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WAUSAU PILOT AND REVIEW On April 7, voters will decide which candidates will represent their interests in nine of 11 city of Wausau aldermanic districts. Becky McElhaney, in Dist. 6, and Dawn Herbst, in Dist. 9, are not facing challenges to their seats and will continue to represent their constituents for another two years. We reached out to all candidates for a better understanding of their views and vision for Wausau in the next two years. Only one candidate, Sherry Abitz, did not respond to emails or phone calls. All other responses are listed here, with candidates for each district listed in alphabetical order. Responses have not been edited in any way. Photos were included when provided by the candidate.

Dist. 1: Chris Norfleet (challenger) and Patrick Peckham (incumbent)

Christopher Norfleet, 53

Christopher Norfleet is a candidate for Wausau City Council Dist. 1. (Contributed photo)
Prior political experience and/or community experience:  President, People for the Power of Love, which promotes community in Marathon County across racial divides. What motivated you to run for office? To offer healthy change you can SEE. Something is wrong when citizens, economic developers and diverse communities don’t have a social infrastructure to represent all. I want people to see a better balance of citizen priorities and community in our vision and growth.  My priority quality of life pillars for a new development “decision matrix” are: TRANSIT, HOUSING and WAGES.  Transit, for example, is a unifying service, it needs new, creative and thoughtful management. It’s just as valid to consider the impact of new development on these quality of life metrics as it is to consider solar panels. What motivated you to run for office? To offer healthy change you can SEE. Something is wrong when citizens, economic developers and diverse communities don’t have a social infrastructure to represent all. I want people to see a better balance of citizen priorities and community in our vision and growth.  My priority quality of life pillars for a new development “decision matrix” are: TRANSIT, HOUSING and WAGES.  Transit, for example, is a unifying service, it needs new, creative and thoughtful management. It’s just as valid to consider the impact of new development on these quality of life metrics as it is to consider solar panels. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years? Visible cooperation between the city, citizens and business.  Perceptions are we have pitted city against people, business against people, and business has not always trusted the city.  The effort should be that all are important.  The health of the city is based on a healthy (physically and financially) people.  Businesses need those people.  The city can help bring them together with the common goal of building COMMUNITY.  Sometimes that means the city government sets priorities to help shape the areas being neglected to bring balance, and welcoming.  I’ll refer to the LIFE REPORT several times, but we as businesses and community leaders need to understand that report and the ramifications. A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt?   This question is the old trap of whether we cut police and fire services or raise taxes.  Economic Development deals is the large part of this. I have recommended that the city creates an economic development review board to review our significant city sponsored and TIF deals.  It would consist of bank presidents, business CEOs, Real Estate CEOs, and other citizens with experience in negotiating the best deals for their stakeholders.  Why shouldn’t the tax paying citizen have the same experts cutting deals for them?  It’s a simple exercise to ask these professionals: “would you make this deal or loan if it was your business or bank?  Most of the city council members do not have financial and executive level negotiating skills; I myself am a people person, I know when I need to ask and trust experts. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects?   This is a trick question. The obvious answer is balance and free market with a BIG BUT: If we focused more on our Economic Development and Community Development strategy, we’d have less of those hard decisions to make.  We need to focus less on rearranging restaurants in town and more on attracting and developing industry and business that create good paying jobs.  My METRICS for negotiating deals: WAGES, HOUSING, TRANSPORTATION.  For example, if we can ask a business looking for city participation to bring in a plant to the industrial park, the city has every right to know that their wages aren’t going to force the city to need more low income housing. Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs?  Not every project is a good project, we should be ok with that.  If a city property isn’t bringing multiple inquiries, then there’s extra burden on the city to make sure the single proposal is solid and stands on its own.  There’s no shame in walking away from a deal and waiting a year, or planting a FOR SALE sign on city property and return the sale dollars and taxes to the people. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts?  Balance is the key.  One should help offset the other.  Gentrification is bad.  Nobody would build 100% new and abandon the old unless the strategy was to renovate the old area.  It’s obvious that there are some neighborhoods that get little attention.  Why not put new in the old?  Every citizen banks, why do all the banks need to be downtown or on the busy street? Couldn’t we encourage more businesses to locate new or renovated in existing neighborhoods that need a boost?  Kwik Trip understands that everybody’s money spends. City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community?   Community, Community, Community.  What is the role of government?  We need to facilitate NGOs and County operations that:
1.      Provide Housing first when able.  Facilitate a clearing house to give those in need a resource that will help them understand their options with the first priority to helping people stay in their own homes first, or finding them a permanent home with available assistance organizations and programs to help meet rent and utilities.
2.      Provide Provisional lodging. There are times when a person can’t stay in their home, or plain down on their luck.  They may need mental health treatment or basic home economics instruction.  We need places that people can land temporarily while they earn or learn their way to something more permanent.  The city could work with organizations to relax zoning codes for example. To provide exemptions to numbers of people allowed or the type of structure, maybe an old warehouse that could be safe and staffed or monitored, but doesn’t pass regular housing codes.  This would be temporary only. 
