He was known for voting against spending measures: he voted against creating a county administrator position in 2006 and voted against a countywide “wheel tax” in 2014.
He, like three other incumbents, lost their seats in April 2016 after they voted in June 2015 to extend the contract of then-administrator Frank Pascarella who had fired finance director Dennis Hunt in a move that caused controversy and division on the board. That measure passed on an 8-6 vote. McIlquham was ousted by Jason Bergeron on a 1,054-485 vote.
McIlquham is survived by his wife Jean, three children and five grandchildren. Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. today at Pederson-Volker Funeral Chapel, Chippewa Falls. Private service will be at Little Anson United Methodist Church, Chippewa County town of Anson.