Possible dissolvement of Portage County Diversity Affairs & Inclusiveness Committee

The committee was formed in 2020, and it's future will be discussed at a county board meeting August 15
Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 4:34 PM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - A Portage County committee is showing signs that it might dissolve next week. The Diversity Affairs and Inclusiveness Committee, even though they’re against the decision, will meet on Thursday evening to discuss this possibility.

The committee is made up of 3 supervisors and 4 community members. The chairperson says it was formed after George Floyd was killed back in 2020. A decision he says passed through the board unanimously.

“I was never notified that they were going to try to dissolve this committee,” said Vincent Miressi, Chair of the Diversity Affairs & Inclusiveness Committee.

He stated that Portage County Executive John Pavelski has been against it from the beginning.

“The first phone conversation we had when he first was elected into office, was that he fully intended to dissolve this committee within one month of him taking office,” said Miressi.

“What we’re actually finding out is that there’s a lot of redundancy that is actually happening,” Pavelski retorted.

Pavelski cited that certain policies the committee is trying to implement are already a part of different organizations, such as health and human services, HR departments, the Salvation Army, and many more.

He added that he was elected to get rid of government oversight as much as possible.

“To make it more efficient, make it more economical, make it more responsive to the taxpayers, constituents, to the people that elected me,” Pavelski said.

“We need to be doing this work as well. Evaluating our policies and how we’re providing services for people, making sure it’s fair and equitable for all of Portage County residents,” said Miressi.

The committee’s main goal, as Miressi says, is looking at the gaps in current policies put in place and figuring out how to best serve the community and marginalized populations.

“Diversity does go beyond skin color, but we can’t ignore the fact that the people making all the decisions are primarily white,” said Miressi. “I have hope that our county board will do the right thing, I really do.”

“I think we do a pretty good job of giving opportunities,” Pavelski stated. “Are some people racist? Of course. Are you going to stop that? No.”

Miressi believes that the county board and executive don’t want to have these conversations.

On Thursday evening, the Diversity & Inclusiveness Committee was set to discuss the dissolvement of the committee, but a decision likely won’t be made until it goes to the County Board meeting on August 15.