By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — A Wausau School Board Member announced this week she will vie for a seat on the Wausau City Council in the district currently represented by Sherry Abitz.
Mary Thao, 39, an information technology consultant for Marshfield Clinic, said she will continue to serve on the Wausau School Board if she is elected to represent Dist. 10 on the council. She was first elected to the board in April 2016. Thao is a former Aspirus Foundation Board Member and a graduate of the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce Leadership Excellence Program.
“This is the time for people with solid 21st century leadership skills and experience to rise up and provide strong policy making and guidance in our community,” Thao said. “The people in our communities need to have a voice. As leaders, we need to open our ears and listen, and invite discussions, because our decisions will impact everyone.”
Thao said if she is elected, she will work to attract young people to Wausau who will live and serve the community, a long-term strategy she said is crucial to the city’s growth.
“We must build a quality of life here in Wausau that will attract young professionals, businesses and families to Wausau,” Thao said. “We have economically invested in many areas of our city to position us for future growth and success. There is still much work ahead of us.”
Thao said council members should focus on clear objectives and success metrics that will move the city forward, especially when making big decisions such as taking on debt or purchasing property.
“We need to make sure we’re asking tough questions, seeing a cost benefit analysis and understanding what we want to accomplish and in what time frame,” Thao said. “It’s about being prepared and organized, having a long term strategy and understanding how to reach our goals.”
“I am not a rubber stamp,” Thao said.
Thao said her decision to run has nothing to do with the dust-up last year she had with Abitz, who told Thao in an email that a Hmong peace march could be compared to a KKK rally. Abitz later apologized.
“That’s not why I’m running,” Thao said. “I am running because we need to build opportunities on this side of the city. And I commend (Abitz) for her years of public service in this community.
“It takes a lot of time and effort to serve.”
Thao said the city should be applauded for the way residents come together in difficult times, resolving conflict and working as a community to celebrate one another. She points to the Toward One Wausau project as one that has had great success in bringing together the city’s diverse community.
And diversity is another factor she hopes the council will reflect when new members are sworn in next year.
“I believe it is important to have representation from all backgrounds,” Thao said. “I want to represent the district well. I want to create opportunities.”
Candidates can begin circulating nomination papers on Dec. 1, with declarations of candidacy due by Jan. 2, 2018. The spring primary is Feb. 20, and the general election is April 3.
Campaign packets can be obtained online. City council members are paid $5,355 each year and serve 2-year terms.