By NATE BEIER | Wilton
How was my summer?
Since the summer of 2000 I have looked forward to and enjoyed working at the Wilton Pool. It’s my summer hobby job that refreshes me and refuels me for another year of real work. I love being in that pool space, teaching swimming lessons, mentoring lifeguards, being a face for visitors to the community, swimming and building a multitude of relationships.
This year was unlike any other, until it … well, I guess it is still unlike any other.
If you haven’t heard about the Wilton Pool saga of 2022, I’ll try to fill you in quickly.
The Wilton Village Board hired the village clerk’s daughter to be the pool manager. This manager eventually had a video of her posted where she’s watching her phone while on active duty. I tried to say something the night it was posted, but was met with hostility and indignance from her and her mother. I went to the next village board meeting and tried to address it — after all, it had been posted online for the public to see, and I again was met with hostility.
The next day, June 12, board trustee Eli Yoder reached out and asked if I could come to an employee personnel committee meeting the next day. I said I couldn’t and gave him other options for dates: June 14, 15 and 18, to be specific. He came back the next day and said they couldn’t switch and that they’d meet the 13th without me and on the 18th with me. According to the village website, they met on Thursday, the 14th — a day I could meet — and was never invited. On the 15th, I received a letter laying out restrictions to my position.
That weekend, I shared that letter with my guards and with a number of swimming-lesson parents and asked their thoughts. I felt as though I was being put in a box unfairly and sought perspective from others.
By Monday, I had come to terms with possibly resigning from my position. I informed a few swimming-lesson parents, and their reactions were less than happy. I informed them that if they wanted me to stay, to consider reaching out to our village board members so they could be advocates for me. After all, hearing testimonials from the people who watch me work each day should count for something, and reaching out to your elected officials isn’t the wrong thing to do, right? Those parents advocated. Many of them. Bless their hearts.
That night, the board cancelled its meeting because they couldn’t get all of the guards together. I thought it was just going to be myself and the board. Either way, I wasn’t informed on the cancelation. I saw there wasn’t an agenda posted, texted Yoder about 45 minutes before the meeting, and he said they had cancelled the night before and thought I was in the loop.
Well, that week ended in the other guards signing a letter in support of me, getting suspended or fired for it — there is still some confusion on that — some having cops called on them, the pool closing and an actual meeting between the village board and the lifeguards with their parents. In this meeting, there was much discussion about the letter that was signed, how it was obtained and what it meant. In this meeting, there were a couple board members who walked back the idea they had even hired the clerk’s daughter as the manager — one of which whom had made the motion to give her the position.
At the Wilton Village Board meeting on July 25, we had about 25 people in attendance. The board quickly suspended any public comments, even though the majority of the people in that room had concerns they wanted heard. When the board went into closed session, I don’t recall them inviting any employees to stay. I assumed if it had to do with me, they would say something. I also assumed that if they were going to discuss my employment, they’d have actually asked me to come to that meeting that night instead of just being lucky enough to have me there.
It’s safe to say that when they came out of closed session and didn’t make any motions to the public or disclose any topics from that time, I had no idea that I would soon be told I was being fired — by our village police officer, of all people.
Yes, he took me to his office and explained that I was being terminated. Wisconsin is an at-will employer, so they don’t need cause to fire someone. He said that with certain parties in the board room, they (the board) didn’t want to do it there. Again, they opted to have the officer do the firing. He said there was no cause for me to be fired, but “that it was in the best interest of the village.”
I went outside and met with the 10–12 people who were still there along the west side of the building and explained to them what happened. Shortly after, our village clerk was seen taking photos of our group from her office window and shortly after drove away, appearing to be laughing as she drove past.
Since that point in time, we’ve seen the village hire scab lifeguards so they could be open for Wilton Fest weekend and have more even more special meetings that have ultimately resulted in full-time village employees getting raises.
What has been lost in all this is the fact that the board hired someone who wasn’t qualified to be our pool manager. Acts such as watching your phone shouldn’t be allowed or tolerated.
I tried to say something. The other guards, who didn’t feel safe with an irresponsible manager, tried to say something via a letter as they supported what I was standing for — a letter that they were pressured into turning over unwillingly. My guards wanted things to be safer at the pool, and they wanted to adhere to a higher standard of service.
All that led to were suspensions of most of them and my own firing after 22 seasons of employment and the closure of Wilton’s big, blue, wet cement pond for the season, for all intents and purposes.
So, how was my summer, you ask?
It was filled with anxiety, stress and some joy. I strengthened relationships, grew as a leader and citizen and learned some real lessons. I was blessed with the support and loyalty from my swimming lesson and pool parents as they tried to help find solutions. Above all, I am eternally grateful for the selflessness of my guards, Lainey Teynor, Sophie Teynor, Taylor Freed, Zaida Carpenter, Autumn Brandau, Amelia Muellenberg and Brayden Leis, in joining me to stand up for something we all believed in. In that, we were very and truly, 1Pool.