By Charles Collier, The Denmark News
District 20 open for spring elections; Sup. reflects on 30 years of service
GREENLEAF—In the 1960’s, a snowstorm could easily shut down traffic and business for several days in rural Brown County.
“I would’ve sat here for three days and couldn’t get out. I would just dump milk,” says Bill Clancy. “But that’s not a thing now.”
In a few months Clancy may have more time to sit in his spacious farmhouse, surrounded by snow-laden fields and the occasional hum of a neighbor’s truck or tractor passing by on Old 57 Rd. in Greenleaf, but not because two-feet of snow will be blocking milk haulers.
Clancy, a third-generation farmer, has represented the rural District 20–stretching from Wrightstown to Denmark with agricultural communities in between–on the Brown County Board of Supervisors since 1988, having served on every County committee and several subcommittees. When voters head to the polls on April 3, 2018, his name will not be on the ballot for the first time in fifteen cycles after Clancy announced his retirement earlier this year.
“It’s been a very enlightening time, and there’s really good people here,” Clancy says.
The 81-year-old is planning to remain as the Town Clerk for Holland, a position he has held since 1965. Clancy’s decision to retire was the culmination of an aging body, conversations with colleagues, and a sense of satisfaction in what has already been accomplished.
“I just thought it was time to go. I used to be able to farm, do everything, and do town work and county work. Now it takes me longer,” he reflects. “It doesn’t run like a deer anymore.”
Unlike the abilities he sees losing steam, Clancy says that, “efficiency has reigned,” during his tenure with Brown County and believes that the body has been a standard bearer for effective government within budgetary limitations.
“Brown County has kept the factor of being up-to-date on things and moving ahead with the tide,” he says, championing the Syble Hopp school, a record-high equalized valuation, a healthy Public Library system, and expansion of law enforcement and emergency services. “Could we have done more? Sure. But you’re under constraints…and we tried to accommodate both the budget and our necessities,” Clancy said.
Despite an overwhelmingly positive outlook on the past thirty years and towards the future, Clancy bemoaned an ever-growing backlog of cases in the Brown County Circuit Court which has led to overcrowding at the Brown County Jail and 30-40 prisoners being transferred to other facilities every month.
“We’re short about 12 assistant district attorneys that the state is supposed to be paying us. We’re paying for two and authorized another,” he said. “If we don’t get the jail population out and adjudicated, it’s a losing deal.”
In 1990 the State overtook salary responsibilities for District Attorneys as well as their deputies and assistants and in 2013, after Act 10 removed collective bargaining rights for state employees, a gradual tier system of hourly pay raises was instituted. David Lasee, Brown County’s DA, said his office—with 12 state-funded Assistants and the additional two paid for by the County—was behind by as many as 3,000 cases, some dating back multiple years.
Applauding the responsiveness of County judges to realign their schedules to meet the extra demand, as well as the implementation of special Drug Courts, Clancy pointed to this year’s resignation of Marinette County DA Allen Brey for a backlog of 400 cases as a clear call to action for state legislators. District Attorney offices across the state—71 for Wisconsin’s 72 counties—requested an additional 96 positions be created in the most recent biennial budget. None were included.
“[State lawmakers] take it out of the budget and we can’t afford that and we can’t get the cases processed. If you don’t appreciate [prosecutors], you don’t pay them, and then they’ll go to the private sector where they can get more,” Clancy said. “We gotta get priorities straightened in Madison or there’s going to be the same build up again.”
Considering increasing stress on the County’s court system, Clancy applauded the efforts of its judges in realigning their schedules to preside over more cases and the use of specialty Treatment Courts as a form of probation for drug offenders. The courts guide drug abusers into treatment programs while providing oversight and support in helping them find work and, ultimately, reintegrate into society.
The Treatment Court was expanded to include heroin abusers and those diagnosed with underlying mental health conditions in 2015. Just last week, Clancy attended a session of one such court.
“This kid, well he wasn’t a kid he was a fairly well-grown fella, admitted that he lost the incentive and the only thing he wanted to feel like doing was getting high,” Clancy said. “For two years they walked him through a program and he showed up for all the meetings and took community service work besides his job, and he’s a great person. [Without the special court] that guy would be sitting in a jail someplace.”
