The Eau Claire County Administration Committee recommended Zoe Roberts be named a new county supervisor during its meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Pending approval from the County Board, Roberts will officially be sworn in during Tuesday’s County Board meeting. If approved, she will fill the District 27 seat vacated last month by Brandon Buchanan and will serve as supervisor until the term expires in April 2020.
Roberts, a graduate of UW-Eau Claire, was one of two applicants for the open position, along with retired businessman Randall DeMars. The Administration Committee interviewed both candidates separately for about 10 minutes Tuesday before discussing its options for around 15 minutes.
Board Chair and committee member Nick Smiar, who has the official authority to appoint a supervisor pending board approval, met with the candidates individually at an earlier date but wanted to hear the opinions of the five committee members and provide them time to ask questions of the applicants.
The committee members said Roberts and DeMars were both viable candidates. They discussed the applicants’ qualifications, noting they both appeared passionate about the opportunity. The general sentiment was that DeMars had more background working on budgets and financial projects, an important skill set, while Roberts is a skilled researcher who could bring another viewpoint to the County Board.
Supervisor and committee member Mark Beckfield said he preferred DeMars due to his experience with finance and industry but did not feel strongly one way or the other.
“It’s a tough call,” Beckfield said. “...I think either one are good people.”
Supervisor and committee member Ray Henning agreed, saying both would be dedicated supervisors. Henning said he slightly preferred Roberts and her experienced, versatile background working with different types of people. Roberts has an IT background and is familiar with data analysis, something Henning said could help the county.
Supervisor and committee member Jerry Wilkie said he appreciated DeMars and his financial, industrial background but expressed his slight favor toward Roberts. Wilkie said Roberts, a local transgender advocate, could represent a much-needed diverse voice on the board but was not opposed to DeMars.
“It is a toss of the coin,” Wilkie said.
Supervisor and committee member Colleen Bates leaned toward DeMars because of his additional comfort level with budgets, noting that supervisors will vote on the 2020 county budget next month.
Smiar agreed with Wilkie and Henning, saying it was a difficult choice but he gave a slight nod to Roberts.
Bates and Beckfield said that decision was fine with them.
“I don’t think you can go wrong,” Bates said.
During the committee interview, Roberts and DeMars both said they plan to run in next year’s election.
The next Administration Committee meeting is scheduled for Nov. 12.