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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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John Guarisco Re-Elected As Marinette County Board Chair

Issue Date: April 20, 2022

The Marinette County Board meeting on Tuesday, April 19 began with seating all 30 supervisors for new 2-year terms of office, followed by election of a chair and vice-chair and then naming a committee on committees to handle committee assignments.

During the course of the meeting, John Guarisco was returned to office as chair, Robert Holley was re-elected vice chair, and Rebecca Lindner was approved as Corporation Counsel to replace Gale Mattison who is retiring after 21 years in that position. Lindner has been assistant Corporation Counsel for Brown County for the past 12 years and has 20 years' experience as an attorney. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University Law School. She was appointed by County Administrator John LeFebvre after being interviewed by him, Guarisco and Human Resources Director Jennifer Holtger. LeFebvre said there had been four applicants for the position, of whom three are attorneys. Lindner is to start work on Tuesday, April 26 to allow her two weeks to work with Mattison before her retirement becomes effective.

As something of a farewell address, Mattison told the board they were very fortunate to have LeFebvre as their County Administrator, and declared, ""he is honest, fair, very hard working, diligent, and in my opinion he does an excellent job for the county."

In addition to approving some new Health and Human Services positions, the board approved a $100,000 contract with KI for purchase and installation of new seating for the Theater on the Bay, which is located on the Marinette campus of UW-Green Bay, and after long debate sent an ordinance change that would have eliminated weight limit permit appeals back to committee for more deliberation.

Eight of the 30 supervisors sworn in during the reorganization session that started the day's proceedings were taking office for the first time, one was returning after several years off the board, and 21 were resuming their seats with no interruption.

County Clerk Kathy Brandt called the session to order at 9 a.m., and after roll call, with all supervisors present, Judge James A. Morrison administered the oath of office for the entire board.

Judge Morrison then thanked County Board for all it has done for the judicial system in Marinette County, particularly for remodeling the old County Board room on the third floor of the courthouse back into its original purpose as a court room with jury trial capabilities. He said having the added courtroom had made it possible for the Marinette County Court system to maintain a satisfactory schedule, even through the months of COVID restrictions.

"We practically never ask for anything you don't give us, so we never ask for things we don't really need," Judge Morrison said of himself and Branch I Judge Jane Sequin.

"I couldn't imagine a better relationship," Judge Morrison went on, adding that the county has provided great facilities, and a super administration, with John LeFebvre as a super administrator.

He invited supervisors to do a "court room ride-along," and spend a day on the bench with him. "I'd love you to see what we're actually doing," he urged. He said this invitation was from him personally, but he was sure Judge Sequin would also welcome supervisors into her court.

Returning supervisors are Roger Allen, Al Sauld, Bill Stankevich, Bonnie Popp, Bob Hoyer, John Guarisco (incumbent board chair), Stan Gruszynski, Ginger Deschane, Robert Holley (incumbent vice-chair), Tom Buelteman, Glenn L. Broderick, Connie Seefeldt, Tom Mandli, Chris Gromala, Tom Gromala, Don Pazynski, Gail Wanek, Paul Gustafson, Shirley Kaufman, Tom Mailand and Rick Polzin.

Supervisors new to the board are Christopher Norton, Allen England, Denise Oleszak, Ken Hanson, Wally Hitt, Tim Pelzek, Hank Novak and Rick Thill. Mark Anderson was returning after an absence from the board. He had been Board Chair for four years before he decided to leave the board for a time several years ago.

Next on the reorganization agenda was electing a board chair and vice chair, which are two of the very few times supervisors are allowed to vote anonymously, using unsigned paper ballots. Seconds are not needed.

Holley nominated Anderson, and Popp nominated Guarisco.

Seefeldt asked for comments from the two nominees.

Guarisco, has been board chair for only two years, said he is the one with the least experience, and added, "I've made some mistakes in the last two years, but if you choose to elect me, I will try to do better."

Anderson said when Supervisor Penny Chaikowski decided not to seek re-election from his district she had called him and asked to run. He said she had told him that a number of those who chose to leave the board at the end of their terms had done so because they felt it had become too partisan and political. "I find no fault in John," Anderson said, ""but I know my goals, and I want to know yours."

He said his goals include taking care of some infrastructure issues, such as the exterior of the courthouse and adjacent county buildings, which are crumbling in places, with various shades and finishes that mar the appearance of downtown Marinette; updating the Jail/Law Enforcement Center; addressing the shortage of family housing, and trying to find ways to make sure voices of supervisors and their constituents are heard. Anderson noted he had been on the board when the Law Enforcement Center was built more than 20 years ago, and concluded, "I think I can contribute and help make Marinette County a better place to live and play."

