Oconto County Chair Lee Rymer Chosen For 2017 WCA Honors "Friend of County Government"
At its meeting on Thursday, Oct. 19, Oconto County Board celebrated Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) selection of Board Chair Lee Rymer of Oconto Falls as the 2017 recipient of its prestigious "Friend of County Government" award, and mourned the death of long-time Supervisor Mary Lemmen, 82, who passed away on Thursday, Oct. 12 after a brief illness.
At the start of the meeting Rymer called for a moment of silence for Lemmen. "I can't say enough about Mary and Dick (her husband)," Rymer declared. "They were good friends and very active in the community." He said she was an extremely valuable Supervisor who served on many committees over the years.
County Clerk Kim Pytleski read a letter of resignation dated Sunday, Oct. 1, in which Lemmen stated she was resigning because she wanted to be sure her District 21 remained represented on the board.
Rymer said he and Vice Chair Paul Bednarik had visited Lemmen at home on Saturday, Oct. 7 to present her with a plaque commending her for 24 years of service on Oconto County Board. She also had served as Oconto Falls Town Treasurer for 30 years, through 2015.
Responding to fill the vacancy quickly, Rymer appointed Tim O'Harrow of the Town of Oconto Falls to fill our her term. The appointment was unanimously approved by County Board at the Oct. 19 meeting. O'Harrow was sworn in immediately by Pytleski and promptly took his place on the board.
Next, Pytleski announced the good news that Rymer had been chosen by WCA as this year's "Friend of County Government" honoree and that she, Administrative Coordinator Kevin Hamann and Vice Chair Paul Bednarik had managed to keep it a secret until the presentation was made on Monday, Sept. 25 at the WCA Convention awards banquet in Wisconsin Dells. Hamann had recorded the presentation on video and Pytleski played it for the full board.
The award is the highest that WCA offers. Each year one individual is selected to be recognized for outstanding outstanding service to their own county, WCA and all counties throughout the state.
In announcing the award, WCA Executive Director Mark O'Connel declared, "Chairman Rymer has been a dedicated advocate and public servant for counties statewide. Because of his work and tireless commitment to this state, his impact will be felt for generations."
"They kept it a secret ...I didn't know I was getting it," Rymer declared.
Rymer has been a supervisor on Oconto County Board since 1986, and served as board chair since 1998. He has served on the WCA Board of Directors since 2003, was president from 2007-2008, and an Executive Committee member from 2005 to 2009.
He has been a member of the Board of Directors of of WCA Services, Inc., a subsidiary of WCA that arranges discounted purchases of products and services from pre-screened vendors for public entities for public entities throughout the state. He served on the Board of Directors for Wisconsin County Mutual Insurance Corp. since 2000, and has been president since 2009. He served on the WCA Group Health Trust Board of Directors since 2002. The Trust provides health, dental and other benefit plans for counties, schools and other local governments in Wisconsin. Wisconsin County Mutual provides workers comp and property insurance for counties and other local governments.
"Coupled with his longtime involvement with various boards in this association, he has made large impacts statewide and we are proud to name him the 2017 Friend in County Government," O'Connel said in introducing Rymer for the award.
Rymer told his own board that he did not know how Hamann and Pytleski managed to keep the award a secret from him until time of the actual presentation. They had known about it at least a week earlier.
"Oconto County is a great county and I try to do my best to make it the best county in the state of Wisconsin," Rymer declared at Thursday's board meeting.
In August Oconto County Board had board had passed resolutions opposing the proposed Aquila Back Forty Mine on the Menominee River in Menominee County, Michigan, and opposing easing of some mining regulations in Wisconsin. Gov. Scott Walker had sent a letter thanking the board for sharing its resolution with him and helping keep him informed.
A letter from the Michigan State Senate dated Sept. 21 informed the board that on Sept. 14 they had adopted a resolution expressing support of the Aquila Mine. The letter expressed confidence that the mine will operate safely.
At the August meeting a contingent of 13 members of the public had addressed the board in opposition to the mine, and reminding supervisors that any pollutants that get into the Menominee River will end up in the waters of Green Bay and subsequently along the Oconto County shoreline.
In other business at the October meeting, supervisors agreed to contract with two law firms that are bringing a suit against large pharmaceutical manufacturers for over promoting use of opioid drugs, approved several changes in the employee handbook and administrative manual and changed the way elections of community members on the Health and Human Services Board are handled to make the timing and process consistent with election of county board supervisor members.
They approved changes in the non-union wage schedule that provide the first pay increases many of the appointed officials in Oconto County government have had since 2013. The amounts have been included in the 2018 budget that will be presented at the annual county budget meeting that starts with the budget hearing at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 26. The Oct. 26 meting will end with a trip to the Machickanee shooting range.
The board also approved a one-year agreement with Correctional Healthcare Companies for jail inmate health care at a cost of $152,781.36 for 2018, which is a 3 percent increase over last year.
They also agreed to ban motorized bicycles from the county's recreational tails in through the national forests, which otherwise now allow them.
At the conclusion of regular business there was a one hour educational presentation for the board on sexual harassment laws. Hamann urged all board members participate in the training, and cautioned if they chose to heave they would be required to attend the 2-hour presentation for county employees. He said if there are sexual harassment complaints against county employees they will be required to sit as disciplinary judges, and noted he had actually received three sexual harassment complaints against supervisors.
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