County Executive Dreier won’t seek re-election
By Heather McDonald
Portage County Executive Patty Dreier announced late last week she will not seek reelection for the post in the spring 2018.
“I am not retiring, just looking forward to opening new doors and chapters in my life as I strive to achieve some other goals that I have set for myself,” she said in a press release.
Dreier said early this week that she is working on transitioning from the office, but it will not lessen her interest in and support of county issues that remain at the forefront.
The same day Dreier announced she will not run for a third term (July 28), Jami Gebert, Dreier’s executive assistant for the past seven-plus years, tossed her hat in the ring. She joins County Board Supervisor Matt Jacowski, District 22, in the race for the position. Jacowski announced his candidacy at the end of June.
First elected to the County Executive position in 2010, Dreier has led the county in increasing department efficiencies through technology systems, supported and assisted the county in developing a salary schedule that better aligned employee wages with those in surrounding counties, and she has focused on addressing groundwater issues, among other achievements.
“We’ve accomplished a lot together,” she said. “Certainly, there have been many tough days and challenges, but there has never been a day about anything other than Portage County’s long-term best interests.”
In some cases – even as recent as the past 12 months – Dreier has faced ridicule and verbal attacks during public meetings, hostile enough to have committee and County Board chairs caution attendees in their responses and comments. She has said she recognizes that not all agree with board decisions, but as the county executive, she is charged with moving the county forward according to the county’s mission and the board’s vote, policies and guidance.
Dreier has herself made suggestions that have garnered – in some cases widespread – criticism, including an idea of partnering with the Sisters of St. Joseph-Third Order of St. Francis in creating a healthcare continuum in order to relieve the county of the financial difficulties of operating the county Health Care Center.
Though that particular partnership was rejected, the county continues to look at ideas that would reduce or eliminate the financial burden and also maintain care of those most vulnerable and most in need of long-term health care in the county.
Dreier also has brought county leaders together to establish a strategic master plan that is updated every four years and includes areas in which to focus forward movement of the county mission. The County Board approved the 2017-2021 Master Plan this summer.
Dreier and Gebert’s announcements came within minutes of each other; Dreier indicated that she would support Gebert in her efforts, saying she has every confidence Gebert is knowledgeable in the challenges and demands of the position and the direction of the county.
“I am confident in her leadership, administrative skills, and understanding of the complexities of county government operations,” Dreier said. “I throw my support behind her as I believe she has everything it will take to continue our forward momentum from a community, economic and service standpoint.
“I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the very best people inside and outside of government,” she said. “These are people who put the love of our county before their own self-interests. This pure love of service, this pure duty of heart for the good of the whole of our community today and tomorrow is what Jami is all about.”