By Shereen Siewert
After 14 years of service to the city, Wausau Dist. 8 Council Representative Karen Kellbach has stepped down from her role as she moves to Oklahoma to be closer to her son.
Kellbach, who represented her district from April 2000 to April 2006. Her most recent term began in March 2011, when she was appointed to fill an open position. She is also a member of the county board. Her resignation from both bodies is effective immediately.
City Council President Lisa Rasmussen called Kellbach a staunch supporter of public safety who listened to the wishes of her constituents and fought tirelessly on their behalf.
In 2014 when residents in her district were fed up with suspected drug activity along 10th Avenue Kellbach acted swiftly, arranging a meeting between residents, police, and city officials to address the problem.
Within 24 hours police were knocking on doors and asking neighbors to be their on the lookout and speak up if they observed troubling behavior. Her actions resulted in the creation of their Neighborhood Resource Unit. Through a collaborative effort between the police department and property inspectors, the area was swiftly cleaned up. Suspected drug dealers were taken off the streets. Residents effectively took back their neighborhood.
“Karen met regularly with residents and worked with our police department to find solutions,” Rasmussen said. “Without her determination, these efforts might have taken years longer to develop. The Neighborhood Resource Unit was so successful, it’s initiative was rolled out city wide and continues to impact neighborhoods today.”
Karen was also willing to fight when it was necessary, Rasmussen said.
“On two separate occasions, she successfully fought re zoning requests in her area that would have placed a Kwik Trip in her neighborhood,” Rasmussen said. “A development strongly opposed by many of her constituents. She demanded the city and the developer hold stakeholder meetings to answer questions and hear from affected residents. She never wavered in her support of her residents. When many of us were thinking of the issue in terms of economics, she reminded us why we are here. To represent people. To be their voice, and she won.”
Wausau Mayor Rob Mielke said he is sad to lose Kellbach on the council.
“She did an excellent job in representing her district and all of Wausau,” Mielke said. “She was also a very kind, civil and decent person who will be missed, I personally am indebted to her for the help, advice and friendship that she gave me over the years.”
Rasmussen said the council aims to appoint a replacement within about a month. Information will be forthcoming for applicants interested in representing the district between now and the April 2020 election.