By Doug Hissom Special to Published Jul 10, 2009 at 5:35 AM

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And now, a taste of small-town politics...

Price County Sheriff Wally Krenzke finds himself embroiled in the recall fervor that has stuck our state in the recent past.

Krenzke, a former Milwaukee police officer, will face a recall primary election July 28. Organizers of the signature drive that initiated the recall rallied around accusations that the sheriff did not make a good enough effort to find a drunk, 70-year-old woman with dementia who ended up dying in the snow March 30. The woman eluded search teams over a 16-hour effort to find her.

She had had a fight with her husband, a common occurrence according to locals, and ran away. The sheriff's department reports that it was a regular event at that household and the woman was not supposed to be drinking after amassing five drunk driving convictions.

Price County (population 15,822) is located in north central Wisconsin, way up north, and is known more for its fishing, trees and snowmobile and ATV trails than for political controversies. It was the scene a few years ago of a citizen effort demanding that the county board reduce its size.

A small group of citizens -- including the guy that Krenzke ousted from office seven years ago -- was able to get 2,000 signatures in the effort.

The area's prominent TV station publicized locations that recall petitioners would be stationed. And recallers had a little help from the local county clerk, who is charged with verifying the signatures. Petitioners would bring in signatures from time to time before the deadline for the clerk to verify. She would then tell them how many more valid signatures they needed -- not exactly following the letter of the law. Petitions are generally supposed to be presented once for verification. The clerk stood by her interpretation.

Krenzke was told by the Government Accountability Board that he could file a complaint about the practice, but said he didn't want to look like the bad guy and also supported people's right to recall.

"My job is to uphold the constitution," he said at the time, "not to tinker with it."

Krenzke also had a difficult time getting the story of the search out in the local press. A paper some 40 miles away from the county seat of Phillips (pop. 1,675) and in the next county -- The Lakeland Times of Minocqua -- was the first to get most of his side of the story.

Two other Price County papers -- owned by the same publisher -- chose to be more creative. Krenzke was left to see his side come out in op-ed pieces from supporters countering editorials from the editor of the local paper, The Phillips Bee. Krenzke is also the former Phillips police chief.

The recall primary is set for July 28. So far, four candidates have turned in nomination papers, including the guy Krenzke beat, a sheriff's deputy and county supervisor. Krenzke was first elected in 2002 after a furor developed when the previous sheriff supported building a new and controversial jail.

The finals are set for Aug. 25.

Campaign Fun in ‘Tosa: Residents of Wauwatosa and some surrounding communities should brace for a year-long campaign joust between state Sen. Jim Sullivan (D-Wauwatosa) and state Rep. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa).

Vukmir announced earlier this month she's giving up her seat to take on Sullivan in the 2010 fall election. It's bound to be a high-spending frenzy since the GOP sees Sullivan's seat as a key to wresting control of the Senate back from the Dems.

Sullivan beat a right-wing nut by less than four percentage points in 2006. Vukmir is known for wearing conservative values on her sleeve and tends to espouse them at length on the legislative floor.

Butterfly Brew-ha: Monarch butterfly backers are rallying against parts of the Zoo Interchange expansion project. Despite assurances from Department of Transportation folks that the butterflies would not be affected by the construction, the preliminary Environmental Impact Statement for the interchange says part of the monarch habitat on the County Grounds would be destroyed as part of the project.

The study doesn't suggest that the state would create new habitat for the monarchs. The County Grounds is a major stopping area during Monarch migration. No mention in the study is made about the impacts of the proposed UWM engineering school.

Comments on the plan are due by July 13. A public hearing was held recently. Find out more here



Doug Hissom Special to
Doug Hissom has covered local and state politics for 20 years. Over the course of that time he was publisher, editor, news editor, managing editor and senior writer at the Shepherd Express weekly paper in Milwaukee. He also covered education and environmental issues extensively. He ran the UWM Post in the mid-1980s, winning a Society of Professional Journalists award as best non-daily college newspaper.

An avid outdoors person he regularly takes extended paddling trips in the wilderness, preferring the hinterlands of northern Canada and Alaska. After a bet with a bunch of sailors, he paddled across Lake Michigan in a canoe.

He lives in Bay View.