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CIVIL DISCOURSE - An Occasional Attempt To Restore Civility To Our Civic Discourse

The North Scott, Iowa school district has landed from Sturgeon Bay one of the best school administrators in Wisconsin. Joe Stutting’s announcement that he will leave Sturgeon Bay after the current school year is a loss for our community. Not only was Joe Stutting a unique administrator who listened and brought people together, he was a significant contributor to the community beyond the school district. Joe took his common-sense and civility to the Sturgeon Bay City Council defeating a long-time incumbent. His leadership style is evident as he presides as president of the Rotary Club of Sturgeon Bay with self-effacing humor and wit. With his record and ability to pass bond over-ride referenda, Joe Stutting could have had his pick of school districts to lead anyplace in America. He’s leaving Sturgeon Bay a better district, and better community, than he found when he moved here eight years ago..

Thanks to Joe Stutting and his wife, Jamie. Any spouse of such an accomplished leader also makes significant sacrifices.

Thank you and best wishes to both Joe and Jamie Stutting .

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Which reminds me of an old saying to share. “Behind most successful men is a very good woman…and a surprised mother-in-law.”

Or should that be, in the interest of gender-justice and political correctness, “Behind most successful women is a very good man…and a surprised mother-in-law?”

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I’ve said before how fortunate the City of Sturgeon Bay is to have the leadership in both police and fire departments that it has had for years.  Police Chief Arleigh Porter and Fire Chief Tim Herlache have served the city well. Both are regarded and professionals. A characteristic shared by Arlie Porter and Tim Herlache is their recognition that, as public servants, they owe the public information and transparency.  Both gentleman, and Porter’s predecessor, Dan Trelka, have been outstanding examples of public servants working well with the media.  Their cooperation makes life easier for news reporters and results in a general public much more informed about and supportive of police and fire protection.

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Like Joe Stutting, Herlache and Porter will be hard to replace. When the city faces their inevitable retirements it might be appropriate to consider consolidating the positions into one of public safety director. Dan Trelka, former Sturgeon Bay police chief, now holds that position in Waterloo, Iowa.

Many communities throughout Wisconsin are combining the positions. Sturgeon Bay should at least give it serious consideration. Concurrent retirements present a rare opportunity to re-evaluate staffing and organization. 

Some polls show as much as 66% of Wisconsin citizens support an increase in the minimum wage.  Rather than waiting years and facing proposals as we see today of a minimum wage jump from $7.25 to $l0.25 an hour wouldn’t we all be better off with a small annual increase tied to the increase in the consumer price index? Craig Culver, founder of the Wisconsin restaurant chain, proposes a bifurcated increase in the minimum wage. He suggests a $l increase per hour for sixteen and seventeen-year-olds and a larger increase for adults.

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As someone who recognizes the importance of highways to our area tourism and agricultural economies I also suggest an annual adjustment to the gas tax as well. Far too many roads and bridges in Wisconsin have outlived their design lives and are crumbling. We need to protect and maintain our infrastructure.

That’s hard to do with rising prices, fewer miles being driven and declining highway transportation fund revenues. Former Governor Tommy Thompson tied the gas tax annual increase to rises in the consumer price index and Thompson had money to fund road projects throughout the state. He had it right. It’s unfortunate the annual increase was killed. Small annual increases are a lot easier to handle than waiting for years and facing significant tax increases.

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With just about anyone who is an eligible voter in the first assembly district either already an announced candidate or at least considering entering the race, citizens will have an excellent opportunity to hear issues like the gas tax and minimum wage discussed. The League of Women Voters and Common Cause are making a strong case for taking the process of drawing legislative districts out of the hands of politicians and having them drawn by a non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau. These issues, and more, will make for a more informed electorate.

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Our stations will extend an invitation to our colleagues at The Door County Advocate to participate together in candidate forums for legislative races. We’ll need a large auditorium for the candidates alone. The always-affable Advocate General Manager Scott Schmeltzer has been in Sturgeon Bay less than a year and is already proving to be a valuable contributor to our community. Scott is chair of the Rotary Club of Sturgeon Bay public relations committee. If anyone ever forms an “over forty-five” fast pitch softball team, Scott has traveled the Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin as a player. He recognized my home town of Antigo from his days playing fast-pitch softball.

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Our best wishes go to Bubba J BBQ owner Joe Mills whose Kewaunee restaurant burned last Friday.

Joe plans to re-open soon in the Kewaunee Inn hotel. That has special memories for our marketing representative of twenty years, Paul Schmitt. Paul’s family owned the hotel from l966 to l984 when it was known as Schmitt’s Coach Inn. Paul earned his college beer money tending bar at what will soon be the location of Bubba J BBQ. Paul is in his third decade with Nicolet Broadcasting and is the most senior marketing sales representative in Door and Kewaunee Counties.

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Thanks for Kewaunee volunteer fighters who kept the fire from spreading to adjoining buildings.

Fire-fighters are essential to communities like Kewaunee, Algoma, Sturgeon Bay and smaller communities like Egg Harbor, Fish Creek and Sister Bay. I crammed four years of college into seven working for former Republican State Senator Clifford “Tiny” Krueger, one of the last true Progressives to serve in Wisconsin government. Tiny often repeated an important lesson. He said the “who’s who” of small communities are volunteer fire-fighters and members of the Lions Club. As I travel through Door and Kewaunee Counties I often recall how correct Tiny Krueger was. The character of our communities is captured in the efforts of these key civic leaders. You’ll find people who really care at meetings of fire departments and Lions Clubs.

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That’s my opinion.  I’d like to hear yours.

Call or email me at utnehmer@doorcountydailynews.com

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