3.      3. Provide or facilitate WET Homes.  This is the most difficult for people to buy into or understand.  Not every alcoholic is ready to stop nor should he be on the street to freeze to death.  NGO Wet homes, with city zoning approval, would provide a place for those in the most desperate of conditions to stay alive and would be subject to best practices for treatment and rules: AODA, Police, and general house rules for being good neighbors. The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all?   This question is a story unto itself.  Maybe the better question to our leaders is: “have you read the Life Report?”, not just the summary.  I’ve asked the question to leaders and blank stares were the answer. Have you dug into the details of the 110 pages?  As leaders, have you pondered why the negative trends in this area have been down on your watches?  What ACTIONS have you taken?  This information was provided to you about your community, let’s understand it as leaders and hopefully, citizens will also engage in the understanding.  Recognize the trend is moving in the wrong direction and if not addressed, we’ll be in a worse spot 2 years from now.  When discrimination is felt, perceived, or seen by some and not recognized by many, we have an imbalance of realities.  It’s impossible to have conversations when we’re essentially speaking two different languages.  I want to better promote the Life Report so that more people do respect my opinion, and the opinion of many black residents, that there is a real problem, then I’ll feel better that we’re at least on the same page and fighting for the same goals. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future?   Let’s get back to the original intent.  “But for” city participation is meant to overcome unusual circumstances that prohibit organic growth of an area.  I don’t want a business plan that can’t stand on its own merits without significant city participation.  The city needs to be a better negotiator on behalf of our bosses, the citizens, aka: taxpayers.  Not every proposal is a winner, there’s nothing wrong with evaluating ideas and rejecting them at times if the ROI isn’t obvious. Critics say selling city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not?   We need to become better negotiators.  The starting point should be the current market value of the property.  The city owns a lot of properties, why isn’t there a FOR SALE sign on every property right now?  Let’s turn these over to realtors, whose business it is to sell and market properties, and see how many realtors are willing to take commission on $1.00 sales?   If a property is truly a “GEM”, we shouldn’t need to give away property as incentives.  If we’re giving away property for $1.00 and developers walk away or only attract bidders after $ millions of improvements as in the case of the River Life 1, maybe the deal isn’t so good. What is the most promising development in Wausau right now?   I assume you’re speaking of a city involved economic development.  That could be the West Business Park with a BIG BUT.  We’ve got to realize what we are doing when we uproot inner city businesses to move them out there.  We can’t allow gentrification.  We must fortify the old neighborhoods as fairly as we’re fortifying the businesses.  Building along the river must also connect to the rest of the city. The people living and working in those businesses now have to drive or find rides to the Industrial park, we didn’t provide for transportation offsets and housing offsets when we move all those jobs west of town.  Again, the new METRICS should be: are these developments impacting: WAGES, HOUSING and or TRANSPORTATION? What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future?  It’s interesting that this is still a question.  It was the number one question at the last election two years ago, and it was the number one question four years ago when the head of economic development committee promised $4.1 million was needed to solve the mall’s problem.  I didn’t agree with buying the Sears building 4 years ago for $650,000.  I don’t agree with spending another $2+ million to help the foundations acquire the property, and I don’t agree to give the parking structures for $1.00 without a plan.  They only have offered that “local control” was the answer.  Now that it is in the Foundation’s hands, I wish them luck, but why are you asking me as a candidate 4-6 years after the death of the mall what I’m going to do to fix it?  I will support a sensible conversion and renovations that they present, but malls as traditional malls are dead; I will not support further city spending on the mall just for the sake of saving the mall.  The city has spent a lot and put the developer in a favored position, the plan and developer must stand on its own moving forward. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making?   The alderman is a representative of a specific district, so that must be a guiding principle.  The people of the Wausau are my BOSS but the people in my district are my first line supervisors. People have been intimidated or at least felt intimidated walking into the council chambers to speak out.   I will give them an ear, I will also encourage and help them come in to speak at ease with their selves in whatever life condition they are in.  Every citizen’s voice is equal. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office? 1. Social Wellness.  Digest and help the Council understand the LIFE REPORT, that should be our guide.  The City of Wausau leadership group should be a purveyor of WELCOMING for all. 2. Economic Wellness.  Again with reference to the LIFE REPORT, black people here are more likely to be living in poverty, black people need black representation.  I’m serving a dual role in that regard, I serve all, but I’ve got to be an example for the black community to see opportunity truly has blessed Wausau.  So, getting elected and using my notoriety for good that people can see. 3. Economic Development: Establish that we are open for business and help set priorities of what we are willing to negotiate for moving forward.  Our priorities again should be businesses that can impact: WAGES, HOUSING and or TRANSPORTATION. What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots?  I am here to serve.

