At its Jan. 2 reorganizational meeting, the Wright County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved Commissioner Darek Vetsch to serve as the board chair for a second consecutive year.
Typically, the chairmanship is done on a rotational basis. There have been some exceptions. In 2022, Commissioner Christine Husom was selected as board chair despite it not being her turn in the rotation – honoring her last year of service as a commissioner.
The last time a Wright County commissioner served back-to-back years as the chair was Vetsch’s predecessor, Pat Sawatzke, who served 26 years on the county board – the last two as chair.
Vetsch is entering his eighth year as a county commissioner and said he was both surprised and honored to be nominated and unanimously approved to be the chair again in 2024.
“It’s humbling,” Vetsch said. “It’s nice to be able to share the knowledge I have acquired in seven years as a commissioner. I value being able to share my experience in a leadership role to help come to resolutions as a group – especially on issues that can be polarizing for some of the commissioners on specific topics.”
Vetsch said every board chair runs meetings differently and there is nuance to doing the job. His approach has been to steer the conversation without imposing his own views as much as possible into those discussions. He said it isn’t easy, but something he has learned over time.
“There’s a difference when you’re the chair,” Vetsch said. “In my opinion, you have to take on more of a moderator role and you need to be a little more diplomatic when there are strong differences of opinion. My view of being the chair is that you work to arrive at a compromise when there are opposing viewpoints. At the end of the day, we need to come to a consensus to get things passed and I think I’ve been able to adapt to the role of finding compromise solutions to complicated issues.”
Every chair brings their personality to the role. Some are strong-willed and run meetings with regimentation, while others take a more laid-back approach in how topics are discussed and eventually voted on. Vetsch said he understands the different techniques others have taken and is mindful that the chair is often the one that represents the board and its decisions.
“It’s an important role on the board because the chair is largely in control as to what topics are discussed and when they’re discussed,” Vetsch said. “In many ways, the chair is the spokesperson for the county when decisions at the board level need to be made.”
Vetsch said he expects the dynamic of the board to change in 2024. In his first year on the board in 2017, he was the only new commissioner joining a board that had been working together for two years. He had to learn on the job and ask questions about topics which he was unfamiliar.
In 2023, three new commissioners joined the board and he saw many similarities to his first year. They all had experience working in government, but the issues facing county commissioners are different from city governments or school boards. He said the new commissioners hit the ground running last year and that experience has widened their knowledge of issues that impact county government.
“I think the dynamic of the board is evolving,” Vetsch said. “The longer you’re in the role of commissioner, the more comfortable you become in having a fuller understanding of the issues coming before the board. You get better at articulating your perspective because you have a deeper knowledge base than you had when you first started and everything was new. There were times in my first year I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of information you have to take in to make an informed decision. I would expect that coming into this year, the three commissioners that were new in 2023 will be a greater asset because, while they were all very knowledgeable about how government works coming in, every level of government is different because there are issues at the county level that you just don’t deal with in other levels of government.”
Vetsch said he is looking forward to the challenges the county will face in 2024 and is taking on his role as board chair enthusiastically.
“It’s something I’ve come to enjoy,” Vetsch said. “If a board chair is doing the job right, you’re respectful of people’s opinions and respectful of the time of others in the boardroom for those discussions. I believe I’ve gotten better at that since the first time I was chair and I look forward to helping reach a consensus among the commissioners on the critical issues we will face in the coming year.”