By Shereen Siewert, Wausau Pilot and Review Editor and Publisher

Happy Monday, readers.

I know it’s important to talk about elections this week, and we’ll do that. But our biggest news this week is an announcement we made a few days ago regarding an incredible opportunity we’ve been given.

In case you missed it, Wausau Pilot & Review is one of 15 North American newsrooms chosen by the Facebook Journalism Project and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism to participate in the Local News Membership accelerator program. I can’t say in strong enough words how important this is to us.

First of all, we didn’t even apply. We were nominated to participate by industry groups and previous participants of the 2019 program. We have no idea who nominated us, or why, but…wow. Right?

So… all the blah blah blah aside, what does that mean? It means we’ll travel to Austin, Texas three times over the next three months, learn about best business practices in our industry – what works and what doesn’t – and identify areas of growth in our organization. We’ll have weekly video meetings with a mentor, too.

After that, we’ll be eligible to apply for a significant grant to help implement the proposed changes we’ve identified, and programs that will move our publication forward.

This is a huge opportunity. Huge! I can’t stop smiling about it.

We’ve had a couple of people say they are “not impressed” by our partnership with Facebook. I get that, I do – considering the negative press Facebook has received regarding content issues over the past couple of years.

But this thing, this program, has nothing to do with our content – and won’t. Ever.  Rather, it has more to do with how we serve our readers and how we connect with each and every one of you, and how we make sure we are serving the community’s needs as a news organization.

Past participants tell us that this program will transform our newsroom and help us serve all of you better. And that’s what we set out to do in the first place.

In short, we want to be sure we’re giving you what you need to stay informed. And HOLY MACKEREL ARE WE EXCITED.

Deep breath.

Anyway…about those elections…don’t forget to vote on Tuesday.

In Wausau, Dist. 10 voters will chose between three candidates to represent residents for the city council. Current Alder Mary Thao announced in December she would not seek another term for the seat, representing a swath of the city’s west side. Donna Krause, Lou Larson and former Dist. 10 council member Sherry Abitz are on the ballot, with the top two advancing to the April election.

Abitz held the seat for more than a decade, but stepped away from local politics in 2018. She also represented her district on the Marathon County Board of Supervisors.

Abitz’s tenure in local politics was not without controversy. In 2016, she sent an email to Thao, who is also on the Wausau School Board, comparing a Hmong peace march to a KKK rally. She later apologized.

Also in 2016, Abitz threatened in a Facebook post in 2016 to get “revenge” against city residents she blamed for delaying Thomas Street’s reconstruction and appeared to blame them for the death of one of her constituents, according to a Wausau Daily Herald report.

Krause currently represents Dist. 10 on the Marathon County Board of Supervisors.

Larson is a political newcomer but has often appeared as a vocal participant in city meetings. He has been an advocate for environmental safety and a public critic of city spending. Mr. Larson took the time to write a letter to the editor to explain his platform. You can read that here.

Of course, there are state contests on the ballot as well.

Voters across Wisconsin will cast ballots for the Supreme Court, while voters in the 7th Congressional District in northern Wisconsin will also have a congressional primary.

For the seat formerly held by Republican Sean Duffy, there are two republican and two democratic candidates. Republicans Jason Church and Tom Tiffany will face off, while democrats Tricia Zunker and Lawrence Dale are also on the ballot. Winners will compete in the special election for that seat, which will be held on May 12.

No matter what your affiliation, please vote. And we’ll have all the results right here on Tuesday night.

Just remember. Your vote matters.

Have a great week, readers.