MARINETTE — The debate between members of the Marinette County Board of Supervisors over how the county should promote tourism and market the county continued Tuesday.

The county board voted 15-13 to direct its Development Committee and county administrator to create an internal tourism director position. Four days earlier, the board’s Infrastructure Committee voted 5-0 to recommend the Administrative Committee approve a proposal by County Administrator John Lefebvre to create a program assistant position in the Facilities and Parks Department to assist with the marketing and development of county-owned and -operated facilities and recreational activities.

Supervisor Bonnie Popp made the motion, with support from Supervisor Rick Polzin, to create the internal tourism director position which Lefebvre said “is almost a direct duplicate of his program assistant position proposal, which last month was also endorsed by all members of the Development Committee except Popp.

“That position is to be used specifically for promoting and marketing county assets and developing county assets, and we will continue to partner with any entity that wishes to partner with us on tourism-related issues,” Lefebvre explained. “We will start with the position marketing our assets that we have, that in the past have made up to 80 to 90 percent of what we have marketed. We’ve been marketing our waterfalls, our parks, our campgrounds, our recreational land, and our snowmobile and ATV trails”

The county board voted in February 2018 to contract with the City of Marinette for tourism promotion and marketing. It has been without a tourism director of its own since Butch Kostreva resigned his part-time position in November 2017. Lefebvre said in October of last year that he had notified the city “that it is not my intent to bring the contract back to the county board for renewal.”

Some supervisors and others contend the program assistant position would not treat all areas of the county equally. 

“When it comes to this we should treat everybody equally in Martinette County,” said Supervisor Mark Anderson, county board chairperson.

“The reason I voted against John’s proposal (for the program assistant position) is because at this point it is very limited,” explained Popp, who said she’s worked in tourism for 20 years. “It does not promote everything that there is to do in the county. It’s opened a can of worms and I knew this would happen. The City of Marinette Tourism Committee is asking for funds and that is going to set a precedent.

“We really need to make  a commitment to tourism. We need one-stop shopping. We need to go big on tourism and development.”

Anderson said “there needs to be a single contact source (for county tourism).”

Lefebvre stressed that the proposed program assistant would be in the Facilities and Parks Department with support, while the internal tourism director would be in a “standalone department” with no help.

“We need someone who has worked in tourism and is ready for a leadership position,” Popp said. “We need a tourism expert.”

Anderson said there’s $125,000 in the county budget for tourism, as there has been for the two previous years.

Lefebvre said the tourism budget is part of the administrative budget. He said it contains $65,000 that could be for the salary of the proposed program assistant and $60,000 to promote tourism, of which $32,000 has already been committed this year to advertise the county in magazines and newspapers, and to attend trade shows. 

“That’s not a whole lot different from what we’ve been spending with the City of Marinette.” he said. “I think the assets of Marinette County is where we need to concentrate. We need to concentrate on advertising the assets we have and on creating more assets. That’s what’s going to bring people in.”

Lefebvre said the county is using 100 % of county sales tax revenue proportionally across the entire county to pay down the county’s debt.

“We’re creating a program assistant position with expertise in marketing, promotion, putting together ad materials, dealing with social media, helping build assets and providing support for our Facilities and Parks Department through creating additional opportunities in the county,” he said

“We set policy and the administration carries it out,” said Supervisor Robert Holley, board vice chairperson. “So the policies we set are what the administration carries out.”

Supervisor Don Pazynski said “We know what we want to get done. Give John a chance to do it now.”

“You should be spending money on all that Marinette County has, not just Marinette County assets,” Anderson said. “Get started in that direction.”