Part 1 of a 2-part series
By Robert Cloud
It was a year of change in Waupaca County.
Two new fire chiefs, a new police chief, a new school district administrator and retirements of several top county officials were among the stories in the Waupaca County Post in the first six months of 2016.
The year also presented opportunities and challenges, tragedies and triumphs for the communities and people in Waupaca County.
• After 17 years of teaching, Stacey Wester accepted the elementary principal and curriculum coordinator position in the Iola-Scandinavia School District.
• Judge Raymond Huber sentenced a former New London man to 15 years in prison for killing his 3-year-old son.
Lance S. Vandenbusch, 37, was convicted of second-degree reckless homicide. He received the maximum prison sentence for that charge on Jan. 7.
• In response to multiple heroin overdoses in the community, Weyauwega police began carrying Narcan with them when they are on duty. Narcan, also known as Naloxone, is a medication used to counter the effects of an opiod overdose. The city council approved the new policy at its Jan. 18 meeting.
• Chuck Fritz decided to retire as chief of the Iola and Rural Fire Department. He had joined the department in September 1976 and served as chief for more than 29 years.
• Tracy Behrendt became the new director of the Waupaca Historical Society after Julie Hintz retired from the position in December.
• Nevaeh Johnson, who was a fourth-grade student at Waupaca Learning Center at the time, competed in her first dog sled race on Jan. 23 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and returned home with a second-place plaque.
• Jerry Deuman Jr. was named Waupaca’s new fire chief, effective Feb. 1. He replaced Jeff Olson, who retired in December 2015. Deuman joined the force in October 1994 and had been first assistant chief for three years prior to becoming chief.
• Kevin Hoffman was the grand marshal for 2016 Iola Winter Carnival the weekend of Feb. 6-7.
• The Manawa School Board voted unanimously to terminate the contract of David Bessette, a special education teacher at Little Wolf Junior/Senior High School. He was accused of misconduct involving a student after school administrators and board members reviewed a video of him pulling a 13-year-old autistic boy by his arms down a hallway. Bessette was subsequently charged with felony child abuse. His case is still pending.
• A crowd filled the gym at Iola-Scandinavia High School to hear the UW Varsity Band perform on Feb. 22. Among the performers were I-S graduates Powers Spees and John Faldet.
• At a special meeting on March 1, the Manawa School Board voted 5-2 to rescind an earlier directive against hiring any staff with a felony conviction. It also approved a contract to hire Todd Zielke as head coach for the softball team. At its Feb. 15 meeting, the board did not renew Zielke’s contract, although it approved all other spring sports’ contracts on the agenda.
• After 30 years in law enforcement, Waupaca Police Chief Tim Goke notified the city’s Police and Fire Commission on March 8 that he would retire on June 2.
• Waupaca County Clerk Mary Robbins Will announced her plan not to seek re-election and to retire at the end of 2016. Prior to her taking office in 1989, Robbins Will worked for the county as a deputy zoning administrator for 17 years.
• Casey Beyersdorf replaced Dean Steingraber as the Waupaca County highway commissioner. A 1997 graduate of Marion High School, Beyersdorf attended the University of Wisconsin-Plattville. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in building construction management and drafting design in 2002.
Beyersdorf spent more than 18 years with the Wisconsin National Guard and earned a Bronze Star while overseeing large road construction projects in Afghanistan in 2012-13.
• Jones Publishing in Iola celebrated 30 years in business. From a venture that started in their basement in March 1985, Joe and Maggie Jones grew a business that now publishes multiple hobbyist magazines.
• Judge Raymond Huber sentenced Jesse McLamarrah, 21, New London, to five years in prison March 25. McLamarrah was convicted of two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment and one count each of arson, burglary and felony possession of marijuana. Two people were injured after jumping out the window of their burning second-story apartment.
• Jim Aanstad, who has been a member of the Iola and Rural Fire Department for the past 31 years, was named the new fire chief.
