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County eyes increasing size of committees to add more voices

County eyes increasing size of committees to add more voices County eyes increasing size of committees to add more voices

Committee on Committees and Rules looks to increase three-person committees to five members in 2021

Taylor County will look at bringing more people to the table when it comes to making committee decisions in the future.

The Taylor County Committee on Committees and Rules met on May 14 to address concerns about the lack of input some members of the board feel they have in overall county decision making processes. Taylor County has historically been decentralized with the county board meeting as a group only a few times a year. This leaves most of the day-to-day decision and policy setting at the committee and department-head level.

At the April county board session, board member Mike Bub had raised concerned about this process noting that under the system, people on certain committees had a say while those who did not serve on those committees had no input into decisions that impacted the entire county.

He proposed the county look at setting term limits for those serving on committees and for the number of years a member can be chairman of a particular committee. The item was tabled to be discussed by the rules committee which is the body that provides input on how committees are structured and the rules the board follows.

Rather than imposing term limits, committee members favored expanding a majority of the committees to have five, rather than three members. The hope is that by opening up more spots on committees, board members will have a greater chance of having their opinions heard.

Committee members were opposed to the idea of setting term limits, particularly for the committees that state law and county code require to be elected such as the highway committee and UW-Extension/Land Conservation committee.

“If we set term limits it takes away the right of supervisors to pick who they want to,” said committee member Lester Lewis. “I don’t care if they have been chairman for 10 years or 20 years,” he said, noting that if they are elected to serve on a committee they should be allowed to serve on that committee.

Lewis objected to the idea that there has not been turnover on the committees. He gave the example of the highway committee, which has almost completely turned over in the years since Chuck Zenner had served as chairman.

“I was chairman of the board of health for 12 years and that changed completely during that time,” Lewis said. He gave a similar example with his tenure on law enforcement where the committee has completely changed over since he first got on it.

Lewis said there was a benefit to the county of having committee chairs remain in their positions for longer periods of time noting that it takes time to understand how departments function and to ensure that tasks are getting done.

Committee member Dan Makovsky said he agreed with Lewis on the elected committees but had concerns about former board members telling him they felt like they had no room to grow in their positions and never being asked if they were interested in serving on any other committees.

“There has to be hope for the guy who is on the absolute bottom,” Makovsky said. He said he would support having all county committee positions be elected.

Committee member Diane Albrecht said she agreed with Lewis and noted that the rules committee takes into account the “dream sheets” that every board member is asked to fill out with their ideal committee assignments. She said that with term limits, by the time someone knows what is going on, their term would be up.

Committee member Scott Mildbrand said he could see having a rotation of members for the non-elected committees so that there was a steady turnover of people serving on each committee with one member leaving every two years. Lewis objected to this on the three-person committees. “I would lose one-third of the knowledge every two years,” he said, noting that would require a learning period for the new members to get up to speed.

Board chairman Jim Metz said he didn’t want to mess with the make-up of the committees like finance and personnel. He said that in choosing those committees, there is representation from around the county and a balance of conservative and other voices when it comes to spending.

Mildbrand noted that the biggest concern seemed to be with the three-person committees and suggested switching to five person committees would increase opportunites for people to serve. It was noted this would create another six positions on committees for members of the 17-member county board to serve on.

Other committee members agreed with the idea. However, with the committees set for the current term, any change would not go into effect until after the 2021 spring organizational meeting. Meanwhile, the rules committee will continue to look at what impacts this could have.

“T here has to be hope for the guy who is on the absolute bottom.”

—Dan Makovsky, county board member