Getting appointed in Baraga Co. requires personal connection

Joshua Vissers/Daily Mining Gazette Baraga County Clerk Wendy Goodreau, left, and trustees Bill Rolof, Dan Robillard, Gale Eilola and William Menge listen to a public comment at the Feb. 11 meeting.

Appointments to the Baraga County Extended Care Corporation (BCECC) Board were tabled for the month at Monday’s County Board meeting.

The board is awaiting new candidate recommendations from the Baraga County Memorial Hospital Board (BCMH), which is accepting letters of interest through Feb. 15.

At the board’s Dec. 10, 2018, meeting, trustees Deanna Foucault and Joseph Eckerberg were reappointed to the board by unanimous vote.

Linda Kinnunen, also recommended for reappointment by BCMH Chairwoman Fran Whitman, was turned down. County Board member William Menge requested more names to choose from.

In January, Whitman renominated Kinnunen to the board. Board Chairman Mike Koskinen requested more than one name be presented for selection.

Kinnunen’s nomination was unanimously declined on a motion from Menge.

“There have been some problems in the nursing home,” Menge told the Daily Mining Gazette. “I felt that we had to make a move there.”

Menge declined to specify why Kinnunen’s removal from the board was part of that change but Eckerberg and Foucault were not.

“We’re waiting for the hospital to come up with names for us,” he said. “I like to have more than one name.”

Kinnunen accepted the decision in a thank-you letter recently published in L’Anse’s weekly newspaper.

“Being on Bayside’s Board was a chance to help improve work conditions for the staff and administration,” she wrote.

Menge also defended his summary nomination of Dan Robillard to the County Board.

“I’ve known him since he was a baby,” he said. “I don’t know the other gentleman at all.”

Robillard’s letter of interest contained information about his 31 years of employment with the Michigan Department of Transportation, his appointment as secretary to the L’Anse Township Planning Commission, and his lifelong residency in Baraga.

Menge said the other applicant, Taylor Makela, had never introduced himself to the board.

“To this day I don’t know who he is,” Menge said. “You can’t nominate someone you don’t know.”

Makela confirmed he does not know Menge and volunteered that a previously planned vacation prevented him from attending January’s meeting.

“Poor timing on my part, I’ll concede,” he said.

He also said regardless of previous meetings, it would have been easy to read his letter, and it is important to find new, qualified voices in order to make meaningful change.

Makela’s letter showcased his work as information technology manager at BCMH for the last 10 years.

He told the Daily Mining Gazette that after living in other parts of the country helped him recognize how special Baraga County is, he had chosen to live there and had hoped his outside experience could lend perspective to the board.