Three decades overseeing two departments
By Robert Cloud
Waupaca County hired Roger Holman as director of both its Parks and Recreation Department and its Solid Waste Department in 1985.
At the time, neither department had any staff.
“When I was hired, I was it,” Holman said. “I did all my own typing, all my own copying and mailing.
Holman said the first person the county hired was a part-time office assistant, then a part-time person was hired to help with the parks.
“Kathy Nelson started as a part-time employee, then she became the parks manager,” Holman said.
Holman recalled that the truck his departments used was so old that he was once pulled over and cited close to $1,000 for vehicle violations.
Over time, both departments grew in size and in their responsibilities.
Initially, Holman oversaw just a few county properties – Keller Lake, Nelson Park, the Poor Farm Cemetery near Manawa, the fairgrounds in Weyauwega, some boat landings and four dams.
“We started buying property and adding to the park system,” Holman said.
Keller Lake Park, between Big Falls and Marion, was expanded from about 23 acres to 80 acres, the county purchased 110 acres in the town of Bear Creek for the Lowney-Rohan Wetlands preserve, and developed the 200-acre Waupaca County Forest in rural Fremont.
Waupaca County now has 39 properties with a total of 885 acres that provide outdoor recreational opportunities and access to local lakes, rivers, woods and other natural resources.
Holman is especially proud of the half-mile Sturgeon Trail along the Wolf River near New London.
“This project was a partnership of the Parks Department, Land and Water, the DNR, municipalities and user groups,” Holman said.
He noted that projects which bring people together have been among the most enjoyable experiences of his career.
One organization that Holman worked with in the past was the Wisconsin Conservation Corps.
“The WCC built the restrooms at Oakwood, built the Pauers property cabins and worked on the River Ridge Trail system,” Holman said. “This kind of workforce is wonderful.”
Holman pointed to three members of his staff who were former WCC crew leaders: Pat Bruneau, Ann Cassamasa and Darrin Mann.
Another joint venture was the Wau-King Trail that runs from Waupaca, past the high school, to the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King.
The Wau-King Trail, along with the Tomorrow River Trail that runs through Manawa and Scandinavia past Amherst, represent a direction for his department that Holman hopes to see continue into the future.
“People want trails that connect communities, so they can safely hike or bike between communities,” Holman said.
As director of Solide Waste and Recycling, Holman played a critical role in developing the county’s Processing and Transfer Facility.
“My first job was to get a landfill open,” Holman said. “But when we did the number crunching, the numbers didn’t work. The cost for a landfill was too high.”
Instead of opening a landfill, the Waupaca County Board voted to open the PTF instead.
Holman worked with Ken Van Dyke, who was the chair of the county Solid Waste Board at the time, to bring the cities, villages and townships into a countywide recycling program.
“We met with 34 municipalities and 31 agreed to work together,” Holman said. “We were going from meeting to meeting, meeting every municipality within two months.”
A meeting with the participating municipalities led to an agreement whereby the county would be responsible for education, marketing and processing recyclables, while the municipalities were responsible for collections.
Holman estimated that nearly 12,000 people use the PTF, located on Swan Road between Ogdensburg and Manawa.
“It’s a very successful program and it hasn’t cost the taxpayers very much because it’s based on user fees,” Holman said.
He noted that property taxes funded $140,000 of the county’s Solid Waste budget in 1990, which is the same amount taxes funded in 2015.
“I had a good time,” Holman said, reflecting on his career with the county. “Now, it’s time to do something else.”