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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Ed Delfosse Named New Wagner Town Supervisor

Issue Date: May 3, 2018

Acting in accord with advice given by Attorney Kim Coggins, Supervisor Molly Arthur and Clerk Linda Wilke met as a town board to name a new supervisor. After receiving input from the capacity crowd of about 40 persons they selected Ed Delfosse as the new supervisor to serve until the term expires on April 16, 2019. Delfosse agreed to accept the position and was immediately sworn in, so the town once again has a working town board.

Wilke and Arthur were the only two Wagner town officials following resignations of Treasurer Bruce Meyhoff, Town Chair Lynn Hickey and Supervisor Allen Sievert at emotion-packed annual and regular town board meetings on Wednesday, April 18. After Hickey resigned and left the board table on April 18, and Sievert also said he was resigning, Arthur took over and very briefly took care of remaining business and adjourned the meeting.

By state law, when two members of a three member town board are absent the clerk becomes a voting member of the board, so Arthur and Wilke carried on. With the seating of Delfosse there are two board members, which is sufficient to constitute a quorum for meetings.

The board newly recreated board is to meet at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 3 to appoint a new treasurer, and on Monday, May 7 to appoint a new town chair. Arthur has indicated she does not want the chairman position.

Once all the new officials are in place they will immediately sign and issue checks to pay current and outstanding vouchers, including payroll. Bills were left unpaid last month due to lack of the three signers required - chair, clerk and treasurer.

On Wednesday, May 9, the newly recreated town board will hold its first regular monthly meeting to conduct ordinary town business. That agenda includes paying bills along with discussion and possible action on several issues, including Nature Conservancy concerns that three culverts are creating problems for fish passage, purchase or repair of the fire department tanker, removing "No Weapons" signs from the town hall and fire department buildings to allow holding Hunter's Safety courses there as was requested at last month's meeting; consideration of half and half sharing of maintenance costs for border roads, scheduling the spring road tour and possible land purchase. Electors at the annual meeting on Wednesday, April 18 had authorized the board to look into costs connected to purchase of land and construction of a new town hall and fire station and fire department personnel had stressed the need for a tanker to replace one that has been taken out of service. They had been instructed by Hickey to check on what is available and come back with prices.

To questions from the Peshtigo Times, Wilke said Tuesday's meeting lasted only about 20 minutes, and was "surprisingly peaceful and congenial," especially considering the number of people that were there. "There was no discussion, no controversy whatsoever," she added. She said former chair Hickey was in the audience, along with the wife of former Supervisor Sievert, but neither chose to address the board.

Wilke was impressed with Arthur, who she said, "really stepped up to the plate after everybody resigned."

Before she and Arthur made their selection of Delfosse as the new supervisor they asked for suggestions from the floor. Delfosse and Kevin Wickman were suggested, and both agreed to accept. She and Arthur chose Delfosse as supervisor and he was sworn in immediately. Wilke said she personally hopes Wickman will be selected as the new town chair, but with the new supervisor in place she will not have a vote. She said plans are to take suggestions from the floor prior to appointments of the new town treasurer and town chair at the upcoming meetings.

In a separate interview with the Peshtigo Times, neither Hickey nor Sievert ruled out the possibility of running again for town office, but Sievert said he would do so only if Hickey were again to be town chair.

"In my 37 years in office I've learned that the town chairman can make your job easy or they can make it hell...depending on what they know and what they do."

Hickey said if people are unhappy with town officials it takes only 79 or more signatures on a petition for a special meeting to do a recall. She said of her decision to resign, "I've never quit anything, but everybody has a limit and I finally reached it."

She said during the four months the town was without a clerk after Melissa Christiansen resigned she spent 14 hours a day at the town hall doing that job with no extra pay, "and nobody even stopped in to ask how I was doing."

She said she ran for town board originally because she believes in doing community service, and will continue doing what she can to help, including piling sand bags when creeks threaten to overflow. She said she and her husband had been coming to Wagner for years, and moved there permanently in 2005. She had attended town board meetings as a spectator for about five years before deciding to run, and had done so because the incumbent chairman was ill. She added that she certainly did not take the job for the money, for her first two years in office she did not even accept a salary.

Sievert said he originally ran because he wanted the town to have a fire department, and two board members at that time felt the town was too small to have its own fire department. They were contracting with Wausaukee and when a fire started, most of the buildings burned completely before they got there, he said. Since first being elected in 1981, "I must have been doing something right," he commented, adding he had opposition at only three or four of the 19 elections that followed.

He said the deciding factor at the April 18 meeting before he resigned was a request from Steve Renikow that any questions put to an attorney by a town board member should be in writing, and the response should also be in writing. "He was saying he doesn't trust me," Sievert felt. "If they can't trust me to tell the truth, then they'd better elect somebody else!"

Renikow had been on the board and was among those opposed to his stand on the fire department issue when Sievert first ran for office.

"I feel bad that I might have let down the people who voted for me in the last 19 elections," Sievert said of his decision to resign. "I feel bad that I can't represent them any more...I kind of feel that I let them down...but I had taken just about as much as I could take!"

He added, "I certainly don't wish any bad luck to a future town board," he added. "I still live in the Town of Wagner and will until I die!"

Sievert felt people at the meetings in recent months "were looking for ways to get at Lynn."

Hickey said when she was first elected someone dumped a whole box of roofing nails in her driveway. In recent months she has had threats, including an anonymous phone warning in March to "watch your house," and has faced some harassment since she resigned. "I didn't want to be on a pedestal, I was just trying to do my job, " Hickey said.

Hickey felt almost as soon as Wilke was appointed clerk, "She was out to destroy me." Both Sievert and Hickey said repeatedly offered to help Wilke, but Wilke would not work with her.

In the past two months or so Wilke had been pushing to make the clerk's job an appointed, rather than an elected, position. She said with a hired clerk the board can select someone from outside the town if necessary, set educational requirements, and enforce performance standards. She noted many towns have been doing that she feels is by far the best way for the town to go.

In a written statement she asked people to attend town meetings, "voice your opinion...it is your right as a taxpayer and resident of your towns, villages, cities."

"Due to the affirmation of the clerk's actions from the past four months, getting more powerful at each meeting, we were unable to maintain the meetings without constant interruptions, combative comments and not being prepared for the meetings with proper agendas, minutes from prior meetings, payroll done properly if at all. This made for performing our duties unbearable!"

Hickey said she had been criticized for letting meetings get out of hand, and said the clerk had been "taking actions on questions, board actions, conducting votes, etc.," and added, "Without causing a bigger confrontation at the meetings, we chose to let the small group of residents and the clerk who were causing the situation prevail. Yes, some may say we didn't do our job but sat in our chairs for those months."

She said the annual meeting and regular meeting on April 18 are void because a quorum was no longer present to adjourn and motions by Wilke and Arthur were illegal.

"May a miracle happen for the Town of Wagner," she declared in a written statement. "Between a group of residents and the clerk that feel they have conquered, have no idea of the ramifications of this destructive outcome...Attend your Town Board meetings...Don't let this happen to you."

"I, as the former chairperson of the Town of Wagner, am very sad to have to say with thanks and sorrow to the people I can no longer serve: Thank you for allowing me to have been your chairperson and your go-to person for two and a half terms,'" she declared, and concluded, "That was five years of my "LIFE' that I truly enjoyed! Attend your meetings. God Bless Wagner!"


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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