A verbal attack on a Clintonville alderperson created a tense atmosphere at a City Council meeting Tuesday, April 9.
Clintonville resident Mary Beth Kuester spoke during the citizens’ forum, addressing a few of her concerns over ArtyFest, an event scheduled to take place in town this summer.
“Thank you for giving your time and talents to our city and thank you for the opportunity to provide citizen input,” began Kuester as she addressed Mayor Judy Magee, the council, and her fellow citizens. “A regular meeting conflict prohibits me from attending your meetings but several issues make it imperative that I speak out.
“The first issue is the city’s tourism promotion effort including the TV spots and now ArtyFest. I have not seen the film produced for the tourism promotion and assume this is not available to your or anyone else yet. However, when the project was announced, I wondered what tourism attractions our city had to offer,” stated Kuester.
“Now I hear first of the use of $6,000 from the tourism fund and more recently, city funds to support a festival named after a local business which manufactures a bottled Old Fashioned drink,” Kuester said.
According to City Administrator Lisa Kuss, the money to support the event referred to by Kuester comes from hotel room tax money and is not being funded by City of Clintonville property taxes.
“When I first read of the event I thought it was an art fair, since an event in Green Bay is named Artstreet as well. When I asked a council member about the event he said it was his goal to have Clintonville known as the home of the Old Fashioned, as Seymour is known as home of the hamburger. I have pride in our home town and the home of the Four Wheel Drive and the home of North Central Airlines,” added Kuester.
“The controversy that has erupted due to the ArtyFest being scheduled in conflict with the Embarrass Fire Department’s major fund raiser, is evidence that this event was not thought through,” stated Kuester. “Others in the community have addressed this issue. One point I will add is that the Embarrass citizens support Clintonville businesses. The second objection is singling out one business for promotion at an event.
“There is an additional problem in that when I asked Arty’s owner, Tom Pappin who does his PR and marketing work, he said, ‘a Neenah firm and a local guy, Bill Zeinert’. As an alderman, this is a conflict. I will be asking the district attorney to investigate and if necessary the Attorney General,” Kuester said.
Tim Pappin (not Tom) and Ryan Mijal own Arty’s. Tim Pappin spoke to the County Post East after the meeting, and said Kuester’s allegation is absolutely false.
“We never engaged in any business transaction with Bill Zeinert,” said Pappin.
“Mary Beth, you’ve made personal attacks,” said Mayor Judy Magee. “Bill has abstained from any council discussions regarding tourism money, and has also asked to be removed from the Tourism, Marketing and Advertising Council.”
Zeinert said after the meeting that he was very disappointed by Kuester’s ill-informed comments. Kuester admitted at the meeting that she hadn’t talked to Zeinert about the issue prior to making her remarks.
“I was disappointed in the attacks launched by Mary Beth during the council meeting,” he said. “I’m not sure why we can’t disagree without being disagreeable, but clearly her frustration, combined with a deep misunderstanding of the facts, gave rise to one of the more ugly displays I have seen at a council meeting.
“Attacks, like the one leveled by Ms. Kuester, are easy and cheap. Ms. Kuester misunderstood my involvement with ArtyFest, jumping to the conclusion that I was being paid for my services – essentially voting myself business,” said Zeinert.
“She went further, insinuating that I acted in a criminal way. The facts are that I volunteered to help write a grant for the festival. I also donated the money to host a website for the festival. I am not contracted by Arty’s in any way,” said Zeinert. “Furthermore, I abstained from votes regarding the use of funds as to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest.
“My only interest is in seeing Clintonville succeed,” Zeinert stated. “And I find that cooperation, listening and sharing ideas is the best way to spur growth. Hurling criticism and dealing in speculation may make for good gossip, but rarely do these things work to make our city better. I expected better from Ms. Kuester. I am still waiting for her apology. I suspect I will be waiting some time.”
Kuester went on to object to the city promoting an event based on spotlighting an alcoholic drink, and also shared her opinion on tourism attractions that should be promoted, including the FWD Museum, Doty-Besserdich cordwood house in Pioneer Park, a piece of the Great Wall of China brought to town by W.A. Olen, Hard-Core Fitness and Warrior Mud Races, and an old truck show that was discontinued several years ago. She offered her time and experience in grant writing, event coordination and marketing and PR to the city free of charge.