Monte G. Osterman – Racine County

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Monte participates on 6 County Board Committees in Racine County and was the WLWCA Supervisor of the Year in 2014. Originally from Southern Indiana, Monte’s dad would take him fishing in Wisconsin, which made Monte love this state so much he moved here 30 years ago. With a strong belief in the power of the public, and a hope that conservation will find its “groove”, Monte is a County Supervisor we are proud to know.  

What previous experiences/education prepared you for your position on the Conservation Committee? 

I have a background in the service industry and have been in business my entire adult life. Growing up on the big Ohio River in Southern Indiana exposed me to the importance of conservation efforts, especially around waterways. I learned from early in my life how to pay attention to the environment. Agriculture was the top industry in our county and I got a information by osmosis. My education was not in conservation, but my experiences were.

What made you decide to run for County Board? 

Like many people, it became apparent that if positive progress was to occur around me, I had to be the one to step up and see if I could make that happen. I was encouraged by a great number of people in the community and local leaders to run for the seat, and felt that it was something right in my wheelhouse. I love working for the public and being part of solutions, so I chose County government because I feel at that level the interaction affects peoples lives the most.

Why do you think it is important to be active on the Conservation Committee? 

One of the most challenging issues affecting our communities these days is how to create sustainability. That not only means within our infrastructure but our developments and land use in general. The most important thing we can do is to hold our lands and waterways in balance with growth. It must be done in a fashion that creates a positive environment for growth and makes it easy for business to thrive. It is a delicate balancing act. Ultimately, I feel good conservation efforts lead to less cost for business and local government and create a more sustainable community model.

What does the future of Wisconsin conservation look like?

I feel Wisconsin conservation efforts are at a crossroads. For many years, we have had very strict environmental protections. Most were necessary, but some were burdensome. I think we are now able to employ more specific testing and applied technological science to know where to increase standards and where to back off.

I think the future will be more rooted in data driven management practices, which really have been developed over the last 15 years or so. No matter what, the way we have worked on environmental issues is rapidly evolving and will continue to do so over the next 10-15 years. I think at that time the environmental industry will kind of settle into a groove, using what we know works well and eliminating those things that are not cost effective.

How would you improve the state of conservation in Wisconsin?

The most important improvement in Wisconsin conservation work would be to create better partnerships with non-profits and other environmental activist groups. These people are passionate about the cause, and they don’t just work it as a 9-5 job. I have always found that most people will do more for a “Thank You” than they will for something in their pockets. In this way, their efforts are invaluable, and the work that is accomplished (often times very quickly) is immense.

Public–private–non-profit partnerships are the key to future success in this state, particularly in light of budget strains we all feel. I have seen first hand how well these work, having been signatory to the agreement that started the RootWorks redevelopment efforts in Racine, the first portion of which is currently underway and valued at $65 million.

What is your county’s most valuable natural resource? 

Certainly our Lake Michigan shoreline and our award winning North Beach are at the top of the list. North Beach has been designated one of the 10 cleanest beaches in that nation. That is not by accident. This is the result of that public–private–non-profit  partnership initiative. North Beach used to be polluted, full of debris, a hang out for bad actors, and suffered from poor water quality.

All that is turned around now and the beach attracts up to 2,000 visitors on the weekends. That is some serious economic impact. Also, our Root River, Pike River, and Fox River are very important waterways. If we are speaking of economic engines though, there is nothing more valuable in Racine County than our farmland.

What is one interesting fact about your county that few may know? 

Even though Racine County has a reputation of seeming very urbanized, the total land mass is 75% agricultural or open space. We have lots and lots of great parks.

What is your favorite outdoor activity in your county? 

I love fishing. My dad grew up in Wisconsin and this is where I learned to fish while vacationing. I loved Wisconsin so much I moved here as an adult 30 years ago. I’ll fish wherever I can but have been more involved on Lake Michigan. I don’t get to do as much as I used to, due to County Board commitments, but I will go whenever or wherever I can.

So if there are other County Supervisors around the state that would like to get me on the best spot in their county please call or email me. We can compare notes and make up fish stories.