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The last time Bob Koch was inside the Columbia County Administration Building was last autumn, when he and his now-wife, Belle, came into the clerk’s office to apply for a marriage license.

The next time he comes to the Administration Building will likely be on June 20, when he’s expected to be sworn in as the newest Columbia County supervisor.

The County Board’s Executive Committee on Monday chose the 40-year-old Lodi man to fill the vacant District 26 seat, which encompasses wards 1 and 2 of the city of Lodi and wards 4 and 5 of the town of Lodi.

It was a tough decision, according to County Board Chairman Vern Gove of Portage, between Koch and another applicant, Steve Mlejnek, 52, of the town of Lodi (Harmony Grove).

“Either of them would make a good supervisor,” Gove said.

Both had applied for the seat vacated when the incumbent, James Brooks of the town of Lodi, opted not to seek re-election in April.

There were no names on the ballot, and no write-in winner emerged.

The Executive Committee interviewed Koch and Mlejnek, separately, in closed session.

If the County Board ratifies the committee’s choice, Koch will be immediately sworn in.

Both Koch, a salesman at Kayser Chrysler Center in Sauk City, and Mlejnek, a semi-retired businessman, said they would have ample time to devote to the duties of a county supervisor — including participating on the County Board’s Judiciary and Columbia Health Care Center committees.

That was a challenge for Brooks, a Capitol Police officer, who missed nearly all committee meetings during his one two-year term due to work-related time conflicts.

“I feel that, if you’re going to be in this position, you need to be present,” he said. “My employer is extremely flexible.”

Mlejnek said he submitted his application letter soon after Gove put out a call for applicants to fill the District 26 seat, because as a semi-retiree, he can set his own schedules, and because he wanted to give back to the community.

When he applied, he said, he had no idea whether others might also be interested in the supervisor’s seat.

“I’d like to think,” Mlejnek said, “that it’s not because people are indifferent to their government affairs. It’s that people are so busy with their families, their careers and other things.”

Asked to name key issues that he thinks would be at the County Board’s forefront in the coming year, Mlejnek did not name one issue.

Koch cited the budget as a perennial issue facing the County Board — that and “keeping Columbia County an affordable place to live,” through holding the line on taxes and fostering economic development.

If he should continue on the County Board for one or more additional terms, Koch said, he would be interested in serving someday on the County Board’s Public Safety and Highway committees.

This viewpoint comes from his 27 years of experience as a volunteer firefighter for the Prairie du Sac Fire Department.

“These are the two most important things the county does — public safety with the sheriff’s department and 911 center, and keeping our roads safe,” Koch said.

It’s important, Koch said, to take his cues from his constituents.

“At this stage of the game,” he said, “I have a lot to learn — and I will listen to my neighbors’ thoughts and ideas.”

Gove said he wanted to schedule, as soon as possible, an orientation session for Koch, so that major department heads can help brief him on county issues, including but not limited to the state-imposed levy limit.

If the County Board ratifies Koch’s appointment on June 20, then all 28 County Board seats will be filled.

Follow Lyn Jerde on Twitter @LynJerde

Portage Daily Register Reporter