The McFarland Village Board has made a selection to fill its vacant seat, appointing political newcomer Edward Wreh to fill the final 11 months of Carolyn Clow’s term.
Clow was elected as McFarland village president in April, leaving a vacant seat to be filled by the board. Four people applied and were interviewed by the village board Monday, with Wreh joined by previous board members Daniel Kolk and Clair Utter, along with David Pagenkopf, a member of the village’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.
Wreh’s application for the position lists his profession as a senior product innovation analyst. He previously lived in North Carolina while in the military, and has lived in McFarland for about three years, he said Monday.
In his application, he wrote the following to answer a question about what the most important issue in the village is:
“One of the biggest issues faced by this village and many others is the lack of trust between the community and those representing them,” he said. “While I recognize not all problems can be resolved, I believe that communication and honest dialogue creates a foundation for trust and respect. I would address this issue by working with members of our community to understand their frustration while representing our village in a manner that is consistent with our village.”
Another of the questions on the application specifically asked what candidates would do to ensure racial and social justice in the community.
Wreh said those conversations are ones that need to be had to find “where is the disconnect?”
“As an African American male from the south who is also a veteran, I have had to work with those whose values may not always be the same as mine, however I believe that respect is non-negotiable,” he wrote in his application. “We cannot control the actions of others, but we can control ourselves. When we promote a culture that encourages respect, diversity, social justice, it is harder for hatred to manifest.”
After coming back from a short recess to make a decision at the end of a roughly three-hour meeting, the board was split three to three between Wreh and Kolk, who has served seven years as a McFarland village trustee in the past.
Kolk was appointed to the board in 2012 and elected in 2014, 2016 and 2018. It was that experience that board members Stephanie Brassington, Mike Flaherty and Justin Rupert referenced in voicing support for Kolk.
However, the trio was quickly convinced for Wreh, with recently elected Chris St. Clair most vocal in opposition to Kolk, saying he believed Kolk had been “insulting” to members of the public at previous meetings, though he didn’t mention any specific instances.
Also recently elected, Trustee Carrie Nelson said she felt the recent election of herself and St. Clair “shows people want new voices.”
Clow said she supported Wreh for the spot to get a new, diverse perspective on the board.
All six trustees voted for Wreh after an official motion, with trustees Flaherty and Rupert saying they were going back and forth between Wreh and Kolk, who told the board on Monday that he did not plan to seek re-election if given the position.
Flaherty also encouraged Pagenkopf to run in the spring for the spot, and said he would support him in the future.
Wreh will be sworn into the position before the board’s next meeting on May 24.