Patrick Peckham, 71

District 1 Alderman Pat Peckham
Education: Bachelor’s degree, UW-Platteville, political science and journalism Prior political experience and/or community experience: Won a contested race for city council in 2016 after I’d retired, then was unopposed for re-election in 2018. Currently chair one standing committee, Parks and Recreation, and two others, the Airport Committee and the Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Member of the Public Health and Safety Committee, the Liquor License Review Subcommittee, Economic Development Committee, Plan Commission, Transit Commission, the Sustainability, Energy and Environment Committee and the Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee. Am also an appointee to the Marathon County Park Commission. Volunteer activities in the community have included serving as a judge and timer for kayak events, computer recycling at Good News Project, international service travel with Good News groups, beekeeping mentor with Bridge Community Health Clinic community gardens, assisting with Wausau half-marathon, assisting with community suppers at First Presbyterian Church, teaching woodturning at multiple community events and regularly at the Boys & Girls Club, vice-president of the Wisconsin Valley Woodturners, demonstrating artist at Exhibitour and member of Wausau Wheelers bicycle club. What motivated you to run for office? After decades of observing at government meetings, I wanted to begin to participate and I began to believe I’d have something to contribute. District 1 has a history of solid participation and great representation that I can only hope to continue. I have the interest, the energy and the time. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years? Our city will be in the same boat as others across the country in terms of assisting all sectors of the community in recovering from coronavirus-caused damage, but other than that, a big issue is setting the stage for the creation of economical housing choices. Developers might prefer to manage fewer units at higher rents, but we need to press private developers toward something different than that or perhaps the public sector could get involved. Next up will be our ability to continue/expand public transit. A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt? Sound thinking has gone into our current situation and our finance director is projecting steadily decreasing debt payments in coming years. We need to continue on that path. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects? The higher-end stuff dresses up the riverfront and typically adds to any neighborhood where it’s placed. The free enterprise system is taking investment dollars that direction, but our government leaders (perhaps even with county participation) should steer coming privately funded development to the degree possible to energy-efficient, more affordable rent ranges for “the rest of us.” That private investment is the first choice, but if developers don’t show more interest, perhaps a body like the Community Development Authority could move to fill some of what is most certainly a need. Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs? One thing we should not do is to say, “We only got two responses, so let’s do nothing.” It’s often the case that the reason an RFP has to be issued in the first place is that the property has not attracted a lot of private-investor interest. Sometimes you have to ponder whether another RFP would suddenly bring more interest. If it seems likely that another try would bring the same result, it might be best to get the property back on the tax rolls and move on to the next challenge. With that said, it would be good to have staff inquire around the state to see how other communities are advertising their opportunities. We might learn something. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts? Private developers/investors will ultimately decide where their money goes, but the city should and does have programs to encourage both. We just approved the first two loans to owners of multi-family homes who are converting them back to either single-family dwellings or buildings with fewer rental units, for example. City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community? It’s good you asked about “reducing” this problem rather than dreaming we can eliminate it. If there were easy solutions, we’d have already seized on them, but we could be partners in establishing a social services center where the major helping agencies in the community come together in a hub to conveniently offer the services needed for people who want to escape homelessness. If we’re willing to change our building codes to allow things like clusters of tiny homes, the security of knowing they’ll have a warm, safe place to sleep at night could help the homeless focusing on improving their situation. The local homelessness coalition has not been effective recently in providing direction for the city, but a new task force of key players is formulating some recommendations. When those are issued, we should listen. The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all? One thing that seems apparent to me is that a city-only committee or task force is not going to get far. At the last meeting, some of the goals of the anti-racism group were explained. One issue had to do with getting more school counselors hired who are people of color so they can be more effective with students of color. That’s not a city thing. That’s a school system thing. Another issue was making some sort of adjustments in the judicial system (presumably the criminal side, not the misdemeanor court at City Hall) so that the proportion of people of color in the jail more closely matches the proportion of people of color in the community. The assumption was that people of color are incarcerated more often than can be explained by the number of crimes they commit. If injustice is prevalent in the system, it would have to start with police but also involve those in the district attorney’s office (county function) and the judges (also county/state function), so it would take some sorting out. If progress is to be made toward the reduction of discrimination and hate, city leaders can make some progress by working harder at it, perhaps including some sort of learning or exploration during at least one council meeting per month. As laid out, though, some sort of community-wide body with some clout will have to discover where the greatest problems are and start pulling together to work on them. