Tuesday was a taxing day for Bob Keeney of Mt. Hope, as he was up at 3 a.m. to start his day. The Grant County Board member had a very long day of meetings, starting at 9 a.m. and going through to nearly 4 p.m., with another day’s worth of meetings scheduled for Wednesday.
It is a schedule that Keeney will be getting used to as he was elected to be the chair of the Grant County Board, defeating sitting chairperson Larry Wolf of Lancaster with a vote of 10-7.
The board chairmanship is paid $46,437 annually, and also receives health insurance, and is enrolled in the state retirement plan, raising the total compensation to between $59,800 and $65,000 depending on which medical plan is chosen.
“It’s going to be a challenge, more than a challenge than I thought, but I think I am prepared,” Keeney said after the long day of meetings, which included setting up all the committee appointments for the board for the new term.
Keeney said he contemplated running for the job at the start of each of the past two terms, but, still operating his own business, just did not have the time. Now, however, he felt up to the challenge. “I didn’t think I had the 50 hours a week to man the office and do it effectively. I don’t think you can do it in 50 hours, it could 60 or 70.”
He noted the number of meetings he will have to attend in the next two years, including a number of TIF district meetings that are coming up in the next few weeks alone across the county.
Keeney knows that one of the jobs he will need to do as chair is to bring the board together as a group after several years of being split in two. “I am hoping to get more people involved so they are too busy to be worrying about the conflicts,” Keeney quipped, stating that he wants a unified board to handle all the tasks they have to tackle, getting everyone in involved.
As one example, Keeney hoped to have the Administrative Committee meet more often than they do now. “We need to talk about strategic planning, rather than bits and pieces here and there. We need to think about what the future holds.”
He said that earlier in the day the board decided to move forward with the courthouse project, which looks to reduce the amount of moisture infiltrating the walls so the building can stand for another 100-plus years.
“We made the motion to go ahead with the courthouse as the first project, but three years down the road, we need to be ready for the next project, and in that three years we need to worry about the traffic pattern around the square apparently,” Keeney said.
In addition to building projects, Keeney wants to get back to tackling the issues raised in the aftermath of Wisconsin Act 10, which took away public employees’ bargaining rights. The county had a study conducted about the numerous wage schedules that are no longer controlled by union contracts, and the uncertainty of how the county will move forward to address them. “We need to implement a wage schedule and let the employees know we are heading in a positive direction,” Keeney said.
Keeney said the list of tasks is long, but tackling those two things will lead to more productive work by the board. “I am sure there are plenty of things I have written down that are my goals, but the wage study is the first thing…and the cohesiveness of the county board. Yeah, we are going to have a few outliers, but I think that most of us can work together and be positive.”
One other thing Keeney stressed was how open the chair’s office will be during this next term. He said that he will be in the office every day, and that he will talk to anyone about the issues they have.
He noted that openness is important because of the important services the county provides. “I think that county government is about providing services in an efficient, accountable manner, and I look forward to working with all of the departments to make sure Grant County residents get all of the services they deserve and need.”
For more information about the Grant County Board meeting, including work on the courthouse project, pick up the April 17 edition of the Grant County Herald Independent.