Irresponsible governance is hurting our county

By Steve St. Clair,  Decorah

A controlling faction on our Board of Supervisors appears to be seriously damaging the county and employee morale is suffering.

On Feb. 6, this faction – Supervisors Dan Langreck, Mark Vick and new member Steve Kelsay – voted unexpectedly to eliminate the county’s Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program (IRVMP) “effective immediately.” The IRVMP is a model program designed to promote important conservation goals, promote public safety and save county taxpayers money. The faction’s sudden vote to kill the program was a shock, because only four months earlier Langreck and Vick joined a unanimous resolution declaring the board “fully supportive” of the IRVMP. Supervisors Shirley Vermace and Mark Faldet opposed this effort to kill the program, but were outvoted.

At the meeting a week later the Langreck/Vick/Kelsay faction were informed that their abrupt earlier vote to kill the IRVMP appeared to lack proper legal notice and had to be rescinded. But then they promptly voted to prevent the program from making various routine expenditures in furtherance of its mission.

In the wake of this overt hostility, IRVMP’s widely-respected manager, Corey Meyer, resigned.

Then, in a budget discussion two meetings later, Langreck declared his “personal belief” – largely unsupported by data but with the apparent support of Vick and Kelsay – that the County Conservation Board “could do with one less employee,” singling Conservation out as the only board or department expected to cut current staff.

Shortly thereafter, the Conservation Board downsized, losing an employee who helped maintain recreational features like biking and hiking trails, popular with tourists and locals alike.

These questionable board actions appear to be doing lasting damage. It remains to be seen whether morale will continue its decline as employees and other county residents witness the harm that irresponsible governance can do.

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