PRIMGHAR—The O’Brien County Conservation Board is short a member again after the O’Brien County Board of Supervisors accepted the resignation of Darwin Dau of Paullina during its meeting June 8.
Dau’s resignation is effective as of June 2. He was not present for the meeting June 8, and no information was provided regarding his reasons for resigning.
Conservation board members serve five-year terms. Dau’s term would have ended June 30.
Board of supervisors member Sherri Bootsma asked if the board intended to seek a replacement for Dau for the remainder of his term or wait to appoint someone for the following term beginning July.
Bootsma is also a member of the conservation board. Her term continues through June 30, 2022.
“Part of it would be, do you foresee needing to have special board meetings before?” asked county auditor Barb Rohwer.
Bootsma said she wasn’t sure.
“There’s so much going on right now. I don’t know how many special meetings could be thrown in there,” she said.
The conservation board’s last special meeting was May 26. The board accepted the resignation of four county conservation staff — director Brian Schimmer and three park rangers — and discussed plans to keep campgrounds and parks open during the summer until replacement full-time staff could be hired.
Future special meetings may be required to revise those plans or to conduct interviews and review application materials for potential new staff.
Board of supervisors chairwoman Nancy McDowell suggested waiting until after the conservation board’s meeting June 9 to see what the conservation board members would prefer.
Board of supervisors member Dennis Vanden Hull asked if supervisors could temporarily serve on the conservation board until someone was appointed to fill the vacant seat.
“I don’t know what the benefit would be at that point. I think you want to put somebody on that’s going to be there to go through resumes,” Bootsma said.
On May 18, the supervisors appointed Tom Konz of Granville to the conservation board to finish out the last two years of Royd Chambers’ term. Chambers resigned May 13 because he was moving out of the county.
At that time, the supervisors had considered three candidates: Konz, Jan Snyder of Sanborn and Jack Schreurs of Sheldon.
Members of the board of supervisors spoke to the candidates individually, but they were not publicly interviewed during a meeting.
On June 8, Vanden Hull asked what the process for interviewing candidates for the conservation board had been in the past. He said according to conservation board member Kathy Luedke, candidates would come in front of the board.
Luedke has been on the conservation board since 2003.
Bootsma said at that time, the conservation board would consider names and make recommendations to the board of supervisors, who would interview candidates before making an appointment.
Vanden Hull questioned whether allowing the conservation board to recommend names to the board of supervisors would allow the conservation board to have undue influence on appointments. Bootsma contested that idea.
“You still have the ability to say yes or no,” Bootsma said. “I don’t think it’s out of line to expect to be able to say, yes, we like this person and yes, we like this person.”
Vanden Hull disagreed.
“Then it gets to be kind of a one-way view, if you have an agenda you’re trying to do with the board and then the conservation board has an agenda they’re trying to promote. The politicalness of us being voted in and voted out because of our agenda, we lost that by having the conservation board bring on names,” Vanden Hull said.
“I guess I wonder what agenda you think conservation board has,” Bootsma said.
The board of supervisors did not discuss the subject further and made no decisions on when or how to proceed with filling the conservation board seat before the meeting was concluded.
Speaking after the meeting to several visitors, including former O’Brien County Conservation director Terry Boltjes, Vanden Hull asked how individuals had been appointed to the conservation board in the past, especially on short notice as was the case with Konz.
Boltjes, who worked for the county for 31 years before retiring November, said in the past the conservation board and conservation staff members would bring together a list of names to discuss and present to the board of supervisors.
“I personally think they should be brought in front of the board and have the same set of questions asked,” Boltjes said.
Vanden Hull said one of his concerns was making sure conservation board members represented diverse interests and would support special interest projects.
“If someone was on a school board, if everyone was all teachers and you elect your board and it’s another teacher, that kind of sways your funding. I think boards should be diverse,” Vanden Hull said. “What you want is people who are open-minded and not looking for one particular objective.”
Boltjes said that conservation projects past and present have always been multifaceted, from building cabins and grain bin housing or the Prairie Heritage Nature Center near Sutherland to supporting various recreational activities including fishing, hiking and hunting.
“That’s why you have five of them on there,” Boltjes said of the board. “I’ll throw my name out if the board is looking.”