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Walworth County Board removes its chairwoman

Nancy Russell takes over job of leading board

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published July 10, 2007, 11:15 p.m.)

Listen to the audio report

On the night of Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, it was Walworth County Board Chairwoman Ann Lohrmann who was called out by 18 umpires.

The county board voted 18-6 Tuesday to oust Lohrmann from her leadership role, a position she has held since April 2004. She will remain on the board as a supervisor.

Supervisor Nancy Russell, of Lake Geneva, a supervisor since 2002, was elected as her replacement 20-4. Russell was finance committee chairwoman and is also on the Lake Geneva City Council.

The vote, the first of it's kind in county history, not sit well with many of Lohrmann's supporters in the audience.

"Let me tell you, this board is quite entertaining and very dysfunctional," said Paula McGowan, a Lohrmann supporter.

"This board can remove a county board chair for no reason whatsoever? That's pretty sad. We are so close to a new election coming up in the months to come, why not just let it ride out and walk out with our heads up high... like soldiers?"

Lohrmann seemed bitter after the vote.

"This board shouldn't do anything (because) anything they touch, they screw up," she said. "And that's why I campaigned very hard for the downsizing, and I think the public knows that.

"They couldn't help themselves tonight. They were so angry because the voters voted to downsize and frankly, I wear this removal as a badge of honor because I represented the voters."

Those who wanted Lohrmann off the high seat said it wasn't because she championed for a smaller county board, which included her gathering signatures to help get the question on ballots as a referendum.

Many said it was because Lohrmann failed to act as a respectable leader.

"As a leader, a person is held to higher standards and is supposed to set an example," said Supervisor Jerry Grant, who first asked for Lohrmann's removal. "Think what this board would be like if we all followed your lead. We'd each go our individual way to advocate for our own pet projects.

"When you are confronted or asked, instead of answering the question you and your supporters are using the downsizing as a smokescreen to try and diver attention from the real issues.

"We need a board that can work together, a chair that can work for this board and I think a new chair can get it back on track very fast."

Supervisor Dan Kilkenny said Lohrmann is not capable of separating her personal agenda as a supervisor from her broader responsibilities as chairperson of the entire board.

"Unfortunately, she has used the platform that we supervisors gave her, as chairperson, to divide and distract rather than unite and inform," Kilkenny said.

Kilkenny also said Lohrmann exaggerated statements about the fiscal responsibility of the board to the taxpayers.

"The reasons dealt with accuracy, fairness, consistency, responsiveness and responsibility to the board and to the public she serves," he said.

Afterward, Lohrmann said she regarded Russell as one of the "few good supervisors" on the board, but implied that the rest of the board would make leading difficult.

"Good luck to the new chairman because she can't have an opinion," Lohrmann said. Lohrmann frequently claimed the board wanted to violate her civil rights by limiting her speech.

Kilkenny said Lohrmann always had her right to state opinions and has said them louder than any other board member ever has.

"The First Amendment protects rights to speech," Kilkenny said. "It does not stand to the proposition that a public official should not be held accountable for what she says or that a public official should not be required to explain inconsistencies in words or in deeds. No one ever attempted to stop Ms. Lohrmann from expressing her views."

Russell hopes to put the board's bickering behind and concentrate on the work ahead.

"We have a great deal to do before the end of this term, and we need to focus on those issues," she said. "I think now that we have this behind us, we can do that. I think that's what the taxpayers and the voters want us to do. That's going to be my focus."

HOW THEY VOTED

Remove Lohrmann as chair: Joyce Ketchpaw, Stan Muzatko, Sandra Wagie-Troemel, Art Lein, Jerry Grant, Richard Kuhnke Sr., Roy LIghtfield, Joe Schaefer, Margaret Downing, David Weber, Dorothy Burwell, Joe Guido Sr., Dan Kilkenny, Allen Morrison, Jim Van Dreser, Allan Polyock, Nancy Russell, Randy Hawkins.

Keep Lohrmann as chair: Rick Stacey, Bob Arnold, Kathy Ingersoll, Alan Kupsik, Pauline Parker, Ann Lohrmann.

(Supervisor Larry Hilbelink was absent.)

 

 

 

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