In response to Sheriff Schmidt’s op ed yesterday, Steve Gonwa wrote a very interesting response over at the Washington County Insider. Go read the whole thing, but here’s a bit.
From my experience within Washington County, what is happening is accurately described by Sheriff Schmidt. What is apparently occurring is an undisciplined quest for regionalization and centralized power in county government without regard for the impact such action would have on its citizens. I find it disturbing that an environment has been created in Washington County government whereby such grandiose and misguided concepts are now not only embedded in the thinking of its top leaders, but encouraged by the administration to the point of folly.
It is not surprising that this is the environment created by the County Administrator Josh Schoeman and members of the Executive Committee. Make no mistake, changes made to the County Board in recent years under Mr. Schoeman have systematically stripped the board of most of their decision-making powers and empowered the governance of the county to Mr. Schoeman, the County Board Chair and the handful of supervisors on the Executive Committee. Past County Boards in my opinion mistakenly allowed this to happen, as we are now seeing the depth of the problems created by these changes.
I support consolidation of services when it can be accomplished in a responsible and fiscally prudent manner, and when the overriding goal remains the provision of efficient services to the community. But what started as reasoned attempts at consolidating some specific county services with adjacent counties has clearly morphed into something far more reaching and potentially irresponsible. Mr. Schoeman and the county have, with some success, consolidated a Health Department and a Medical Examiner Office with Ozaukee County and Waukesha County, respectively. Perhaps less than 50 employees were affected by these consolidations ( the county floated the concept of a combined Highway Department with Ozaukee County and it proved to be too difficult to even get beyond a basic discussion ). To think that county leadership now believes it has the knowledge, experience and capability to pursue multi-county consolidations of public safety services involving hundreds of employees, millions of dollars in resources and a vast array of critical services shows a serious lack of insight and common sense. I, for one, have no interest in living in the consolidated world of Joshington County.
Back in the days when the County Board considered County Manager versus County Executive positions, I remember John Torinus editorializing for having an elected County Executive position. At the time, I felt that was unnecessary and overkill for a county our size, that the County Board would be better suited to determining qualifications and assessing performance of the Executive than would be the average voter.
Have to give John Torinus credit – at the time I did not understand how the committee structure works to concentrate the power in a few supervisors, instead of the board as a whole.