Councilor calls it quits on committeesOne Superior city councilor is stepping back from his committee responsibilities, approved by a majority of council members.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
One Superior city councilor is stepping back from his committee responsibilities, approved by a majority of council members.
Councilors voted 6-3 Tuesday night to allow Councilor Greg Mertzig to resign his committee appointments. Mertzig made the request to resign based on his federal military service as an Army Reservist following a lengthy debate in May in which Mertzig challenged an appointment to the Human Resource Committee as an alternate. Then, he argued for full membership to the panel.
“If I were to put everything on the back burner for my Army Reserve obligations, I wouldn’t do anything,” Mertzig said Tuesday. “I wouldn’t go to school; I wouldn’t educate myself. I wouldn’t have a civilian job. I don’t understand the logic of ‘you’re in the Army Reserve; don’t do anything else.’ That’s just not how I operate. I give what I can, where I can.”
Mertzig said he has contemplated his decision to relieve himself of committee obligations since May, when attendance and preparedness were both cited as reasons for maintaining his status as an alternate for on his only standing committee appointment.
Mertzig also served on committees that oversee public access television and deer management, the Superior Public Museums board and Superior Tourism Development Foundation.
“For the most part, I understand Councilor Mertzig’s situation he now faces,” said Councilor Mick McKenzie. “He has been criticized and scrutinized for his attendance record.” McKenzie said he understands those absences are a result of his military service. The 9th District councilor acknowledge that he would have liked to seen Mertzig more involved in the committees he served on, but his understanding was absences were related to service to country.
McKenzie said for that reason, he voted in favor of allowing Mertzig to resign.
“I disagree 100 percent,” said Councilor Esther Dalbec, whose grandsons have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Mr. Mertzig should not resign from his committee meetings. He should attend the one’s he possibly can, just like he attends the council meetings. I have nothing against anyone who serves in the military.”
Dalbec said if Mertzig cannot meet his obligations as a councilor because of his military service, he should also resign as a city councilor.
Councilor Denise McDonald agreed. She said while she holds Mertzig’s service in the military in the highest regard, she doesn’t believe that should stand in the way of Mertzig attending the meetings he can.
“If he is available, he should take part,” McDonald said.
“When I ran for city council, I let my constituents know that I was in the Army Reserve,” and deployment to a war zone was a possibility, Mertzig said. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan before taking office last year.
Mertzig won the 4th District council seat in 2009 by 15 votes.
Council President Bob Finsland, a Navy veteran, questioned who should take on the responsibility Mertzig would relinquish.
“Don’t you have an obligation to fulfill those things you volunteered to do?” Finsland asked. “And since you voluntarily ran for city council, don’t you feel an obligation to participate to the extent you are able. Unless you are physically unable, why wouldn’t you chose to participate or respond to your constituents?”
Next month, Finsland will submit appointments to replace Mertzig on committees.
“The military is different than the city council, Mertzig said. “If I don’t show up for the military, I go to prison. If I don’t show up for the council, I call Mrs. Kalan and say excuse me for this month. I don’t need an excuse,” Mertzig said.
Mayor Dave Ross said no one is disputing Mertzig’s military service over his council responsibility. The concern is his unavailability when he’s not engaged in military service.
“The issue I’m hearing in the community is that he’s … not making himself available to committee appointments and constituent service when he is available,” Ross said. The mayor said he struggles to believe Mertzig was elected with the expectation that he wouldn’t serve his constituents when available or serve on any committees.