April 2 Election Questionnaire: Washington Island Town Board

Richard Tobey

I retired in 2018 as Chief Technology Officer of the venture capital based renewable/alternative fuels and chemicals company Synata Bio (formerly Coskata). Prior to my venture capital experience, I was employed by The Dow Chemical Company for 28 years and retired in 2007 as the Director of two Global Technology Centers (Alternative Energy, Next Generation Olefins), but immediately before as Site Manager for Dow AgroSciences in Harbor Beach, Michigan. I hold a Bachelors Degree in Chemical Engineering from Michigan Technological University (1979), and an executive Masters in Business Administration from Babson College (1998). Over my 39 year career, 9 years were dedicated to ethical pharmaceuticals process development (Sabril, Eflornithine, Seldane, Teicoplanin), 3 years to agricultural chemicals process development, 15 years to natural products process development and commercialization (Spinosad, Spinosyn) and 12 years to alternative fuels/chemicals process development and commercialization (ethanol, propanol, butanol). The common denominator in all my career choices was for the direct benefit of mankind and/or preservation of the environment.

Gordon Jaeger, incumbent

Age, only 88. After serving as a Naval CIC Officer in a plane crew in the Pacific, my first civilian job was as Recreation Director for the City of Merrill, Wisconsin. Then a Masters degree was obtained at Indiana University. Employment through the years included being Parks and Recreation Director in Normal, Illinois, and then being their first City Administrator for 4 years, City Administrator of Muscatine, Iowa, for 3 years, City Manager of Oshkosh, Wisconsin for 6 years, and City Manager of Battle Creek, Michigan for 12 years. After retiring to the Island I served temporarily for 6 months as interim city manager in Munising, Michigan, and then 6 months as a municipal and economic development adviser to the City of Pilsen in the Czech Republic.

Q: What motivated you to run for public office?

Gordon Jaeger: My entire working life has been devoted to serving the public in local government.

Richard Tobey: My great grandparents first came to northern Door County and Washington Island in the early 1900s. Six generations of Tobeys have since come to love everything that the Island is, as well as everything that distinguishes the Island from the rest of Door County. All my life, Washington Island is where I have felt “home” and, because my wife Sue feels the same way, we chose to retire here as year-round residents in 2017. Out of deep respect and affection for the Island and its community, I would consider it a privilege to serve the township as Chairman and give back to those who have created and preserved this wonderful community, as well as to try and help maintain the unique culture and environment on Washington Island for the generations to come.

Q: Why should voters choose you?

GJ: Currently I am serving as Town Chairman on the Island as I did for one term a number of years ago. I also was asked to and served as a half-time Town Administrator on the Island for six months when Nathan Gunnlaugsson was chairman.

RT: I recognize that some may consider me to be a “newcomer” to the Island. However, as a fourth generation guest of the Island, I believe that my values and visions for the Island are very consistent with the resident community. Furthermore, while I have lived overseas and traveled the world; which has afforded me an awareness of all the “world” has to offer; I have chosen to settle on Washington Island, because it is in a community like this, where true life is found. As Township Chairman, I would be steadfastly committed to the local community, to preserving its culture and to protecting the environment.

Q: What skills will you bring to the table?

GJ: Relevant experience includes preparing agendas and advising city

councils, supervision of department heads and employees, undertaking

municipal studies, employee relations and contract negotiating with unions, budget preparation and financial reporting, communications and public relations, preparation of long range plans and capital improvement plans, and fund raising and grant application writing. Some specifics include industrial marketing in Japan, downtown redevelopment, preparation of major TIFA plans, and directed major capital improvement projects including wastewater treatment plants, water plants, park improvements, an arena, etc.

RT: The office of Town Chairman requires excellence in leadership, administration, human resources, business, fiscal as well as technical skills. In addition, excellent listening skills are required. Thirty-nine years as a scientist, manager, executive, and community volunteer have provided me with the unique opportunity to develop and exercise these skills. For example, during my professional career, I have successfully led basic research; pharmaceutical; natural products and alternative energy technology development; personally managed $30MM and as part of a team, $250MM capital projects; successfully led business teams; managed sites for Fortune 50 corporations; and I have served as an Industry Expert for the Department of Energy and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. In addition, I have served on numerous community and volunteer boards including The City of Harbor Beach Board, Huron Intermediate School District, Huron County Economic Development Corporation, Thumb Industries, and District Chairman for the Boy Scouts of America. Finally, I have been active within the faith community, serving in a variety of roles including: Deacon, Treasurer, Chairman of Christian Education, Facilities, Pastoral Search, Building, and Evangelism committees.

