Wakefield Township acknowledges death of Jerry Niemi



Wakefield TOWNSHIP — Members of the Wakefield Township Board of Trustees voted in a special Tuesday evening meeting to advertise an opening on the board.

The action was taken in acknowledgment of last weekend’s passing of Gerald “Jerry” Niemi, who had just been re-elected to the board on Nov. 3.

“I was looking forward to working with him,” said newly-elected Clerk Jennifer Ahonen in the virtual session. “He was a great board member.”

“He was fantastic,” said Supervisor Mandy Lake. “He was an awesome guy. This is a significant loss to the township.”

Lake said that one of Niemi’s responsibilities was to attend meetings of the Gogebic Range Water Authority. “He never missed a beat at any of those meetings or any of our meetings,” she said.

In a later email, Lake added, “Jerry was a great man and a very knowledgeable board member. I’m glad to have had the privilege to get to know him better by serving the public with him.  He will be dearly missed.”

Tuesday’s vote noted a Jan. 15, 2021 deadline for applications for the empty seat.

Board members then will meet in another special session on Jan. 19 to review applications and conduct interviews, after which they will vote for someone to complete the new four-year term that Niemi had just started.

Once appointed, Lake said the new member will be sworn in immediately.

Lake specified that applicants must have been residents of the township for the past 30 days and also must be a registered elector — that is, registered to vote.

She expected to post the opening on the township’s website and on Facebook as soon as possible, after which it will be published in a local newspaper.

The supervisor said the open slot must be filled within 45 days from last Sunday in order to avoid the scheduling of a special election.

Due to pending state rulings, Lake said it is not yet clear whether the Jan. 19 meeting will be in the Wakefield Township Hall or whether it will be virtual.

In other news, the board also voted unanimously to enter a contract with Kathy Jo Koval, who recently accepted the role of designated assessor for Gogebic County.

The state is now requiring that each county appoint someone to the newly-created role that is intended to act as a back-up to each governmental unit’s regular assessor.

Lake said that Wakefield Township Supervisor Melissa Prisbe explained to her that the new position will act as a safeguard, so that — in the event of any problems — the state will not have to review local tax rolls. Instead, Koval, who also is Gogebic County’s equalization director, will assume that responsibility.

Lake added that Prisbe has assured her she does not expect to have any issues in addressing her duties, and Lake agreed.

The board’s next regular meeting will be on Jan. 5, 2021. Due to pandemic restrictions, persons wishing to attend the virtual meeting should first call the supervisor at 906-364-0669 for access information.