by Emmitt B. Feldner
for The Beacon
SHEBOYGAN – The County Board has elected a new vice-chair.
Supervisor Keith Abler, who represents the villages of Elkhart Lake and Glenbeulah and the towns of Greenbush, Rhine and Russell, was elected unanimously to succeed Robert Ziegelbauer, who lost his bid for re-election to the board earlier this month.
Abler will serve with County Board Chair Vernon Koch, District 8 supervisor from the city of Sheboygan. Koch was elected to a second term to head the board with 22 yes votes, two abstentions and one absent.
County board chairs are limited by board rules to serve two full terms. Past practice has typically, though not always, been that the sitting vice-chair moves up to succeed as chair.
Koch and Abler will serve as chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the Executive Commitee as well.
The board elected three additional members to fill out the Executive Committee. Supervisors Curt Brauer, William Goehring and Edward Procek were chosen for the three positions.
Koch and the Executive Committee will appoint supervisors to fill out the eight other standing board committees – Finance; Health and Human Services; Health Care Center; Human Resources; Law; Planning, Resources, Agriculture and Extension; Property; and Transportation.
Those committees, once approved by the full board, will meet to elect officers and set meeting dates.
Before the voting, five new board members were sworn in along with 20 returning supervisors.
The new supervisors are Suzanne Speltz, 12th District; James Coulson, 13th District; John Nelson, 16th District; Jacob Immel, 19th District; and Carl Nonhof, 20th District.
Immel is a past board member, representing the 18th District in the city of Sheboygan Falls before moving out of that district and winning election from the 19th, which includes another part of the city.
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County Administrator Adam Payne welcomed the new board members in his introductory remarks.
He contrasted the new board, with four new faces, to the situation two years ago, when a new board was seated with seven members just as the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown was getting underway in April 2020.
“We still have the combined benefit of 185 years of experience on this County Board,” Payne pointed out, even with the 20 percent turnover.
Payne outlined the history and accomplishments of the board and the county over the past several decades, including reducing the size of county government and the number of employees while maintaining vital and necessary services and keeping property tax levy and rate increases below the rate of inflation and the average rate of increase statewide.
The administrator introduced the county’s department heads, most of whom were present at the meeting, pointing out that the number of departments has been reduced over the years as well.
“There is 397 years of collective experience amongst your upper management team,” Payne told the board.
“We all want to be successful and see our organization be successful,” he summarized.