Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review will publish a series of Q&As in the days leading up to the April 3 spring election for contested seats in the Wausau metro area. For a sample ballot and general election information, visit the Marathon County election information page. Watch for more election coverage and be sure to bookmark our elections page here. Candidates, listed in alphabetical order, were given the opportunity to answer identical questions in the interest of fairness. Their unedited answers are listed below.

Letters to the editor are encouraged through Monday, April 2. Email editor@wausaupilotreview-newspack.newspackstaging.com.


Marathon County Board of Supervisors, District 6

Jack Hoogendyk, Incumbent

Age 62, lives in Wausau. Executive director of Hope Life Center

Government Experience: Two years county board in MI; 6 years state legislature, MI; 2 yrs Marathon county board

Community Involvement: Board member, Greater Wausau chamber of commerce; board member, Wisconsin Family Council; member, Bible Truth Chapel; member, Six Degrees Business Network. Big Brother to a 5th grader at Lincoln elementary

Political affiliation (if any): Member of Marathon County Republican Party

Why are you running for office?

I believe in public service. I want to help make Marathon County a better place for all of its residents.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing county officials in the next two years?

Balancing the budget without raising taxes or borrowing more money from the taxpayers

If new resources were available, what one area of county services would you feel most needs additional resources?

Roads

Should any part of the county budget be shielded from cuts? And if so, which area?

Sheriff’s office

What do you see as the most pressing needs for infrastructure or capital projects in the county?

Jail. We don’t necessarily need to make it larger but we do need to make it more efficient.

What is your assessment of the county’s overall financial position? Where do the biggest threats to the county’s financial stability lie?

1) Our current position is strong but there are dark clouds on the horizon. We seem to be having difficulty balancing the budget in a strong economy.

2) Debt. We should not have to add the burden of a wheel tax to fund roads. We should not have to borrow (through bonding) to pay for capital improvements.

What is your vision and strategy for addressing the opioid addiction crisis?

Class action against the manufacturers will help provide funding for all the financial burdens to the county brought on by this crisis; funding for treatment, foster care, incarceration, etc. But to address it, we must change the culture. The medical profession needs to learn how treat the causes rather than covering pain with drugs.  We must engage the community of faith and put policy in place at the county level (as well as city, state, federal and schools) that strengthen the family unit. The greatest protection of the individual against homelessness, crime, drug abuse, school dropouts and unemployment is a strong father in the home supporting the family. Fatherlessness is the number one societal ill. County government must do what it can to support private sector and family in the battle against opioid addiction.

What, specifically, will you do to improve the quality of life for the people of Marathon County?

As a county supervisor, my primary responsibility is a fiduciary one. If we keep spending and taxes as low as we can, we can contribute to helping taxpayers keep more money in their own pockets so they can decide what is best for their families and quality of life.

Anything else you’d like voters to know?

I love this community. We have had family move here and put down roots. This is our adopted hometown.


Jeff Johnson, Challenger

Age 58. Lives in Wausau. Retired probation & parole agent; current private detective and criminal defense consultant

Government Experience: I worked at the Department of Corrections for 25 years. During that time I worked with numerous entities within state government and in the Marathon County government and the Wausau Police Department. When I supervised a high risk gang and drug caseload I worked closely with the Detectives from the Wausau Police Department and we often partnered in the field checking up on the compliance of those on supervision.

Community Involvement: I have volunteered as a guest chef for the EATS fundraiser at UWMC for the past 5 years and also for the YWCA Guys Who Grill fundraiser.

Political Affiliation: I have in the past been strongly affiliated with the Democratic Party serving as the chair in Marathon County from 2011 through 2013. I have voted for candidates from both parties and at this time do not have a membership in any political party. The County Board is a non partisan entity and partisan politics has no place in the board’s activities. I believe that the sole focus of the board should be to provide the best service to the residents of Marathon County and not to advance any partisan agenda. Good ideas and policy should be supported regardless of where the idea comes from.