In meeting and adapting to a system with such an overload of cases, the District 20 Supervisor says, “It isn’t that we don’t have the people in the authority that aren’t doing their jobs; It’s that they’re going above and beyond.”
Understanding what can and cannot be controlled has been an essential tool in Clancy’s belt these last 30 years as but one of 26 Supervisors. Knowing when to fight for what he believed was right, though, helped bring about developments of which he is most proud.
One of those achievements came from being an influential member of the Public Safety Committee and successfully moving the Public Safety Communications Center, which receives 911 calls, apart from the Green Bay Police Department. In 2009, after administrative and staffing turbulence within the Dept. of Public Safety, a dedicated hub for all County emergency communications and dispatch was completed on Green Bay’s east side.
“It was built for expansion and it was built so that we could take care of all county calls. We could do the rescue, we could do the emergency services. It is one of the finest in the area, and we’ve made updates since. For what we did it for, it’ll last for years,” Clancy says. “We did it at the right time” he chimes in, referencing recent requests from GBPD for an expanded station.
A much younger man when he first entered public service, Clancy says he wanted to cut through speculation of political actions and get as close to a fully-informed individual as he could—something he hopes more people find themselves pursuing.
“They always talked politics around here, one thing always would lead to another and it just was interesting to me… sometimes people don’t have the full truth and it’s easy to get carried away, but if you stick to the truth it’s easier to be corrected than to be mauled. And that’s what I tried to do,” Clancy says.
Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno said as of Monday, Dec. 18, three candidates had already filed to compete for the District 20 seat in an election which has all 26 Supervisory Districts on their respective ballots.
Clancy says the Board he has most recently served has been, “well-adjusted and broad-minded” and that County Executive Troy Streckenbach and Department Heads have, “done wonders keeping in balance everything they do.”
He supports the Countywide half-percent sales tax which will take effect at the start of 2018. More accurately, he supports reducing at least $40 million in debt, updating the Brown County Public Library, needed funds for forward-thinking road projects, and an addition to the 15-year-old County jail.
Whatever the outlook or opinions of his or current Supervisors’ replacements, Clancy offered advice on how to be an effective representative for the citizens of Brown County.
“Be informed, listen to everybody, and don’t make a rash judgment. Be able to have the facts to back up whatever you’re going to do,” Clancy said. “If you get a group that you’re playing favorites to, that’s not right. You might as well stand right up front and take your lickings then, rather than try do something underhandedly and end up with your hands dirty.”
Much has changed in Brown County since Clancy’s first election: the average dairy herd was under 50, Def Leppard and Poison each performed at the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena, what is now the Town of Ledgeview was rich farmland in the Town of De Pere, and the Green Bay Packers finished with a 4-12 record under head coach Lindy Infante and second-year quarterback Don Majkowski.
Clancy would be the first to tell you he was not responsible for the entirety of change. Through five different County Executives, raised and lowered taxes, a majority of small farms to industrial ones, and an additional 70,000 people calling themselves Brown County residents, Clancy has helped guide this ship toward an uncertain destination. He says constituents should not be hesitant to make their grievances heard when they feel the ship is going off-course, but that they should observe the full process before resorting to mutiny.
“It’s nice to sit back and criticize. Everybody has that ability. But everyone should go to the meetings and see how decisions are arrived at and how many different points-of-views have to be taken into consideration,” Clancy said.
In retirement, Clancy is looking forward to continued work with the Town of Holland and helping on his son’s small-scale beef operation. He is also a longtime member of the Appleton-based McDowell Chorus, performing at most 30 different times in nursing homes and community events from Oshkosh to Suamico in the springtime.
“It’s nice to leave when you’re still wanted,” he says, unwittingly adhering to the first rule of showbusiness: Leave the audience wanting more.
(Italics) Candidates for the Brown County Board of Supervisors must submit letters of intent and all requisite signatures to the County Clerk’s Office at 305 E. Walnut St., #120 in Green Bay by Jan. 3, 2018.