Hartland residents shared their outrage at Monday’s village board meeting after a village trustee waved a flag with misogynistic language during the June 26 hometown celebration parade.
Six residents spoke about the incident during public comments. According to residents, Village Administrator Tom Truttschel, who was elected to the position in April, waved a flag in his yard on East Capitol Drive along the route of the Hometown Celebration Parade that read “Jo and the Ho Gotta Go”, in reference to President Boe. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Several neighbors were offended by the insult used on the flag. Courtney Marschalek, a Hartland resident, said when she saw the flag before the parade, she confronted Truttschel and asked if he wanted to take the flag down because she “found this sign really offensive as a neighbor and wife”.
Marschalek said Truttschel told him he could keep the listing because of “free speech.” She reiterated that “calling any woman that word was offensive”. She said he responded by repeating that it was his freedom of speech and he didn’t want it to be political; he then asked her to leave.
“I was quite disappointed and appalled by this response, to put it mildly,” Marschalek said. “It made me wonder, where is the line? If your village allows signs that call women by demeaning names, what does that teach everyone, including our children? Even children with the most basic reading skills could have read this sign. We claim to be against bullying, but allow these signs to be hung in our village?
Truttschel told the Journal Sentinel he put the flag on the tree as “political satire” for the parade. He said he took it off after riding it for less than an hour and that was his plan the whole time.
“I was at my residence spending time with many friends preparing for the parade, as I have done for 24 years,” he said. “There was a woman I had never met before who was apparently a neighbor about a block away. There was a flag hanging from a tree which was a political satire she didn’t like, and we had a nice and respectful conversation..
“I said, ‘I’ll think about what you’re saying and thank you for telling me. Let’s move on.'”
The flag caught the attention of many local residents who spoke at the meeting. Paul Harker-Murray began his public comment by recording a photo of the flag in front of Truttschel. The village president, Jeff Pfanner, always had it removed.
“What you say and show the sign is fine,” Pfannerstill said. “I just want to be careful. Even if someone has done something demeaning, and it’s not good, I just want to make sure that we keep it around our issue, however you want. directing it. It just can’t be a personal attack like the recording. I’m just explaining that’s why I asked for it to be taken down.
Harker-Murray then shared her thoughts on the flag.
“When that sign was put up, a sign that was on my child’s parade route in Hartland, it called the Vice President of the United States a whore,” Harker-Murray said. “I think it’s wrong. Not because I agree with all his political views, but because I think it’s demeaning, superficial, ignorant and stupid. He called my wife a whore. He He called my sister a whore He called my mother He called all the women in this country a whore, and it was insulting to all those women and also to the men who respected them.
“I believe in free speech, and you can put any sign in your yard you want, but the question is should you?”
Other residents raised concerns about offensive language toward women, particularly from an elected official.
“Some of the signs put up over the years have bothered me on both sides of the political spectrum,” said Lori Taylor Ciesko, an elementary school teacher in the Hartland-Lakeside School District. “For kids to see this sign, in particular, I didn’t think I could explain to any of these young kids what (the word) meant. We can do better. We can do a lot better as a community.”
Taylor Ciesko said she’s seen flags and signs like this before.
“We’ve seen political signs like that around the city for the last six years, things about any Democratic candidate. Before Kamala, it was Hillary (Clinton),” she said. “We live in a very red zone. We all know that. I have lived in other places before, and I have never seen so much hatred as in this small village. I have no problem with the speech politics, but to denigrate women and girls, especially in a time like this, he should have known better.”
No directors, including Truttschel, responded to any of the comments during the meeting. After public comment closed, Pfannerstill noted that the council did not respond during public comment, although this had happened in the past at the discretion of the village chairman.
“There are times when people will say something back, so anyone can do that,” he added. “I don’t know if any board member is. I know myself, other than that, I’m not saying anything at the moment. It’s a lot to process.”
On Tuesday, Pfannerstill told the Journal Sentinel that “the village does not regulate free speech on private property.” He declined to comment further on the incident.
Truttschel said the flag was no longer raised. He added that he was “not acting as a village” when he raised the flag.
“I’ll tell you, I’m a man of integrity,” he said. “I’ve lived in Hartland for 24 years, I have a 33-year-old wife and three beautiful young women that I raised, and I will always respect women…I felt things could be taken out of context. Anyone who knows me in the village knows that I am a man of respect and integrity.”
Several residents said offensive signs like the one in question are not new to the area. Marschalek said the same flag is often seen in a neighbor’s garage two doors down from Truttschel’s residence.
Residents also recalled aggressive acts of stolen or destroyed signs during Pride Month in June 2021 in Hartland.
“I lived here for 20 years and was part of the community before that,” said Val Wisniewski. “I love Hartland and raised my kids there. But over the past four years things have definitely gone downhill and it’s made me question whether or not I want to stay in Hartland. It’s unfortunate that some things and some of the signs and actions have happened that speak louder than the rest of the good people I know who live in the community.”
As residents see more offensive and aggressive signs posted publicly, some are calling for action to prevent further “hate speech” from being shared.
“I feel like it’s wrong for an elected official to think he can fly that flag because he represents Hartland,” Marschalek said. “It really worries me because the presidential election is getting closer and closer, and if we don’t do something about these signs of hate now, it’s going to keep getting worse. We need to make a rule in Hartland that you can’ I won’t fly these signs that contain hate speech.”
Drew Dawson can be reached at [email protected] or 262-289-1324.