Why are you running for office?

My Catholic upbringing instilled a strong sense of obligation to serve others and try to make the world a better place. I believe that I have something to offer the board because of my background in working with drug addicted citizens and the treatment programs in place as well as my familiarity with the criminal justice system. I believe that the opioid crisis that has caused so much damage to so many needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner including the courts, the Sheriff’s Department as well as Social Services.

I would also want to see a reduction in the size of the county board. There is no logical reason that Marathon County needs 38 Supervisors, the same number as Milwaukee County. I think it is wasteful and we could cut the number in half and not negatively impact the county’s ability to represent everyone well.

What do see as the biggest challenge facing county officials in the next two years?

The challenge for every government entity is matching revenue to costs without negatively impacting the residents that pay taxes. We have seen reduced payments from the State of Wisconsin out of Madison and because of that the county has been put in a bind. The wheel tax was imposed because of the need to fix our deteriorating roads despite less money coming from Madison. Now the City of Wausau is considering enacting its own wheel tax to deal with their lack of funding to maintain city streets. I think that if the city does enact a wheel tax then those that live in the city should be exempt from the county wheel tax.

As I mentioned above addressing the opioid crisis is a challenge that has been costing more and more money as time goes on. The impact has been felt in numerous agencies including the Sheriff’s Department, Social Services, the courts, and the increased cost of housing more inmates. We must assess what has been working and what has not and move towards an approach that gives us the best chance of reducing opioid abuse and the negative impact on our community.

If new resources were available what area of county services would you feel most needs additional resources?

Quite frankly I do not see new resources coming. We need to prioritize the resource we have now to best serve the residents of Marathon County.

Should any part of the county budget be shielded from cuts? And if so which areas?

I believe that every department should be scrutinized and that there are none that are sacred. That being said I believe we need to support any department or program that provides services that enhance the quality of life and to look for ways to get the maximum benefit for the lowest cost to the taxpayer.

What do you see as the most pressing needs for infrastructure or capital projects in the county?

The biggest need is to maintain what we already have with the funding that is available. I would not support any major new initiatives until we have the resources to maintain what we have.

What is your assessment of the county’s overall financial position? Where do the biggest threats to the county’s financial stability lie?

The county is in a difficult position financially. There is always the potential for reduced revenue if the economy slows down and if the state government continues shrinking the amount of money they return to the counties. I believe we must plan for the eventual and inevitable downturn and reduced revenue, to not do so would be irresponsible.

What is your vision and strategy for addressing the opioid crisis?

As I stated above we need to bring all of the departments that have been impacted together and decide on a comprehensive approach. The formation of the drug court is a good first step and still in its infancy. Other counties have had great success by creating specialized court formats for a variety of offenders and hopefully Marathon County can also improve the outcomes for its citizens by using courts more efficiently. We need to bring law enforcement, social services, the courts, and treatment providers together and create a system to deal with opioid users to reduce end eliminate their use of opioids. If the demand for illicit drugs is reduced the trafficking and selling of the drugs will dwindle as well. We cannot incarcerate our way out of this problem and the cost has increased in many of our county agencies. We need to find a better way to reduce drug use.

What specifically will you do to improve the quality of life for the people of Marathon County?

I think I can have the greatest impact by working together with our county agencies to create a cohesive approach to the opioid crisis that has negatively impacted so many Marathon County families. We can reduce the cost of county government by reducing the size of the county board without reducing its effectiveness. Reducing the size of the board would allow us to better fund existing agencies and programs that actually benefit the residents of Marathon County.

Anything else that you would like voters to know?

I have always been available to those that I have served in either an elected position as a union official or in my capacity as a public servant. We need to listen to what constituent shave to say and act in their best interest and not in a way to advance any personal agenda. I do not have any partisan agenda and my priority would be to get the best services for the residents of Marathon County at the lowest costs. I believe that the more we listen to other the more we learn and the better we can serve their interests.