Boots & Sabers

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Tag: Joshua Schoemann

Election for Washington County Executive

The voters of Washington County will be choosing their first ever County Executive next week. The County Board voted last year to change the county’s form of government from a County Administrator, in which the executive function is performed by an administrator hired by the county board, to a County Executive, in which the executive function is performed by an elected County Executive who represents a separate, co-equal branch of government.

The voters are blessed with two good choices. Josh Shoemann is the current County Administrator. Adam Gitter is the Economic Development Manager for the City of West Bend. Both men are conservative. Both men are veterans. Both men are career government bureaucrats seeking their first elected office. Both are promising to hold the line on taxes and spending.

On the issues, they differ on two primary points. First, Gitter wants to rescind fees for county parks. A couple of years ago, the county implemented a fee structure for people to enter county parks. In the past, the parks did not have an entrance fee. Gitter’s argument is that the people pay taxes for the parks and should not have to pay a fee to go in them. Shoemann, who advocated for and supports the fees, says that using fees for some things helps keep taxes down. Both are right.

This is an issue on which I can go either way. Generally speaking, I don’t mind if there is a fee for things that not everyone uses. The people who use it should bear the brunt of the costs. On the other hand, we have seen where governments will implement fees and still keep raising taxes. What’s the point of fees then? Furthermore, there is a philosophical justification for the notion that we pay taxes for our county to maintain parks and that should include free and open access. Again, I’m somewhat indifferent on the issue It is an esoteric discussion that has little bearing on my life. But this is the issue that has garnered the most energy in this campaign.

The second issue on which they disagree is on the county sales tax.Washington County implemented a sales tax many years ago on an “emergency” basis to pay for some specific capital needs like a new radio system for the Sheriff. Once those things were paid off, the county kept the sales tax and now uses it for whatever they want. I have long advocated that the county should repeal the sales tax. The reason it was implemented is no longer valid and they should repeal it. If, after it is repealed, the county wants to implement a new sales tax to fund county government, then let’s have that debate. As it is, the county sales tax is the greatest bait and switch ever foisted on the people of Washington County.

On this issue, Gitter calls the sales tax a “slush fund” and has advocated repealing or reforming it. Gitter is right. Shoemann argues that the sales tax revenue has become too integral to the county’s finances and repealing it would blow a $4 million hole in the budget. Yes, it would. That has been part of the insipid nature of the sales tax revenue in that once the County Board got it, they wouldn’t let it go. There is no reason that we could not work toward the goal repealing the sales tax over time. At least Gitter wants to try and will push in the right direction.

Primarily because of the sales tax, I voted for Adam Gitter. There is a lesser reason that irks me a little too.

Shoemann has seen a wave of support from the current insiders in the county. The current county board chair, former chair, several county board members, and a couple of local politicians have come out in support of Shoemann. This makes sense and is a credit to Shoemann. In his role as County Administrator, he has worked with these people over years and earned their trust. That’s great. But there is what we used to call a “good ol’ boys” network in Washington County. In our modern nomenclature, we call it the swamp. That’s what this is. One of the reasons I advocated for a County Executive form of government was so that the county could have an elected, independent executive branch. If the executive is that tight with the board and part of the club, then what’s the point? I’m not saying that we should have open warfare between the branches of government, but the friction created by skepticism and independence is part of the balance of powers that makes for good government.

Finally on a side note, it is unfortunate that these local races have been drowned out by the presidential primaries and coronavirus. One of the fascinating things about this race that the county’s local lefty contingent has all lined up behind Gitter. As a quirk of politics, I find myself on the same side. It is curious because Gitter is an avowed conservative who has been successful in his role at the City of West Bend with conservative leadership. In reading the lefties’ writings, it looks like it comes down to two issues. First, the liberals hate park fees. As a matter of philosophy, they oppose park fees and believe that the parks should be free to everyone. Gitter agrees with that philosophy. Second, the lefties just hate Shoemann and don’t really know Gitter. It is a testament to Shoemann’s conservatism that he is so reviled by the local lefty establishment. I hope that Gitter can earn their enmity should he be elected.

All said, the voters can’t make a bad choice for county executive, but because of a couple of issues, I voted for Adam Gitter.

Former Sheriff Schmidt Weighs In On Washington County Governance

Sheriff Schmidt has some great points in this guest editorial at the Washington County Insider. Read the whole thing at WCI.

March 26, 2020 – Washington Co., WI – Recently Washington County Board Chairman Kriefall sent letters to the editor in support of the Schoemann Campaign for County Executive.  He utilized the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of why Schoemann should be elected.

