Jan. 8, 2007

Russek appointed chairman of Wright County Board

By Cullen Schultz
Staff Writer

People say that to be a true citizen of the United States, you must take an active role in democracy and government affairs.

If that is true, Jack Russek is truly a citizen.

Russek was sworn in as chairman of the Wright County Board of Commissioners Tuesday at the Wright County Government Center.

Although this is the first time he has been the chairman, it is definitely not his first time being involved in politics.

Russek grew up on his family’s farm outside of Delano, in Franklin Township. He attended country school for eight years, and then moved on to Delano High School for a year, before tending to his work on the farm.

Russek’s family farm goes back generations; his father owned it, preceded by his grandfather.

“My father was born there,” Russek said.

Russek continued the tradition, by purchasing the farm in 1961. He ran the farm for 44 years, until retiring in 1995.

“The cows were shipped out in May ‘95,” Russek said.

Russek owned 200 acres of farm land, where he grew corn, oats, and alfalfa, as well as having 50 milking cows.

Speaking of the farm, Russek said, “I have so many stories that have happened, I could write a book.”

He lived there with his wife of more than 47 years, Renata, and their two daughters, Debra (Marketon), and Denise (Stewart).

After retirement, Russek lived on the farm for 10 more years, before building a house in Delano in 2005.

“We moved there in May 2005, and it seems like we have lived there forever,” he said.

Farming gave Russek his first opportunity to be involved in diplomacy, working as a delegate in the Mid American Dairymen Co-op.

Russek was a delegate for seven years, going to annual meetings and giving feedback and suggestions to the co-op.

“We talked about what direction the co-op should be heading,” Russek said.

Russek’s next term of public service brought him onto the Franklin Township board, where he served for eight years.

While Russek was on the board, his most memorable moment was when it passed an ordinance to have the township black tar its first road.

“It was a good experience,” Russek said.

Russek remained on the Franklin Township board until 2003, when he ran for the position of county commissioner for District 3 on the Wright County Board.

“When I won, I had to resign (from the township board), because you can only be on one board at a time,” Russek said.

Russek has represented District 3, which includes the city of Delano, Franklin Township, Buffalo precinct three, Rockford city (Wright County part) and township, Waverly city, and Woodland Township.

Russek’s first real challenge after being elected to the Wright County Board, was the decision on the county compost facility.

It was opened in 2002, and operating costs were far greater than expected. It came down to two choices, create a levy and keep it going, or shut it down.

“If we would have done the levy, more people in the county would have had to pay the fee,” Russek said.

Russek and the board decided against the levy, and the facility shut down in 2004. It is now used for collecting hazardous wastes such as paint, and scrap metal.

“We decided it had to pay its own way, or shut it down,” Russek said.

As everyone knows, not everyone enjoys paying taxes, and taxes are an ongoing challenge for Russek and the board. The group tries to have as few taxes as possible, while still functioning to its fullest potential.

“The biggest challenge is taxes,” Russek said. “We try to be conservative, but at the same time, we have to have money to pay for staff, etc.”

Now that Russek is the board chairman, he conducts the board meetings, signs checks and official documents, as well as keeps all of his former duties.

“I have the privilege of signing everything,” Russek said with a laugh

Looking on to 2007, Russek said the board’s main goal is to get the new county jail and law enforcement center ready for construction. The board is focusing on bidding for the site preparation, so it can start in March, with construction to follow in the summer.

“The jail will be by the public works building in Buffalo, and it will have 348 beds,” Russek said.

The construction is expected to be done by February or March of 2009.

In order for the county to plan and organize such projects as the jail, the board looks to committees. The committees are set up to find solutions to various problems, brings its recommendations to the board, and the board responds by voting on their proposals.

“The county board is functioning with a lot of committees,” Russek said.

Russek is no stranger to these committees. Even before he was a board member, he was active in various committees. Over the years, he has joined more and more.

Russek serves on committees for: the budget, capital improvement/finance, compost finance, county extension service, forfeited tax sales, Highway 55 coalition, labor/management health insurance, planning and zoning, public works labor/management, and union negotiations.

He is also a member of the Crow River Organization of Waters, and the Wright County Soil and Water Conservation District Board.

Jack Russek has done a lot for Wright County, and 2007 looks to be yet another year of getting things done.

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