" “There simply is
no reason to volunteer
for an entity
that does not
support my
Mary Johns
former Twin County
Airport commissioner
MENOMINEE — With a lack of a quorum, the special meeting of the Twin County Airport Commission was over just after it started Friday. That’s when two commissioners tendered their resignations.
Vice Chairman Nick Lakari declared the meeting adjourned after neither representative from Menominee County attended the meeting that started at noon. Charlie Meintz and Chris Plutchak, both members of the Menominee County Board of Commissioners, walked out of the last airport commission meeting after the commission failed to approve the appointment of Garry Anderson as a Menominee County at-large representative.
Tuesday, it was Marinette County’s turn to make a dramatic move, as both Lakari and Mary Johns resigned after the meeting ended.
Both indicated their displeasure with Marinette County government’s lack of involvement or guidance since Anderson was appointed in June as the main reason for resigning. Anderson was appointed to replace Jason Lauzer, who had served as the commission’s chairman, and to do so, had to relinquish his ownership of a hangar on airport grounds.
While the commission’s request for specific documentation from Anderson was given as the reason for the delay in seating the new appointee, Johns indicated Friday that she also did not want Anderson on the commission given his past history.
“A majority of the Menominee County Board wants to leave the impression our reluctance to seat Mr. Anderson is merely over whether or not his hangar lease and ownership has been properly transferred. The reluctance to seat him goes well beyond that. One needs to look no further than newspaper clippings from 2009 to 2010 to see what problems occurred the last time Mr. Anderson was on the airport commission,” Johns wrote in a statement.
Johns said the response from Marinette County “disgusted and discouraged” her, as the commission had requested informal advice or legal counsel on the TCAC matter.
“There simply is no reason to volunteer for an entity that does not support my efforts,” Johns said Friday. “It appears that a majority of the Menominee County Board would like the airport to remain a playground for private pilots and by Marinette County’s inability to support our efforts, I believe they are tacitly agreeing with that approach.”
Johns sent a letter to Gale Mattison, Marinette County’s corporation counsel, informing Mattison of her resignation and criticizing Mattison’s lack of support.
“You refused to give any advice to Nick Lakari when he sought it on not one, but two occasions. The fact that you aren’t licensed to practice law in Michigan does not preclude you from giving non-legal advice in your role as part of the county’s interim administrative team,” Johns wrote to Mattison. “You work for the taxpayers. You have much to answer for to your constituency.”
Lakari said he sent a letter to Vilas Schroeder, chairman of the Marinette County Board, expressing the need “that the Marinette County representatives on the commission have been requesting and have not been granted. So it became an untenable situation for me to work with, under those circumstances.
“There has not been any political support from the county board chair; there has not been any legal assistance from corporation counsel. So, I am resigning today as a commissioner.”
The only remaining representative from Marinette County, Supervisor Ted Sauve, said he would remain on the commission.
“I am going to continue to represent Marinette County like I have in the past and try to promote the airport as much as possible. We have several good things on the horizon and I would like to see those items fulfilled in the best interests of not just the Twin County Airport, but our entire area,” Sauve said.
He expressed his concern that Menominee County commissioners walked out of a meeting, saying it was the first time he had seen such a thing in the 40 years he had served the county. He called it a “sorrowful” situation.
Schroeder was unaware of the resignations when he was contacted later Friday afternoon by the EagleHerald, and said he did not recall any “direct requests from me for support. I was copied in on some emails, but it did not request support from me,” he said of correspondence between Lakari and Mattison.
He said that it would be his responsibility to appoint a replacement for Lakari and the job of the administrative team to find a citizen appointee. Schroeder said it likely the county will advertise for interested candidates, and could bring both appointees to the county board for ratification by the Aug. 26 meeting.
Schroeder said he was sorry to see the situation deteriorate at the airport.
“I was pleased to see things finally going in a positive direction on the airport, and in the last two months, it seemed to crumble. Prior to that, things were moving well — the last two years they really turned things around. I guess we’re getting back to the same mess we were in before.”
Johns summed up her feelings after announcing her resignation.
“The real losers here are the taxpayers, because an airport is a viable economic asset to a community,” she said. “An airport can contribute to the economic vibrancy of the community, but if it has no support from the elected officials — then it is time for the taxpayers to change the elected officials.”