By Shereen Siewert
A city alderman who sits on the county’s parks commission is speaking out after demanding the resignation of the commission’s vice president, who missed 12 consecutive meetings and two scheduled park tours.
Pat Peckham issued a two-page statement Monday to news media outlining his concerns about Jacob Langenhahn’s failure to appear at meetings, stating that the “county has not handled this well.” He also released a string of emails in which he urged commission chair Gary Gisselman and County Board President Kurt Gibbs to address the absences.
Langenhahn, who represents Marathon County’s Dist. 35 and was elected vice president of the commission in June 2018, resigned from the parks commission on Friday.
“Due to the unwillingness of the committee to work with my schedule and deeply troubling correspondence between myself and the commission, I will be opening my seat to another County Board member,” Langenhahn wrote in his resignation letter. “I do hope you all consider the ramifications of such actions, especially in regards to young professionals who have an interest in public service. Courtesy and respect go a long way in this world.”
In his statement, Peckham was sharply critical of Langenhahn’s reasons for missing the meetings, which are typically held during the workday at 2 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month.
“(Langenhahn) blamed his busy schedule as ‘a working professional’,” Peckham wrote. “Langenhahn certainly knew the demands of elective office, though, because his father is longtime county board chair Keith Langenhahn and he would have heard about his father’s schedule since his grade school years.”
Peckham called his decision to press this issue and release a statement among the most difficult of his two terms as an elected member of the Wausau City Council and an appointed member of the Marathon County Park Commission.
“I decided to go forward after it appeared nobody else – not the park commission president and not the county board chair – was going to act,” Peckham said. “I consider the park commission an important body and there’s no reason it should not have a full complement of seven members contributing to its decisions.”
Prior to Jacob Langenhahn’s resignation, Peckham had called for the matter to appear on the September agenda if neither Gibbs nor Gisselman resolved the situation ahead of time.
“After thinking about it for a few days, though, I decided that in sitting idly and waiting, I was becoming complicit in failing the citizens of this county by not informing them of the situation and how it’s been handled,” Peckham said. “If an elected official misses a dozen meetings in a row, spanning over more than a year, something should happen.”
On Aug. 6 Jacob Langenhahn responded to Peckham’s call to place the matter on the September agenda with a request to discuss the commission’s meeting time. He also indicated he had requested a vacation day from his employer in order to attend the September meeting.
“I would be more than happy to discuss accommodating a working professional’s schedule with that of the Park Commission,” Langenhahn wrote. “If the Chair would like to make it an agenda item, feel free to, but I think you’ll find that these discussions are allowed before adjournment at the end of every meeting.”
Peckham on Aug. 9 declined to withdraw his request and informed commission members and Gibbs of his intention to release a public statement about the issue. Hours later, Jacob Langenhahn formally resigned his commission role.