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Election Q&A: Village of Weston Board President

in Elections 2019

Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review will publish a series of Q&As in the days leading up to the April 2 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.

These two candidates are vying to be elected president of the Weston Village Board of Trustees.

Letters to the editor are encouraged through Monday, April 1. Email editor@wausaupilotandreview.com.


Wally Sparks

Age: 54

Occupation: Retired Police Chief / Adjunct Instructor at Upper Iowa University

Prior political experience: Current Trustee / Vice-President of the Weston Village Board

Education:

  • Associate Degree in Police Science from Gateway Technical College
  • Graduate of Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Communication from Concordia University – Wisconsin, Summa Cum Laude
  • Master of Business Administration Degree (MBA) from Cardinal Stritch University,

4.0 GPA

Community involvement:

  • Member of the Everest Area Optimist Club since 2009 and current Club President
  • Current Board Member for the Mission and Ministry Council for Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Weston
  • Current Mentor for Big Brothers / Big Sisters of America
Wally Sparks

Why are you running for board president?

My 33-year law enforcement career has been in public service and I think it is important to give back to the community.  I believe my leadership skills will allow the village to better serve our residents, businesses and all those living and working in the Village.

Please list three of your top priorities as board president.

  1. Smart and forward- thinking economic development
  2. Accountability
  3. Become known as a business-friendly community and a great place to do business

How would you hold Weston accountable for adhering to Wisconsin’s open meetings laws?

First by following parliamentary procedures as laid out in the Wisconsin Open Meetings laws and making sure meeting notices and minutes are accurately recorded and documented through the Village Website and noticed to the media.  Secondly, the Village Board recently approved a trial period, through the remainder of 2019, of recording and telecasting board meetings that could be accessed through local cable providers.

Give three examples of how the village should improve its use of existing public resources to achieve a more effective village government.

The village should continue to seek cooperation with neighboring municipalities on shared services and consolidations.  All municipalities have been struggling with cuts in state shared revenue and cuts in the transportation aid.  It is becoming extremely difficult to maintain current services without raising taxes.  The village already saves money by having a joint police department with the City of Schofield and the Town of Weston in the Everest Metro Police Department.  The village also has a shared fire / EMS department in the Safer Fire District.  The level of service received from these two consolidations are far above what could be achieved from Village of Weston only departments.

The village is currently looking at replacing the aging municipal center.  I think this would be an opportunity for reaching out to our neighboring communities by investigating further consolidations or shared services which would benefit the entire Everest Area.  I think Public Works would be a good place to start as there are significant capital costs that could be shared among municipalities versus having every municipality purchasing each piece of specialized equipment needed to service our roads and infrastructure.

I would like the village to go back to having board meetings twice a month.  Current once a month board meeting packets usually run anywhere from 200-300 pages, which is often difficult to get through, especially if it is covered with enough in-depth discussion to fully vet.  Another reason for a secondary meeting is making sure residents and businesses can have their agenda items / issues decided in a timely fashion, instead of waiting a month or more for critical decisions making.  That would require more meetings for staff and elected officials but would benefit our constituents.

What measures would you like to see to protect and expand the tax base?

As I touched on in a previous question, we need to pursue smart economic development that provides stability and expands tax base which will help offset the tax burden on our homeowners.  Unfortunately, the village has not had a good reputation working with and attracting new businesses and industries, which needs to change.  This past year we have discussed permits, fees and zoning issues as well as having discussions with current business owners for identifying their concerns.  This information has already led to some positive changes and this needs to be a continued effort.

We are already seeing the downturn in brick and mortar retail development. We must embrace e-commerce development, next generation jobs, and associated businesses that will continue to thrive in the future.

If you could reverse one village action, what would it be?

Having been in a leadership position for most of my career, I was always taught that when it came to personnel issues, you “praise in public and you criticize in private”.  Having said that, I realize the mindset of many is that when it comes to government, it should be different.  So, if I could go back and change one thing is that any issues with prior administration would have been addressed in an open meeting.  Had those issues been discussed / addressed in an open meeting format, I believe the public would have fully supported the decisions the village board made.

