Robert Lane brought a unique perspective to his six-year role as a Columbia County supervisor — a perspective that the County Board’s current chairman, Vern Gove of Portage, particularly appreciated.
Like Gove, Lane — who died Tuesday at age 62 — was retired from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office when he became a supervisor. Gove, in fact, had been his boss.
In his last two-year term on the County Board, Lane was chairman of the County Board’s Judiciary Committee, which at that time oversaw public safety functions (the Sheriff’s Office, the Medical Examiner’s Office and Emergency Management) and the operations of the court-related offices, including Columbia County Circuit Court and the District Attorney’s Office.
The years of 2010 through 2012 were critical years for both public safety and the judiciary, as budget crunches resulting from property value decreases led to a $2.6 million cut in the county’s 2011 budget — a cut that threatened to hit judiciary and law enforcement functions particularly hard.
On the table for the Judiciary Committee were proposals to eliminate one detective from the Sheriff’s Office and cut the hours of victim-witness coordinators and judicial assistants.
At the time, Lane acknowledged the county’s straits, and the likelihood that all departments, including those related to public safety, would likely be hurt.
Yet he said in November 2010, “There really is no money, but our No. 1 priority is the safety and security of the residents of the county.”
Gove recalled Lane as a good listener who “always had a joke for you.”
Supervisor Barry Pufahl of Pardeeville, who served with Lane, also described him as “a good guy” whose company Pufahl enjoyed.
Even more important, he said, Lane was approachable.
“He would listen to both sides,” Pufahl said. “As politics changes today, some people can’t listen to both sides. But he did.”
Lane’s departure from the County Board in 2012 happened sooner than he wanted, under some of the most unusual circumstances of any Columbia County election in recent history.
The 2012 election was the first one with new districts, redrawn to reflect population changes in the 2010 census. At the same time, the County Board’s membership was reduced from 31 supervisors to 28.
Lane ended up in District 13 (wards 1 through 3 in the town of Pacific), the same district as another incumbent, Susan Martin.
Martin had declared non-candidacy for re-election, while Lane was on the ballot with a challenger, Susan Tutt-Parsons.
When Tutt-Parsons died unexpectedly in February 2012, Robert Westby of Lodi, who was then County Board chairman, asked Martin to run in her place, and Martin agreed. Martin went on to defeat Lane by just 30 votes.
At the time of his County Board service, Lane was the owner-operator of Lane’s Full Throttle tavern in Portage.
Lane also had previously served on the Portage Common Council.
Services for Lane will be held at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at Moundville United Methodist Church, with burial in the Moundville Cemetery with military honors. Members of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office will serve as honor guards.