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Merrill Mayor Reacts To Recall Petitions

MERRILL, WI (WSAU) -- Residents in Merrill held a rally in support of an effort to recall five of the eight Alders on the common council Tuesday evening.

Paul Russell, Tim Meehean, Rob Norton, John Vanlieshout, and Dave Sukow could all find themselves defending their seats this summer if the drive is successful. Residents say it's due to a list of several frustrations, including the handling of last year's budget process.

Mayor Derek Woellner says he'd like residents to take a step back and let the process play out during the 2020 spring election, but he does applaud them for being active in their government. "I'm not them, I can't tell them what to do, but I appreciate them putting their money where their mouth is and taking action. They have the right to recall and they are using it." Woellner adds the group is organized. "They seem to know all the rules involved, they are hitting social media and holding rallies, they are doing everything they are supposed to." "I'm not for the recall, it is a two-year term. I would argue [its best] to spend the next year campaigning and learning about city government so you can win for sure," he added.

The petitioners are calling for new leaders in Alder districts 1, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Woellner says the number of signatures needed is equal to 25% of the voting population who cast ballots in the last Gubernatorial election. That means between 100 and 130 signatures will be required from each district to trigger the recall election. "That's quite a hefty amount. In running for Mayor I only needed 50 and I had the whole city to collect from. In each one of these districts, they will need to get over 100." At least two candidates have already been announced should the recall become reality.

Becky Meyer will run for district one and Steve Sabatke will run for district eight. The city clerk will be responsible for certifying the petitions and verifying signatures. An election date will then be set for all districts that passed certificaiton.

While Woellner says he is upset that the recall is taking the focus away from other issues in city government, he is proud that residents are taking action. "It disrupts the flow of city government, so on one side, I'm annoyed. But I'm also proud we have the citizens that care. "These are turbulent times in politics, I see a lot of people all around the country just complaining but in Merrill, we have people taking action so I get some pride from that," added Woellner.

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