Retiring Green Lake County Clerk Marge Bostelmann holds her 2014 Wisconsin Counties Association Friend in County Government award, the highest honor the association bestows upon an individual.

When talking to Ripon College students last week about how to write an editorial, this scribe suggested one hallmark of a persuasive opinion piece is that it presents a thorough explanation of an opposing viewpoint before refuting its logic or facts.

This is Communication 101: Dialogue is enhanced when a speaker understands another’s position before evaluating its merit.

So it was disappointing last week to read a vacuous statement by Kent McKelvey, chair of the Republican Party of Green Lake County, that excommunicated longtime, faithful Republican and Green Lake resident Marge Bostelmann from the party.

The reason?

“… her actions as a member of the [Wisconsin Elections] Commission do not reflect the principles, values and beliefs of the Green Lake County Republicans, in this case, supporting the proper enforcement of the law and of election integrity.”

That’s it. No details. No examples. No grievances.

Hard to refute a groundless indictment from a party elder who uses keystrokes to sentence into political purgatory a woman who a year ago was a defendant in a lawsuit, Democratic National Committee v. Bostelmann et al., in which plaintiffs sought an injunction related to the Nov. 3, 2020 election.

So in the space of a year, Bostelmann has been sued by Democrats and rejected by Republicans.

But here’s what makes this sorry episode truly bizarre: Friends and family will tell you that the thoughtful, soft-spoken Bostelmann is capable, considerate and loyal. She’s a principled person and has been a steadfast Republican, philosophically and through her affiliations.

Typical is the sentiment of former state Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, who wrote this on Facebook last week about his GOP colleague and the county party that seeks to humiliate her.

“I have known and worked with her for years. She is the most honest and ethical person I know. If the Green Lake GOP has found it necessary to disassociate with her, as I see it the county GOP is now not worthy of associating with. Very sad what this party has turned into.”

For almost a quarter century Bostelmann served as Green Lake County Clerk, running as a Republican in every election since 1992 and consistently winning because she was widely respected and trusted. This was before the county had its own administrator; more than any one, Bostelmann served as de facto county executive.

She often came in to the office early, attended night meetings, worked weekends. “After family, my job was important to me,” she told the Commonwealth five years ago.

In 2014, the Wisconsin Counties Association handed Bostelmann its highest honor, the WCA Friend in County Government Award. Unbeknownst to her, then state Sen. Olsen had attended the meeting in Sauk County just to watch the spotlight shine on his “wonderful and trusted” Republican friend.

Bostelmann helped found a three-county wide Habitat for Humanity chapter, served as a charter board member of the Green Lake County/Ripon Community Foundation and has been a past president and a member of Green Lake Rotary since 1992.

In 2006 she served on the steering community that helped usher in the Statewide Voter Registration System, which remained until replaced by WisVote five years ago.

Bostelmann’s ability to not only weather but to lead the state’s progress toward greater electoral efficiency and technological sophistication caused Republican Gov. Scott Walker to appoint her to serve as one of the three Republican members of the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) in a term ending May 1, 2024. The bipartisan state Senate voted 33-0 to ratify her appointment.

Although a proud Republican on both the county and then state levels, Bostelmann reported to no party when the issue was election integrity. The Green Lake resident and secretary of the WEC told investigative reporter Vanessa Swales last year that despite her colleagues’ party labels, all share a common goal: “A safe and fair and honest election.”

That may be why, during a two-and-a-half-hour WEC hearing last Dec. 1 to discuss certifying the Nov. 3 election results, Bostelmann shared her counsel that the commission slow down while awaiting results from audits on potential election irregularities:

“I just wanted to say that having been involved in audits in the past and knowing the results of audits in the past that our equipment has performed very well. And I think it’s also important though, because this election and all the concerns that we have, that it is important that we really get the final detail and then approve it. And I think that that only goes towards proving the integrity of the elections and our machines. So that is why I think it’s fine to wait until we have the detail to accept it.”

A perfectly conservative position. Yet the Green Lake County GOP decided 11 months later to tell Bostelmann to hit the road, offering her this not-so-fond farewell:

“Our country is under a full-on assault by untold numbers of people, groups, and foreign actors, all wishing to gain control and fundamentally change our uniquely American way of life. From local governments, to the press, bureaucrats, and elected officials (and sadly, our delusional RINO’s) the indoctrination undermining our God-given rights and freedoms is wi despread and currently very effective. We are a conservative county, we are one of the smallest counties in the state, but by the strength of our determination, our message, our values, and vision for saving our republic will be proudly proclaimed and promoted to all!”

All, that is, except Bostelmann, Olson and other disaffected Republicans, whose blood is insufficiently red to pacify the puritanical bouncers who now stand outside the entrance to Ronald Reagan’s big tent as it shrinks in size and character.

— Tim Lyke

(6) comments

Joellyn Jaeger

Marge is an honest, decent person. She does not, in any way, deserve to be treated this way. There is a cancer in our society, and it is growing. So very sad to see.

Michael Shohoney

Unwillingness to perpetuate the "Big Lie" is now the litmus test for the Trumpian wing of the party. Truly sad. The GOP has lost its way.

Sallie Helmer

The "Big Lie" is that Biden won the election in 2020.

Arthur Baseler

And for you to i9mply that tRump won is the BIG DELUSION.

Sallie Helmer

The 'Big Lie' is that Biden won the election in 2020.

Michael Shohoney

Sallie, you are displaying a level of delusion that is concerning.

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