My first thought was wondering why Kriefall is writing about the election instead of showing the community some leadership on the COVID-19 issue.  During a state of emergency, the Board Chair alone generally has the authority of the full County Board.  As the highest elected official in County government, shouldn’t he be talking to us?  What has he done in regards to the pandemic?  What is he considering?  How does he view the situation and does he support Governor Evers orders?

Is he concerned about the closing of businesses and restricting of our personal freedoms?  We don’t know, because the only public statement Chairman Kriefall has made recently is that we should vote for his buddy Schoemann.

I for one would like to see the elected County Board Chairman publicly acknowledge that Governor Evers orders are very restricting to Washington County residents and businesses.  Kriefall should communicate to us what he has he done on our behalf to ensure the orders are necessary.  He should explain what will need to change for the orders to be lifted or relaxed.

Something else is very concerning.  On March 13th Chairman Kriefall issued a proclamation declaring a state of emergency and the County Board affirmed that proclamation on March 19.

Broad powers and responsibilities were given to Administrator Schoemann and Chairman Kriefall.  Schoemann and Kriefall were given full authority to run County Government and the elected Board is out of the picture.  Schoemann is running a campaign for County Executive and Kriefall is his No. 1 fan.  When the only public comment Chairman Kriefall has made the past two weeks is to support Schoemann’s campaign, I question the basis being used to make decisions about the COVID-19 response.  Is it for our best interests or political interest?

How do we know?  I think we should be very attentive, and there may even be a state law that addresses the potential for conflicts of interest and abuse of power.

I’ll be honest… with everything else going on, I didn’t even know that Washington County had consolidated power in the hands of two people – one of which is running for election and the other who hired him in the first place. Beyond the concerns about abandoning representative government for the time being, the whole things has that swampy smell.

Washington County Board Votes to Fleece Taxpayers

This stinks. Per the story earlier today from the Washington County Insider, the Washington County Board voted on the salary for the newly created County Executive position. The original proposal had the pay starting at $140,000 with annual increases taking it up to $148,569 in four years. For some perspective, here are some salaries for other County Executives:

Dane County – $134,218
Milwaukee County – $129,000
Waukesha County – $108,826
Fond du Lac County – $108,100
Winnebago County – $115,800
Brown County – $98,046
The Governor of Wisconsin – $146,786

Well, they had the vote and the Washington County Insider was all over it. After several failed votes to lower the pay, they ended up passing a resolution with a compensation of $140,000 for all four years. So the pay is still outrageously high compared to other county executives, but there isn’t a structured pay increase.

This is a fiscally irresponsible and outrageously arrogant decision by the County Board. They have been complaining about the county’s finances for years. They claim that they can’t give up the sales tax revenue. They need to implement fees to enter the county parks. This very day, they narrowly defeated another fee for POWTS, but only after sustained public outrage. And yet they have this kind of cash to throw at a County Executive? Ridiculous.

Go read the comments from Supervisors in the story at the Washington County Insider. In particular, I’ll call out my County Supervisor:

Supervisor Mike Bassill – “The pay is going to be higher than the other county executives in Wisconsin; including Milwaukee. We came to the conclusion that their contracts – when they get up for election theirs will be going up. We’re still going to be saving around $35,000 than what we’re currently paying the county administrator presently, with the $140,000. I wasn’t 100-percent on board but after reflecting on the Executive Committee meetings I think it’s the right scale. Correct, it will be more than what the governor makes in four years. That’s what we decided.

Bull, Mike. A County Executive role is not comparable to a County Administrator role. They have different requirements and different duties. The taxpayers are going to be overpaying for a County Executive and you voted for it. Shame on you.

And County Board Chairman:

Supervisor Don Kriefall – “Right now as I understand it the salaries range from around $108,000 to $139,000 from looking at… a lot of the county executive salaries were set. I’m thinking the most recent one was set in the early 1990s.  All those were set also a long time ago and have not been adjusted for inflation.”

Again. Bull. Even with those salaries set in the 1990s (allegedly), the other counties don’t seem to have a problem attracting good candidates. There’s no reason to overpay for the position.

Behind all of this is that the current County Administrator, Josh Schoemann, has declared that he is running for the office.  Many of the county board members like him – after all, they voted to hire him in the first place – and support him. This has all of the stench that they set the pay so high to keep Schoemann whole if he wins the job. In doing so, they might have killed his chance to win it. If another credible candidate gets in the race, they will beat Schoemann like a rented mule with this issue… and win.

Schoemann Runs for Washington County Executive

As expected

WEST BEND — Washington County Administrator Joshua Schoemann on Tuesday became the first person to file papers for the newly-created position of county executive, in effect asking voters to elect him to a job he has held for six years.

The County Board voted last month to eliminate the administrator form of government and moved to an elected one. It was the second vote the County Board took on the matter — the first one failed in June.



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