Wausau City Hall

Damakant Jayshi

The makeup of Wausau’s Water Commission under the new administration has not yet been finalized, after one alder resigned and a second member’s term concluded.

Alder Becky McElhaney on April 24 resigned from the Water Commission via a letter to Mayor Doug Diny. In her letter, she said she is unable to serve due to her load of both standing committees, commissions and task force assignments. The previous day she was reappointed chair of the Transit Commission by the council upon the recommendation of the mayor. McElhaney has a day job and most of the meetings of the commission are in the afternoon.

The City Council on Tuesday postponed election to fill the vacancy created by McElhaney’s exit. Because only 8 off 11 council members were present, Mayor Diny sought consent to move the item to the next council meeting. He said that would allow time to any alder who wants to nominate a member or be elected to the commission. That would also allow the alder-member to attend the next meeting of the commission on June 4.

Alders Michael Marten, McElhaney and Lisa Rasmussen were excused for the meeting. All present consented to the postponement.

At the organizational meeting on April 16, McElhaney accepted the nomination to represent the council on the Water Commission. She was elected unanimously without objection and replaced Dawn Herbst, who lost her re-election bid in April.

The term of one of the citizen members of the utility commission, Joe Gehin, ended on April 30. Mayor Diny has not yet said whether he will reappoint Gehin for another five-year term or appoint someone else. Gehin attended a meeting of the commission on May 7.

City Attorney Anne Jacobson told Wausau Pilot Gehin remains a member of the body since it is not an elective office which become vacant upon the expiration of the incumbent’s term. “Appointed city officers serve until their successor are appointed and qualify unless otherwise provided by ordinance,” she said after that meeting. “A resignation by an appointed officer would not take effect until the successor is appointed and qualifies.”

However, terms of office of the Wausau Municipal Code stipulate that “no person may be appointed to more than two consecutive regular terms as a member of any city board or commission, unless the reappointment is specifically approved by the common council.” Gehin has already served more than two terms. He was first appointed to the commission in 2013 to serve the remainder of the term of a member who resigned by then-Mayor Jim Tipple, according to the Wausau Daily Herald. The newspaper said that soon after his appointment, he took a job with Wausau-based consulting and engineering firm Becher-Hoppe as a part-time public works consultant. In April 2014, Tipple appointed Gehin for a full five-year term.

Gein was under fire in 2022 amid accusations that his position on the commission could be a conflict of interest, due to his employment with Becher-Hoppe. The company, since Gehin’s appointment in 2013 to the commission, has received multiple contracts from the city for high-profile projects. Unclear is whether Gehin, who denied any conflict, is still employed by the organization.