Q: What challenges do you see ahead for the Town of Washington Island?

GJ:1 – Financial solvency – A top concern is for the Town to be able to

continue to provide the services it’s citizens want and deserve. Spending

the past several years, including this year, will likely have reduced the

budget surplus from around $600,000 to less than $0. Working with the

Town Board members and the citizens of the Island, this needs to be


2 – Wastewater issues – The proper handling of waste in an economical

manner is a separate question but is a top priority.

3 – Capital Improvements Plan – The Town needs, in my opinion a

meaningful long range capital improvements plan, probably a ten year

plan. This is a guide for consideration of what should be included,

potential sources of revenue, prioritization and timing. Working with the

Department heads, Board members and the citizen’s of the Island this can be accomplished.

RT: Presently, the highest profile issue for the Township Board would be wastewater management. The Wastewater Advisory Committee, led by Donna Briesmeister, has done a commendable job within their assigned scope and recently submitted a prioritized list of recommendations to the Board. Review of their recommendations for completeness of scope and sustainability should be a high priority. It is likely that several additional iterations by the Committee will be necessary before further review by the community and/or final decisions are made. The other major challenge facing the Board is finances. The Township approved 2019 budget includes deficit spending which is, ultimately, not sustainable. Further, there are several major infrastructure projects facing the Township, including road repairs and major equipment repair/replacement, which must be addressed. Maintaining fiscal responsibility as well as prioritization and focusing our financial resources will be required in order to meet the greatest needs, without burdening the Township with additional taxes.

Q: What opportunities do you see for the town?

GJ: This is a somewhat difficult concern with the Island showing little or no growth in the tax base as costs continue to rise. The tourism season is relatively short. The market is very small. Being an Island, the shipping costs for products made here would be greater than anyplace off the Island. A hopeful sign is the future fiber optics cable that could lead to future businesses on the Island. I have recently met with representatives of N’Sight and Door County Economic Development discussing the future possibility of an incubator facility with computer speed as high as 100 mbps.

RT: While the Island community functions very well, I would strive to improve the relationship and coordination between the Township Board, the School Board and the Chamber of Commerce; we should all be aligned on Mission, Vision and Values. Further, I would work to create opportunities for year-round sustainable careers to be developed on the Island. Tourism is, and always will be, a major contributor to the Island economy. That being said, creating opportunities for our children to have sustainable careers and/or enhancing our ability to attract and retain top talent on the Island would be a priority.

Q: If you’re an incumbent, what have you specifically done for the town? If you’re a newcomer to the seat, what are your top two goals if elected?

GJ: Solving the Island wastewater treatment issues is well underway. The Wastewater Advisory Committee’s number one recommendation, that is hauling holding tank waste to the Sister Bay Treatment plant in the winter and spreading all waste the remainder of the year is what the Town is now doing. There should also be a follow through on the Committee’s related recommendations, especially steps to reduce the amount of holding tank waste that is produced.

The Town Board agenda is now completed, distributed and posted on the Friday preceding a regular Wednesday Board meeting rather than on the Monday or Tuesday preceding the meeting. This give the public more advance notice of what is on the agenda and they can plan in advance to attend. Orderly public input is permitted at a meeting. Town government is the closest government to its citizens.

RT: As an executive within companies committed to Responsible Care®, it was essential that public Health, public Safety and the Environment (HS&E) were the top priority, or goal, if you prefer. There was no endeavor, project, or goal which could be considered a success wherein someone within the local community, the public at large, or the environment were compromised. I have found these principles to be true in my personal life as well, and will always commit to HS&E being the top priority. My second goal would be to create a culture of fiscal frugality. Fiscal frugality is the philosophy of managing every dollar of the taxpayers money as if it were your own. Within this culture, it is important to understand that management is not just spending, but includes the behaviors and decisions of everyone, which ultimately lead to spending. I was successful at creating and sustaining this culture within industry, and feel it would benefit the Township, if implemented here, as well.