Columbia County official’s life to be honored in Admin Building

January 10, 2019
Columbia County Supervisor Kirk Konkel, right, chats with fellow supervisors (left to right) Don DeYoung of Friesland, Mike Weyh of the town of Lewiston and Henry St. Maurice of Columbus in front of the Administration Building, before the Aug. 18 dedication of the county's building project.

The life of late Columbia County Supervisor Kirk Konkel will be memorialized Sunday in one of the structures built largely under Konkel’s guidance — the Columbia County Administration Building.

It’s a first for the building, which has been open for business for about 19 months.

But Columbia County Board Chairman Vern Gove of Portage, Konkel’s close friend, said there’s no place more appropriate to remember the life of a longtime public servant, whose most recent service entailed leading the county board’s five-member Ad Hoc Building Committee. That committee oversaw the project for which the county board agreed in November 2014 to borrow $45.51 million.

“Konkel had so much to do with these buildings,” Gove said, referring to the Administration Building at 112 E. Edgewater St., the Health and Human Services Building at 111 E. Mullett St. and the renovated courthouse at 400 De Witt St.

The structures comprised the lion’s share of Columbia County’s largest building project ever, a $47 million effort that was completed last summer after more than four years of planning.

Konkel, 74, died unexpectedly last month at his Portage home. He has been buried near the graves of his parents, Albert and Phyllis Konkel, near Marion, the community where he grew up in Shawano County.

Columbia County Clerk Susan Moll said the Administration Building would not be an appropriate venue for a funeral, but it’s more than appropriate for a gathering to remember Konkel’s life.

The gathering will be held in the county board’s meeting room, on the building’s first floor.

Konkel was first elected to the county board in 2010. He also had been chairman of the city of Portage’s Parks and Recreation Board and a member of the city’s Plan Commission.

And, during his 36-year career at the DOT, he had been the transportation department’s representative to what was then called the Highway Safety Commission (now known as the Traffic Safety Commission), which meets quarterly to address safety issues on roads throughout Columbia County.

Gove told the county board’s Executive Committee on Monday that Tom Drury, a citizen member of the county’s Health and Human Services Board, is a chaplain, and will preside at the memorial celebration.

He said he planned the celebration with the help of Konkel’s close friends, Tim and Nancy McGee of Sauk City.

The plans include a catered lunch after the service, in the Aging and Disability Resources Center dining room in the Health and Human Services Building. An enclosed walkway over the Portage Canal between the two buildings — usually accessible only to county employees with key cards — will be open to the public.

Instead of giving flowers, Gove said, attendees are invited to contribute to one of Konkel’s favorite charities, the Helping Hands pantry in Wyocena.

According to the village of Wyocena’s website, Helping Hands distributes not only food, but also clothing, shoes, children’s toys and small household items to people who live in the Pardeeville School District. Helping Hands is open from 10 a.m. to noon the first three Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each month, at 165 E. Dodge St.

Gove said Konkel donated his county board pay — $60 for each meeting of the full board, and $45 for each meeting of a committee of which he was a member — to Helping Hands. (According to county board records, the Ad Hoc Building Committee met 82 times over its nearly four years of existence.)

The search is underway for Konkel’s successor representing District 6 on the county board. District 6 encompasses wards 5 and 8 in the city of Portage, on the city’s northwest side.

Any resident of the district who is interested in an appointment to fill the remainder of Konkel’s term (which will expire in April 2020) is asked to submit a letter of application by Feb. 22 addressed to Vern Gove, chairman, Columbia County Board of Supervisors, 112 E. Edgewater St., Portage, WI 53901.

The executive committee will talk to applicants on March 11 about their qualifications for the post. The committee will recommend an appointee, and the full county board will make the appointment on March 20.

A map of District 6 can be found at the clerk’s office on the first floor of the Administration Building, or online at www.co.columbia.wi.us.

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