County Contemplating Restructuring Committees

One of the antiquated systems in the County of Door is on the list to receive a facelift. The various committees, commissions and boards used by the county to flesh out issues, finances and staffing are on the docket for reorganization or combination.

The Door County Board of Supervisors operates with more than 30 committees, commissions and boards, with an average of five supervisors appointed to each. The 15-plus ad hoc and other committees are comprised of a mix of supervisors, county employees and community members. County Administrator Mike Serpe said he read an article in Wisconsin Counties magazine a few months ago that addressed the restructuring of the county board in Burnett County in northwestern Wisconsin. He approached county board Chairman Leo Zipperer about reviewing and restructuring Door County’s committee structure, and has since been working with county personnel and human resources Director Kelly Hendee.

“We are looking at how to make the county board committee structure more efficient,” Serpe said, “as well as how to give county supervisors a broader perspective on what is happening in various county departments. If a supervisor is narrowly focused, they’re not looking at as big of a picture as they could be as a policy maker.”

Potential committee combinations could include the Airport and Parks committee with the Property committee, Emergency Services/Communications committee with the Law Enforcement and Judiciary committee, the Community Programs board with the Social Services committee. If combined, these committees would likely increase to seven members, Serpe said.

Supervisors receive $25 per hour, up to eight hours, for each meeting they attend, with an additional $150 per county board meeting. The county chairman receives $850 per month. Committee chairmen receive an additional $20 per committee meeting. Restructuring of the county committees may or may not save the county money – and may or may not save county supervisors time.

Supervisor Joel Gunnlaugsson from the Town of Washington said he didn’t think restructuring county committees would make a difference in his time gone from the island.

“Sometimes committees now last for three to four hours,” Gunnlaugsson said. “I sit on the Social Services committee. Some of those committee meetings are four hours. If we combined Social Services with Community Programs, which are also known to take three to four hours, wouldn’t that make an eight hour meeting?”

Supervisor Merrell Runquist from the Town of Gibraltar agreed with Gunnlaugsson.

“I don’t think [restructuring] will lead to greater efficiencies,” Runquist said. “It will likely lead to bigger committees that will meet for longer periods. But I will leave my mind open to it. It is hard to know yet if it will save me any time or money in travel expenses.”

Chairman Leo Zipperer said he thought the county board has lost the real function and purpose of committees.

“Committees should be for oversight and approval,” Zipperer said. “A good share of what we do now is listen to the reports from department heads. We keep adding committees without reviewing them. If we set up a committee for a specific purpose, it becomes an ad hoc committee, which is supposed to be for a set time. But it seems like they keep hanging on. We don’t get a chance to review where they’ve been – what they’ve done.”

Zipperer said he is in favor of increasing the number of people on a committee to seven, in order to get more supervisors involved in the activities of the county departments. He said he wants supervisors to strongly consider the restructuring now, in order to make changes at the annual county board of supervisors meeting held in November.

“Door County is running in as lean a manner as we can right now,” Serpe said. “You don’t see a lot of extra people working here. We have not added any new personnel in a long time, and we are getting more out of people because of our electronic investments. There isn’t a lot of financial savings to be gained by combining committees or departments, because it won’t really change what they do or who does it. Restructuring may provide more efficiencies, but they will be in back office operations.”

“However, taking a look at (restructuring) from time to time has merit,” Serpe continued. “We can always go back to the way we had it before.”