MARINETTE — Eric Burmeister will become the next Marinette County highway commissioner, if the full county board follows the advice of its Infrastructure Committee and administrator when it meets Aug. 28.

The committee voted 6-0 on Wednesday to recommend Burmeister, the county’s current emergency management director, be appointed to the post he has held on an interim basic since Rick Rickaby resigned in May.

“My recommendation for the new highway commissioner is Eric Burmeister,” said County Administrator John  Lefebvre. “I was not aware that he was interested in a permanent position as our highway commissioner until such time as I appointed him in the interim. It was maybe a few weeks after that he expressed an interest.”

Lefebvre said, “I have a lot of respect for Eric, I think he will do a wonderful job.”

“He comes in with a totally difference perspective with a military, police academy and risk and emergency management background, which isn’t farfetched as some people might think,” he said. “If ever there is an emergency, the highway department will always be involved. They’ll be involved in either street reconstruction if it’s flooding, if it’s a tornado or major issues with winds or if it’s a blizzard.”

Lefebvre said “an emergency management position in that role would suit us well. He’s got a lot of good ideas that he has expressed to me and list of things he thinks are lacking that he’d like to proceed with.”

“I’m 100 percent behind him as our highway commissioner,” the administrator said. “I’ve discussed this with Al Mans (supervisor and committee chairperson). Before we made this decision, we did solicit applicants for this position. I did not spend a lot of time looking at those applications because I had a conversation with Al and a conversation with Eric about his interest.”

Supervisor Al Sauld asked Lefebvre if any of the applicants had civil engineering degrees.

Lefebvre said some of the applicants did have civil engineering degrees and that is not a requirement for the highway commissioner post. He noted that none of them were from this area.

He stressed that a degree in civil engineering shouldn’t be a must for the post.

“Even when you have a civil engineer on staff, you don’t stop hiring civil engineers,” he said. “You still hire a civil engineering firm to do work for you. I’ve never seen a civil engineer really save the highway department a lot of money.”

Members of the committee and two department heads who were at the meeting also were lavish in their praise of Burmeister.

“I think Eric is an excellent choice from what I’ve seen and what he has done since he has been there,” Mans said. “He just slid right in.”

Forestry and Parks Administrator Peter Villas, who is based at the highway shop in Peshtigo, said he thinks Burmeister has done a remarkable job in the short time he has worked with him and seen him on a day-to-day basis.

He said he feels Burmeister will do a very good job with the background he has that will provide him “with fresh eyes looking at things.”

“Since Eric’s taken over we’ve probably talked or seen each other three or four times a week,” said Facilities Director Marty Keyport. “We’ve bounced ideas around and talked about how we can work better together.”

“He’s got good administrative skills and he’s done some creative things like questioning some areas such as inspections and looking at what should have been done,” Supervisor Gilbert Engel said. 

Lefebvre said he would like the appointment of Burmeister to take effect immediately after it is approved by the full county board.

He stressed that if the county board approves the appointment, an opening for an emergency management director post would need to be filled and suggested the position could based in what is currently a conference room at the highway shop instead of its present location at the Law Enforcement Center.

“One of the frontrunners for how we deal with emergency management in the future is to locate the emergency management office at the highway shop,” Lefebvre said. “It will make more sense when I bring the rest of the information to you.”

After hearing Lefebvre’s idea to move the emergency management office to the highway shop, the committee killed a resolution it approved earlier to move its meetings back to the highway shop from the courthouse.