"It makes me nervous for someone to walk in off the street without immediate past experience on this board," declared Pazynski. "We need someone calm and steady and focused as John Guarisco has been in the past." Pazynski said county government is like a business, but unlike a business, they cannot raise prices when costs go up, they are forced to cut expenses instead. He recalled that during his past tenure on County Board Anderson had proposed issuing a $50 million bond issue to loan the money to Marinette Marine.

Popp said she had nominated Guarisco because she felt he had done a good job for the past two years and had been very impartial, ""so I felt he deserves another two year term."

Gruszynski wondered about the legality of allowing this type of discussion, and Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison said everyone can make comments, but they could not ask questions of the candidates or engage in a debate.

Holley said he had worked in the past as vice chair with both candidates and has no problems with either. However, he felt Anderson was more focused, "more aware of what was going on throughout the state."

When vote was called Guarisco won by a narrow 16 to 13 margin, with one supervisor abstaining. Guarisco took the chair and ran the remainder of the day's proceedings.

Later in the meeting Mattison was asked if supervisors needed to give a reason for abstaining. She said that formerly was the belief, but it is not a requirement, and anyone can abstain from voting on any given issue.

Nominees for vice chair were Popp, Polzin, and Holley, who was the incumbent vice-chair. Mattison said with three candidates the one with the most votes becomes vice chair, even if there is not a majority. If there is a tie, all three candidates remain in the running until one gets a majority of the votes.

When candidates were asked for comments, Holley told the board, "It would be a real honor to represent you as vice chair for another term."

Popp said she sought to become vice chair because during her four years as a county supervisor there had not been a woman in a leadership position on the board, "and half of the residents of this county are women."

Polzin said he was honored to be nominated, "but two candidates are enough," and suggested that fellow supervisors should vote for one of the other two candidates.

When the ballots were counted Holley was returned as vice chair by a margin of 21 to 9. Holley thanked the board for returning him to office and offered, "If there is anything I can do for you, especially new members, just give me a call."

Guarisco named Sauld, Polzin, Deschane, Buelteman and Mandli to serve with Holley and himself on the Committee on Committees, and they went into an adjoining room for approximately 10 minutes to make the committee assignments for the next two years. All were approved without discussion.

With re-organization complete, the regular board meeting was called to order.

Holley advised supervisors, especially new board members, to attend the annual Wisconsin Counties Association convention at Wisconsin Dells in September if at all possible, especially new members. He said there is much valuable information, and WCA waives the attendance fee for new supervisors.

Guarisco reminded everyone that those who attend are expected to give a brief report at the board meeting after they come back.

Mattison gave some lengthy orientation instructions to the board, explaining their rights, responsibilities and limitations as supervisors. She stressed that supervisors have no individual authority, except the right to participate in group decisions. She said specific complaints they receive about county personnel should be passed along to LeFebvre for answers or action. There had also been an orientation session for new supervisors on Wednesday, April 13.

Pelzek, the newly elected supervisor from District 23 in Marinette, asked if his primary obligation was to the people of the 23rd district, or to Marinette County as a whole, and Mattison said it was his obligation to act in what he felt was for the best interest of Marinette County as a whole.

The board approved funding up to $45,000 for creation of a Diversion Coordinator position effective immediately, as requested by District Attorney DeShea Morrow, and creation of a permanent Community Health Educator Position in the Department of Health and Human Services as requested by Public Health Officer Mollie Bonjean, with initial funding from the Covid-related ARPA funds.

Two changes were approved in ATV/UTV highway routes. One designates County O from Hwy. 8 approximately 700 feet north, and the other designates County O from Barlow Lake Road to County N, in the Town of Niagara.

Considerable, and sometimes heated debate on an Infrastructure Committee recommendation to remove a process for appealing decisions of the Highway Commissioner in regard to issuing permits for waiving seasonal weight limit restrictions. Mattison said the ordinance allowing appeals to the governing committee has been on the books in Marinette County for about six years, but is in conflict with state law, which all the supervisors had sworn to uphold.

During the course of discussion before the vote to send the issue back to committee, Holley, one of the supervisors commented that Mattison frequently prefaced her remarks with, "in my opinion," and noted there may be other opinions. Mattison said if they did not like the law as it is, they should contact their state legislators and ask them to get it changed.

If the ordinance change is ultimately approved as recommended, the Highway Commissioner will have the final say as to who would or would not get a permit, and there would be no possible way to appeal. Mattison said that is already the case. Only the County Administrator has authority over the Highway Commissioner.

Several supervisors noted Eric Burmeister, the current Highway Commissioner is honest and fair, but there have been Commissioners in the past who were not, and there could be in the unpredictable future, and commented that the same is the case with the County Administrator. They indicated retaining authority for elected County Board Supervisors is important.

The board approved appointment of Sue Heurion to the ADRC Governing Board, and Mike Cassidy and Kelly Barnes to theZoning Board of Adjustment.

A detailed policy governing use of social media by county personnel was approved as recommended by Technology Services Director Kevin Solway and the Administrative Committee.


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