”There’s something happening here. But what it is ain’t exactly clear....”
Those familiar lyrics from the 1960s Buffalo Springfield rock anthem might be appropriate for Dodge County these days.
It is not clear what is happening, but the recall election on Tuesday should serve as a wake up call for those people on the Dodge County Board who think business as usual is good enough.
Dan Siegmann, who’s been an outspoken critic of the county on several fronts, unseated long-term incumbent Thomas Schaefer, earning more than four times as many votes as the incumbent. It was shocking for a political newcomer to make such an impressive showing.
In many ways it was not a surprise. This back-to-basics candidate runs a popular Facebook site that has a lot of followers and he is not bashful about speaking his mind and calling those in authority into question.
He was a leader earlier in the pandemic when the crowds assembled at the Dodge County Administrative Building to protest changes to the health ordinance that they felt were an overreach and were infringing on some of their civil liberties. Many people would argue that that interpretation itself was also an overreach for an ordinance that most people in county government looked at as almost a technicality or perhaps a clarification of county powers during an emergency.
The point here is not about that distinction, but what came of it.
The message here was as much about listening as it was about the impact of the change. One reason there was an angry crowd inside and outside the courthouse in those early days of the pandemic was because people felt they were not being heard. And in a democracy, that is always the first step for change. Being ignored is usually not well received.
Schaefer was not alone in his view on the health ordinance, but he happened to be in the district where Siegmann lived, and this upstart was not taking it lying down. He looked at it as a citizen who felt like he was being snubbed, that his views did not matter.
And in the world of social media, when people with a strong view have a strong following to go with it, that is also a recipe for change.
This libertarian approach has to send chills through the halls of county government. It’s unclear how long Siegmann’s coattails are, but he contends he has a lot of other followers who think the way he does, and that this is the opening round of more upheaval. It’s just possible that there is a tide changing in Dodge County government.
Of course, it is also possible that this is a unique situation. After all, Schaefer did not campaign hard and his opponent did, and his nonchalance and pride came at a price, losing his seat on the county board. Incumbency does not carry as much weight during a low-turnout race.
What does it all mean? This is the stuff a lot of cold beers are consumed over.
To return to Buffalo Springfield again, it is not exactly clear. But if you are a politician on the Dodge County Board, we suggest you keep your ear to the ground. It’s entirely possible that, to reference another 1960s song from folk singer and poet Bob Dylan, the times they are a changing.
And if that is the case, hold onto your hats.