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Board satisfied with government structure

Chooses to continue with county administrator system

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published Jan. 26, 2007, 9:38 a.m.)

After kicking around the idea for two meetings, the Walworth County Executive Committee decided Wednesday that its administrator-style system of government is just fine for now.

Supervisor Bob Arnold recommended last December that the county board consider using an elected county executive over having an appointed county administrator.

An executive differs from an administrator in that they are elected, represent only the voters and have veto power over the county board. An administrator works for the county board and makes recommendations, but has no voting power.

County Administrator David Bretl took no position on the issue other than to tell the executive committee it was a healthy topic to consider.

"It's a good discussion to have in the evolution of county government here in Walworth County," Bretl said, noting that his position would likely be cut if an executive style were chosen.

The executive committee unanimously decided against making a change now with the county board being reduced from 25 to 11 supervisors next spring.

"A year from now will be a different environment," said Supervisor David Weber, executive committee chairman. "A year from now, if someone wants to make a recommendation, whether this is on file or not, the opportunity is available."

Usually Wisconsin's larger counties, with populations greater than Walworth County's, have an administrator. Some smaller counties have made the switch, Bretl said.

"It's a matter of opinion. As much as I respect the person who brought this out, I personally can't see any validity to change the way we operate," said Supervisor Art Lein.

County Board Chairwoman Ann Lohrmann said Bretl does an excellent job but he might not always be here.

"An executive, it's true you don't need to have qualifications, but neither does the president of the Untied States. Neither does any public official. It's accountability to the public that any elected office will bring.

"I think it should be considered at some point. It works in other counties and we are getting bigger."

An executive would make the board more political than ever, Supervisor Dan Kilkenny said.

"I just don't see anything overwhelmingly wonderful about an executive, just potential for a lot of problems and a whole different range of bad politics that can enter into it," he said.


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