The list of Columbia County supervisors who won’t be seeking re-election in April includes not only the longest-serving supervisor, but also three of those with the shortest stints on the County Board.
It came as no surprise to anyone that Supervisor John Tramburg of Fall River — a supervisor since 1982, a former County Board chairman and the chairman of the powerful Finance Committee for 15 years — had decided to relinquish his District 19 seat, which represents the village of Fall River and Ward 1 in the town of Fountain Prairie.
But two other supervisors — Steve Attoe and James Brooks, both of the town of Lodi — have also declared non-candidacy, as has Craig Robson of Portage, who was appointed in June to fill an unexpired term.
Another longtime supervisor, Fred Teitgen of the town of Dekorra, is stepping down after 14 years on the County Board.
The deadline for declaring non-candidacy was Thursday because county offices were closed Friday and will be Monday for the Christmas holiday.
Tramburg was 54 in September of 1982, and had been Fall River village president for 20 years, when he was asked to accept an appointment to fill the unexpired term of his friend, Carl C. Frederick, who was stepping down after 35 years due to ill health. Frederick died less than a year later, at age 84.
In a way, however, both Tramburg and Frederick will forever be a part of Columbia County government.
At Wednesday’s meeting, County Board Chairman Vern Gove reiterated his strong recommendation that two of the meeting rooms in the new Administration Building, 112 E. Edgewater St., should be designated in honor of Frederick (Room 113) and Tramburg (Room 114).
However, the official designation will be delayed until the County Board’s January meeting so Tramburg’s family can be present.
Tramburg was visibly moved.
“It’s quite an honor,” he said, “and I’m really kind of overwhelmed.”
The non-candidacy of Brooks, a first-term supervisor who represents District 26 (Wards 1 and 2 of the city of Lodi and Wards 4 and 5 of the town of Lodi), was expected. He has noted, almost from the beginning of his tenure, that County Board meetings, and especially meetings of governing committees, were difficult to schedule around his job as Capitol Police officer.
Brooks was absent from Wednesday’s County Board meeting.
Committee meetings are all held during the day, and Brooks was absent from the committees to which he was assigned — Health and Human Services and Solid Waste — far more than he was present.
Brooks’ colleague from District 25 (Wards 1 through 3 of the town of Lodi), Steve Attoe, had the same problem.
Attoe made most of his meetings for County Board and his committees, but to do so, he had to take vacation from his job as a linesman at Waunakee Utilities. (Attoe missed the September County Board meeting because he volunteered to restore power in Florida after Hurricane Irma.)
“I’ve used over two weeks of vacation for coming to these meetings,” Attoe said.
Attoe said the schedule of County Board-related business — with all the committee meetings held during the day and the half of the County Board’s monthly meetings scheduled for mornings — makes it challenging for working people to serve on the County Board.
“I would run again,” he said, “if there were evening meetings.”
Attoe’s committee assignments included the Columbia Health Care Center and Agriculture, Extension and Land and Water Conservation committees.
Robson said he’s not seeking re-election because of the likelihood that he will move out of District 7 (Wards 2 and 4 of the city of Portage) in the near future. He said he enjoyed his six months on the County Board, and would have gladly sought re-election if he had planned to stay in the district.
“I’m sure there is someone who is willing to run,” he said.
Robson was appointed to fill the vacancy created when Supervisor Kenneth Hutler moved out of the district after 17 years on the County Board.
Robson took over Hutler’s committee assignments, which included the Highway and Solid Waste committees.
It was Robson’s uncle, Claire Robson of Poynette, who was Teitgen’s predecessor on the County Board. According to Teitgen, Claire Robson stepped down to devout himself to other endeavors, and Teitgen, who was then chairman of the town of Dekorra, was the only person who stepped forward to take his place in 2003.
Teitgen now represents District 16, encompassing Ward 1 of the village of Poynette and Wards 2 and 3 of the town of Dekorra.
“It was a hard decision” not to run for a seventh term, Teitgen said. “I have enjoyed serving.”
At age 75, Teitgen said, he’d like to focus on other activities, such as traveling and singing.
Teitgen, a retired architect, is one of five members of the County Board’s Ad Hoc Building Committee, which has overseen the county’s $45.51 million building project — the biggest, by far, in county history. He also is chairman of the Planning and Zoning Committee and a member of the Judiciary Committee.
It’s far from unprecedented, by the way, for a supervisor who declares non-candidacy to end up getting elected anyway. The most recent example of that is Supervisor Robert McClyman of Wisconsin Dells — the only incumbent to declare non-candidacy in 2016. He was elected by write-in votes, and agreed to take the post.