BEMIDJI – Depending on which side you stand, Greg Nelson is either the right man for the job, or someone who was appointed unnecessarily quickly.
Two men in Beltrami County government – District 5 Commissioner Jim Lucachick and Natural Resource Management Director Dick Moore – represent those opposing sides.
“It just needs to be put out to more people,” Lucachick said Wednesday. “I’m not trying to say we should have another cross country ski person on the (Park and Trail Advisory Council), I just want to say ‘let’s not grab the next guy.’”
Language in Beltrami County by-laws stipulates the following:
“Membership on the Park and Trail Advisory Council is by invitation and appointment by the County Board.”
The wording is straightforward, but the process for finding applicants is anything but – especially when searching for an experienced forester to serve on the PTAC.
“It’s a much more limited pool,” Moore said. “Essentially, I’m replacing one DNR forester with another DNR forester.”
That would be Nelson, a forester who previously worked for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for three decades. He’ll replace outgoing forestry representative Jim Gubbels, who vacated his position three months ago.
Nelson was appointed to the PTAC at the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday with a 3-1 vote, with Lucachick voting against the appointment.
“(Moore) is responsible for lobbying the PTAC group and asking who’s out there, and who’s available,” Lucachick said. “I just don’t see that this process was followed.”
Both Lucachick and Moore agreed that diversity – abundant as it is in views of how county parks should be managed – should be just as prevalent on the PTAC.
“We’re trying to bring in different talents from the community,” Moore said. “We’re trying to have a diverse group.”
The PTAC is a non-elected body that serves in an advisory capacity to the County Board. Representatives of parks and recreation, tourism, forestry and several at-large positions make up the 11-member council.
Nelson’s appointment, a contentious one for Lucachick, might well represent the factious nature of the council itself.
“I think people are passionate about it because these areas are well-used by a diverse group, and they’ve been in place for a long time,” Moore said.
Lucachick argued Wednesday that his constituents just want to be part of the discussion.
“Over and over, we hear the same response from the general public, that they don’t get the chance to sit on these committees,” he said.
Despite Lucachick’s objections, Nelson will be on hand for the PTAC’s April 25 meeting.