An attempt by the Vilas County Forestry, Land & Recreation Committee to abolish the parks and recreation administrator position and create a parks and recreation specialist position failed 11-7 on a vote of the county board last Tuesday.

The resolution needed a three-fourths in favor vote, or 14 supervisors in support, as there were 18 supervisors present at the meeting.

Long-time Vilas County employee Dale Mayo presently holds the position, but is expected to retire soon. If it had passed, the person filling the position would report and be under the direction of county forest Administrator Al Murray and be an hourly employee rather than a salaried worker.

“This reorganization was to make the program run smoother,” said Supervisor Holly Tomlanovich, who is  the chairperson of the committee that submitted the resolution. “The duties and responsibilities are identical, just the chain of command is different.”

But maintaining the administrator position was strongly supported by Supervisor Art Kunde, a member of the committee who voted against the resolution both at the committee level and last Tuesday with the full county board.

“The amount of work done by the previous administrator (Dale Mayo) enhanced and grew our recreation opportunities and we continue to grow public recreation opportunities on the county forest,” Kunde said. “We need a person focused on parks and recreation that reports to the committee and not the forest administrator. The system is not broken; the forest administrator’s area of expertise is the county forest and we need the separation.”

Also against the change was Supervisor Dan Swiecichowski.

“The workload has increased with the Torch Lake RV park that’s under another expansion, Tamarack Springs Campground, equestrian camping and trails, off-highway motorcycle system, hunter-hiking trails, bike trails, shooting range, pan fishing piers, boat landings, and ATV/UTV trails,” Swiecichowski said. “The ATV and snowmobile clubs are not in favor of this change.”

Supervisor Jay Verhulst said it was “an ill-formed position when created” and did not have its own separate recreation and parks department.

“This resolution resolves conflicts within the day-to-day functions of the forestry department,” said Verhulst.

Supervisor Mary Rasmussen also was not in favor of the change.

“I feel we need a professional recreation administrator just as we have a professional forest administrator. Recreation is a key factor in our county and I will not support this change,” said Rasmussen.

Supervisor Carolyn Ritter noted there needed to be flexibility in the position to be able to work nights and weekends attending club meetings and complete trail inspections. She offered an amendment to change to language from “specialist” to “supervisor” which was adopted 13-6.

The resolution as amended was presented for a roll call a vote of the county board, where 11 voted against and seven in favor — short of the three-fourths requirement..

The seven supervisors supporting the change were Charles Hayes, Ron Kressin, Bill Otterpohl, Ritter, Tomlanovich, Verhulst, and County Board Chairman Ron DeBruyne. 

The 11 supervisors voting against the change were Marvin Anderson, Mike Biszak, Mike Cady, Bob Hanson, Kunde, Walt Maciag, Mike MacKenzie, Tom Maulson, Rasmussen, Swiecichowski and Pat Weber. Absent were supervisors Gerry Burkett and Al Bauman. One supervisor  position is currently vacant.