Should the village change the way it handles development? If yes, how?

To answer this question, I must first let you know that I am a firm believer in “trust but verify”.  To put this into perspective, this question really highlights the current status of the much-hyped SE Quadrant or Camp Phillips Corridor project.  The initial projections of this project included an increase of $150 million in tax base and 4,000 new jobs.  Unfortunately, these estimates were provided prior to some of the necessary permitting issues that have since delayed and threatened this project.  Elected officials promised shovels in the ground back as early as 2016. Currently, this project is stalled and waiting on Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wetland permitting approval.  The wetland permits should have been submitted four years earlier, but instead the administration hired lobbyists to try and change the DNR laws on wetlands instead of working with the DNR to get approvals.  So, four years and millions of dollars later, we are still waiting.  The current administrator filed the required wetland permits this past fall and we are still working through the process. I remain hopefully optimistic that this project may still come to fruition someday as we have invested heavily in this project.

If the former elected officials had followed a trust, but verify philosophy, the village would be in a better position on this project today.  So, to answer this question in short…as elected officials we should do our due diligence and trust, but verify, all development projects.

Why should voters choose you on April 2?

Throughout my tenure as the Chief of Police, we had a proven track record of leadership and we developed the Everest Metro Police Department into a premier, respected law enforcement agency.  One of the biggest problems facing government at all levels seems to be an internal vs. external focus.  I believe this becomes more of a problematic issue when you have elected officials that are in place for significant amounts of time.  In my discussions with village staff, I have shared my thoughts that the only reason “we” (meaning the village board and staff) exist is to provide services to our community.  It is very easy for elected officials to lose sight of this as they become occupied with defending policy issues and setting their own agendas when they should be more responsive to the needs of those we assist and serve.  We should continually monitor ordinances, policies and objectives by making sure we are aligned with the needs and expectations of our community.

If elected, I promise to have a trust, but verify mindset and will always seek to make sure that we focus our energy on serving and assisting our residents and businesses.  I am grateful for all the support I have been provided during this election campaign and I humbly ask for your vote on April 2nd along with your input and feedback beyond the election. I want to make sure we are meeting your needs and expectations.


Loren White

Age: 67

Occupation: Deputy Chief of Police Everest Metro Police Department, 30 years, RETIRED Administrative Chief, Village of Weston Fire Department, 18 years, RETIRED Emergency Medical Technician, Aspirus Wausau Hospital, 19 years, RETIRED

Education:

1970 Wausau Senior High School, Wausau, Wisconsin, Graduated June 1970,

1972 University of Wisconsin Marathon Campus, Wausau, Wisconsin. Received Associates in Science (Mathematics) December 1972, and

1975 North Central Technical Institute, Wausau, Wisconsin. Received Associate in Applied Science, Police Science May 1975

Community Involvement:

Charter member of the Town of Weston, Village of Weston Fire Department.

Village Trustee, 2007 – 2013
Village President, 2013 – 2015
Village Trustee, 2015 – 2017
Chair Village of Weston Extraterritorial Zoning Committee

Loren White

Why are you running for board president?

I feel that I can offer leadership for the Village Board of Trustees in a time when there are questions about the actions taken by the Village Board over the last year. I would work to establish an elected officials handbook, which was soundly rejected without question or comment, by Trustee Sparks and since then has not been brought up again

Please list three of your top priorities as board president.

Ensure that some form of an Elected Officials Handbook is put in place which has among its chapters; a Code of Conduct, Ethics, Prohibited Behavior and Conduct, Employer-Employee Relations, Open Meeting Open Records Requirements, Procedures for Running Public Meetings and Parliamentary Procedures – Rules of Order.

Ensure that all members of the Board of Trustees have the opportunity for input on all the items covered in each meeting’s agenda.

