The position of Vilas County parks and recreation administrator, established in 2012 and currently held by long-time county employee Dale Mayo, will be debated at the Vilas County Board meeting next Tuesday, Sept. 22.

The county’s Forestry, Recreation & Land Committee voted 4-1 to rescind the position and re-establish a parks technician position in its place at its meeting last week.

The county board is expected to discuss the resolution next Tuesday at the courthouse in Eagle River, with the meeting starting at 9 a.m.

The resolution verbiage claims many issues prompted the proposed change, stating there is “an ongoing series of problems within the Forestry, Recreation & Land Department resulting in confusion, duplication, and misdirection as regards management responsibilities, personnel, reporting structure and department operations.”

Vilas County Human Resource Administrator Rich­ard Kipley was asked if he was consulted on the position change and if the Human Resource Committee was involved.

“It was not brought to their attention,” said Kipley.

The resolution, if passed, would downgrade Mayo’s title, but not his present salary and he would remain a county employee. It’s anticipated he would be titled as a parks technician and would report directly to Forest Administrator Al Murray.

“The final disposition of the resolution still needs approval from the county board on Sept. 22, so the determination of positions is not yet known,” stated Murray in an email to the News-Review.

Some of Mayo’s duties in the past have included overseeing the snowmobile trail system in Vilas County, as well as the development of ATV/UTV trails on the county forest and the development of the popular Torch Lake Campground and RV Park. 

Brian Scheid, trail boss for the Sno-Eagles Snowmobile Club in Eagle River, said he was concerned about the proposal.

“This will drastically change how the trails are protected moving forward in the future,” said Scheid in an email.

Supervisor and committee member Art Kunde of Conover, where the majority of the 41,000-acre Vilas County Forest is located, cast the lone vote against the resolution.

“This committee has lost its way. We need two separate departments,” Kunde said, referring to the increase in public recreational opportunities created on the county forest since 2012. “You’re wrong to do this and I’ll have the rest of my comments expressed at the county board meeting.”

Committee Chairperson Holly Tomlanovich, an avid snowmobiler, voted for the resolution.

“The research that I did showed the ship not running well with a lot of unrest . . . and the job is not getting done effectively,” she said at the meeting. 

Tomlanovich also sent an email to trail enthusiasts in the county.

“Writing to you all this evening (Sept. 9) regarding the snowmobile recreational trails program and the ATV/OHM (Off Highway Motorcycle) recreational trails program and the Parks & Recreation Department. At the Sept. 1, 2020, Forestry, Recreation & Land Committee meeting, a motion was made to realign the Forestry & Land and Parks & Recreation departments. That motion was to realign the departments back to the structure in place prior to 2012,” wrote Tomlanovich.

That new structure called for one department administrator rather than the current two department administrators. The motion passed 4-2 to direct a resolution be developed for the committee’s review. 

On Sept. 8, a special Forestry, Recreation & Land Committee meeting was held with the resolution presented. There was a motion to move the resolution forward to the full county board for vote to accept this realignment, with the vote being 4-1. In addition to Tomlanovich, supervisors voting for the resolution were Greg Robotti of the town of Lincoln, Dan Swiechichowski of Phelps ,and Jay Verhulst of Arbor Vitae. 

“This proposed realignment does/will not effect the snowmobile recreation trails or the ATV/OHM recreational trails programs or its leadership by the current program administrator, Dale Mayo. Dale’s current parks and recreation duties will remain the same with only a realignment of title,” wrote Tomlanovich.

But Mayo offered his impression of the change in an email to Vilas County trails, parks and recreation enthusiasts.

“What Ms Tomlanovich stated is inaccurate. First and foremost, most of you know the difference between a technician position and an administrator. A technician is the worker with the boots on the ground. The administrator has the authority to administer the programs, grants, budget, etc.,” wrote Mayo.

“They are proposing to make my position a technician. This would give all the administrative duties to the forest administrator and his assistant. Why is this being rushed through without a new job description attached to the resolution so we know what the duties of the technician actually will be?” asked Mayo in the email.

Mayo said he was blindsided by the matter. 

“There was no discussion with me regarding this proposed drastic change. This matter is being rushed through without my input and I am confident without yours,” wrote Mayo.

“As most of you are aware, I plan to retire in the near future. This is not about me. It is about the future of Parks & Recreation in Vilas County. I am certainly open to a public forum to discuss this in depth prior to putting this to the county board for a vote,” concluded Mayo in his email.

While the 2012 county board resolution required a three-fourths majority to establish the administrator position, there was no agreement if it required a three-fourths majority to eliminate the position.

“I believe it will be a simple majority,” Tomlanovich said.

But Kunde suggested, “It will require a three-fourths vote.”

News-Review Editor Gary Ridderbusch contributed to this article.