• Challenger Steve Hackett and incumbent Connie Baldwin were elected to two seats on the Waupaca School Board in the April 5 spring election. Incumbent Kirsten Greenfield was not re-elected.
• Two men were accused of killing Matthew Pagel, whose body was found in a ditch at about 2:30 a.m. April 12 near Clintonville. Zachary T. Hohn, 16, Tigerton, and Adam J. Ozuna, 24, Bear Creek, were charged with first-degree intentional homicide and robbery with use of force.
• Dayton citizens voted to replace two elected officials with one full-time employee at the town’s annual meeting on April 19. By a vote of 37-15, electors approved a resolution to eliminate the offices of town clerk and treasurer, which are held by Judy Suhs and Brenda Hewitt, respectively.
In April 2015, Dayton voters elected two new supervisors and a new town chairman. Only the incumbent clerk and treasurer survived the voters’ desire for a clean slate. Suhs was elected over Sue Popham by a vote of 453-401, while Hewitt defeated Thomas Van Veen, 590-247.
• Jeff Maiman’s efforts for offsite employee parking for the Wheelhouse Restaurant hit a wall after nearly four hours of testimony during a May 5 public hearing. The Waupaca County Planning and Zoning Committee voted unanimously to adopt more restrictive amendments to the zoning ordinance.
The county zoning office had proposed amendments that would have allowed the county to issue conditional use permits for offsite commercial parking on any parcel in the county. Instead, the adopted amendments prohibit offsite parking on parcels that are zoned sewered residential or rural residential and require an offsite parking lot to be within 500 feet of the property it serves.
• The Waupaca Police and Fire Commission appointed Detective Sgt. Brian Hoelzel interim police chief when it met on May 10. Hoelzel, a 22 1/2-year veteran of the Waupaca Police Department, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in December 1992.
After a year in Combined Locks, Hoelzel started his career in Waupaca in 1994 as a patrol officer. In 2002, he was promoted to detective sergeant.
More than 200 signatures were collected for a petition seeking to overturn the decision to replace two elected officials with a single employee in Dayton.
• Winchester Academy of Waupaca turned 25 years old in 2016. On Monday nights at the Waupaca Area Public Library, Winchester Academy brings to the community professors, historians, authors, poets, artists, researchers and experts in a wide variety of fields. The academy has hosted more than 600 programs over the past quarter century and typically draws more than 100 people to each program.
• The state Crime Victims Rights Board issued a private reprimand against Waupaca County District Attorney John Snider. After reviewing a complaint from the daughter of Fred Lick, the 81-year-old Waupaca man who was killed by a car driven by Kristin Carlson, the board concluded that Snider “violated a crime victim’s statutory right to a speedy disposition of the case.”
Lick was killed on July 2, 2013. Carlson was charged with homicide by negligent use of a vehicle two years later on July 16, 2015.
• Waupaca County District Attorney John Snider did not file his nomination papers by the June 1 deadline and did not seek re-election. Assistant District Attorney Veronica Isherwood, Republican, and attorney Robert Forseth, Democrat, filed to run for the office.
• Dayton residents overturned the decision to replace two elected officials with one hired position by a vote of 182-74 at a special meeting held in the Waupaca High School gym on June 8.
• Roger Holman retired as the director of both the Waupaca County Parks and Recreation Department and the county’s Solid Waste Department.
During the three decades he worked for the county, Holman led efforts to expand recycling and build the county’s Processing and Transfer Facility near Ogdensburg. Thanks to his efforts, 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.
• Waupaca FFA was named the No. 1 chapter in the state at the Wisconsin FFA Convention in Madison June 13-16.
• Two local school boards voted in June to place referendums on the ballots for the November election.
Voters in the Weyauwega-Fremont School District would be asked if they wanted the district to spend up to $21 million on a building and improvement program.
In the Iola-Scandinavia District, voters were presented with two questions on their referendum. The first asked them to approve $2 million in general obligation bonds to pay for facility renovations and repairs. The second asked voters to allow the district to exceed its revenue cap by a total of $4.6 million over the next five years.