Help guide the economic growth of the Village by urging staff to maintain their high level of efficiency in the handling of site plans, building permits, and answering question for those business who are looking to establish a presence here and assisting existing business in their growth plans.

How would you hold Weston accountable for adhering to Wisconsin’s open meetings laws?

I would review the proposed agenda which has “closed session(s)” noted to ensure that the closed session is “necessary” and exempt under Wis. §19.85 (1) (a)-(h). and if still in question would consult with legal counsel to verify the propriety of the item.

I would ensure that the closed session has been properly noticed as to content, date and time, and ensure that there is sufficient information in the notice in such a form as is reasonably likely to be understood by members of the public and the news media.

Give three examples of how the village should improve its use of existing public resources to achieve a more effective village government?

The village has purchased several pieces of land with the original plan (Village of Weston Comprehensive Plan 2015) to use them for recreation. I did vote for those purchases with two reservations; one that if there was a development of a “recreation” center that it would only be done with the financial assistance of partners, public or private (Village of Weston Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan 2015) not just we’ll use it if you build it. Having these types of facilities requires additional staff, staff that the Village does not have the capacity to provide.

The land was ideal for development of commercial and industrial uses. Since it has been some time since the plan was put into effect with no progress evident, other than a Marathon County Recreation Study. I feel that the Village should market this land in an orderly fashion to put it back on the tax role. If there is movement on the recreation aspect of the land there may be portions of the property, if not sold, which could support a smaller scale recreation project.

The residents of the Village should reappraise the wants from the needs, if the wants and needs serve only a small portion of the residents perhaps it is time to stop spending money on those and put the money into infrastructure; public safety, roads, snow plowing, maintaining our utilities.

The Village is a partner in Police (EMPD) and Fire (SAFER) services which has provided higher level of services than the Village would be able to finance alone. These partnerships need to be retained.

The Village could work and has tried to work with the surrounding communities to provide sharing utilities staff, road maintenance, staff and equipment.

What measures would you like to see to protect and expand the tax base?

The Village needs to provide essential services in order to attract and retain businesses. Businesses provide employment. Employees need great neighborhoods to build homes, and families. Families need to have additional life aspects other that just work. The Village has a great education system (D.C. Everest School District);great health care (Acension Saint Clares, Aspirus Clinics), great parks and recreation, good infrastructure which the Village is struggling to maintain. No one wants to pay unnecessarily higher taxes, but it does take taxes to support all those services.

Commercial, manufacturing and residents are essential to a well-rounded tax base, single family homes alone cannot support all the services, needs and wants that residents have come to expect and enjoy. That is why I am in favor of continuing the efforts to develop the “Camp Phillips” Center on the corner of County Highway X and Weston Avenue.

If you could reverse one village action, what would it be?

Honestly, I can’t think of one thing I would reverse that hasn’t either expired or fallen by the wayside, but I am sure that there are residents and businesses who feel that certain issues were not in their best individual interests.

Should the village change the way it handles development? If yes, how?

No. The village has in place a process for development that at first may seem too restrictive, but is not. If anything, the process could be sped up as long as the Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Code are followed. I am in favor of “in filling” those areas of the village where there are large gaps or empty land for homes and or businesses, spreading development over large expanses poses problems when it comes to providing municipal services, sewer, water, storm water. It cost more money to provide those services the further it has to reach to connect to a subdivision or commercial development.

Why should voters choose you on April 2?

I come to the Board of Trustees with eleven years of experience and expertise in municipal government, four plus terms as Trustee, one term as previous President. I have lived in the Village of Weston for 44 years: worked for the residents of the Village of Weston for 43 years: 30 years as a police officer, 18 years as a firefighter emergency medical technician, 19 years as a Emergency Department Emergency Medical Technician. I have made the effort to stay up-to- date during 2018 and 2019 regarding Village issues by attending all but a few of the Committee, Commission and Board of Trustee meetings as a concerned resident.

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