By Raymond Neupert/South Metro Observer
WAUSAU, Wis. – Wausau residents in the Ninth Aldermanic District will be casting votes for a primary election for City Council, a seat currently held by Joe Gehin.
The three candidates running for the seat are Dawn Herbst, Griffith Williams and Ethel Quisler. Gehin is not seeking reelection. Dist. 9 is the city’s most western district, running along West Stewart Avenue. (See map, below)
Candidate Dawn Herbst has been a Wausau resident since 1971. She’s retired now, but worked in the area for a worldwide company for 28 years. She’s worked as an election inspector for the city as well. She volunteers with the Wausau Emergency Police and is with the Wausau Elks.
Herbst is also coming into the primary election with an endorsement from former 9th District alderman Joe Gehin.
“He’s done an outstanding job,” Herbst said. “I’m very pleased to know that without a doubt that I can do the job or else he would not be endorsing me.”
She’s hoping to earn the trust of the citizens in the Ninth District. “I’m really looking to focus on drug free neighborhoods, also bringing high quality service at affordable tax rates, and I want to earn the trust of the citizens of Wausau.”
Herbst says the biggest issue that’s going to face the council over the next two years will be how they handle the mall.
“Even though the mall is privately owned, we’d hate to see any more of the businesses move out out,” Herbst said.
She says that Wausau is a wonderful community to live in, and that she’ll be happy to represent the city, if elected.
Candidate Griffith Williams is a retired project manager from Wausau Windows, and previously was a member and president of the Wausau School Board.
Williams lost to Gehin in the last election for the district, and says he’s still concerned over finances are being handled in the city.
“For lack of a better term, the ‘corporate welfare’ that’s going on,” Williams said. “The city is underwriting a lot of these businesses at the expense of the residents.”
Williams specifically calls out the deals that were made for Great Lakes Cheese and Wausau Chemicals.
“It’s shifting the burdens of these businesses onto the families of the area,” Williams said.
That effect on families is what Williams says is the biggest issue facing the council.
“You’ve got a huge drug problem, and the city is taking money from a drug paraphernalia shop to advertise on city busses.”
He also says that the council doesn’t have a coherent strategy in place on how to handle the mall or on what the future of Wausau is going to be.
“Right now, I believe we’re losing the families, and once that happens you’ve lost your direction on the city.”
Candidate Ethel Quisler works for Innovative Services, a group that helps support and train people with developmental disabilities. She says her family has lived in Marathon County since before Wisconsin was a state.
Quisler was in 2016 a Democratic candidate for the 7th District Congressional seat held by Republican Rep. Sean Duffy before dropping out of the primary. She’s running for city council because she wants to see Wausau grow and flourish.
“I like Wausau, when my friends come to visit, they say Wausau’s a beautiful town,” Quisler said.
But, she says, that’s a very polished mask for a lot of Wausau’s issues. “Children in crisis, drug addictions, alcoholism.”
Quisler says she would like to help bring more personal services to the Wausau area through programs like the Oxford House or Community-Based Residential Facilities that allow adults to live and work together to help get them back on their feet after fighting addictions and alcoholism. Right now, that’s not possible due to current ordinances.
“Only three unrelated people are allowed to live within a dwelling,” Quisler noted. “For a sober house, you need to have 6 or 8 people living in a home to build the proper personal development to bring their recovery to the next level.”
She says that restriction on housing is also harmful to young people trying to find a place to live in the Wausau area, due to rising property prices in the city.
“You get some young 20-year-olds out of high school who didn’t go to college, you’re looking to pay 740 a month for rent,” Quisler said. “That’s nearly your full time minimum wage for a home.”
Voters in Dist. 9 cast ballots at the National Guard Armory, 833 S 17th Avenue. Polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 20 and remain open until 8 p.m.
Wausau Pilot and Review will post primary results as they become available.