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future? The best way to proceed is to continue to use the “but for” provision as in the past. The reason a particular development would not occur without some sort of support through TIF is not always apparent at first. Sometimes a developer wants to build on a lot that looks perfectly fine and the proposed business would be an attractive addition to the community, but the sticking point is that there’s solid rock 3 feet under the surface, making construction extra expensive. Those things are examined in the evaluation process at the staff level, the committee level and the council level. If something could be improved, it would be for a presiding officer to explain the reasoning, the justification for agreement to help in that way. Critics say selling city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not? Each case warrants examination on its own merits. For starters, factors to consider would be what the city has invested in the property and whether the developer is also receiving other incentives from the city to invest here and increase the local tax base. Other factors would be the dollar value of the property when construction is complete, the community desire for the business, the number of jobs at the location and pay levels for those jobs. What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? I’m not clear if this is about the most promising commercial development, the most intriguing effort by nonprofits or just the most promising “thing.” What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future? The focus should be on adding to the vibrancy of a great downtown and, in the process, create a lot of property value that will help support the city services we all enjoy. Making any part of it a tax-exempt government property should be seen as undesirable. Let the creative ideas flow and I think community support in the form of patronage will follow. The philanthropic foundation involvement is most welcome and has the best chance of bringing a great outcome. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making? The concerns of residents should never be disregarded or made light of, which is why in recent years there has been a shift at City Hall. That shift has been away from a posture that could have been described as, “We have engineers telling us this is OK, so step back.” The reason state toxicologists have come up here from Madison several times to look into available data from the Thomas Street corridor was to assess risks and explain their findings to concerned residents. These are not city-hired engineers who want to hurry along a construction project. They’re independent of the city, doctorate-level scientists. While allowing that more data will always produce more certainty in findings, they have said there is no unreasonable risk to residents of the corridor or to frequent visitors to the adjacent city park. They have said there is no additional risk of cancer of any consequence, even for a resident who lives there for 70 consecutive years. One toxicologist said if her favorite aunt wanted to move there, she would not be concerned. After a citizen group paid for soil tests in what were calculated to be the most likely spots to produce high readings, the readings were not very high and the toxicologists said the results did not change their conclusion of no unreasonable risk. Even with that, the city is doing more testing in the park this spring and results will be shared openly. Residents are being heard and heeded. When there are 20 homes on a section of a street that is demonstrably due for improvement and that street serves a city population of 40,000, the decision to improve that street must be made considering the entire community. That’s why we call it “community,” we involve representatives from all districts in the community and make decisions based on overall benefits. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office? Obviously, this answer will be different from what I would have said two months ago, pre-virus. The top thing city staff and leaders will need to do is to identify areas of need and look for ways to meet that need. I will work to find ways to increase housing opportunities for those in the moderate or low-income ranges. City operations that bring us good streets are always important and, on behalf of my district and the whole community, I will promote the idea of constructing an extension of the river-edge trail that will reach Sturgeon Eddy Road. What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots? A local news anchor told me that staff at the station had decided I am “the busiest guy in city government.” I’m not certain that’s true, but I’ve made efforts to open the gates of information and let that information flow both ways. Citizens need to know what the city is doing and why. City leaders need to know what residents are thinking and why. Another thing to know is that I’m remaining impartial when it comes to voting for mayor. We have two fine candidates and I’m confident I and the council members I’m familiar with will be able to work with either person to the benefit of the community.

Dist. 2: Michael Martens (incumbent) and Tiffany Rodriguez-Lee (challenger

Michael Martens

Michael Martens, 50

Current occupation: Self Employed‚ online marketing business Education: BA Communication Arts- University of Wisconsin Madison Prior political experience and/or community experience: Currently serving on the Wausau City Council Non-Profit organization experience working as a district executive for the Samoset Council Boy Scouts of America Community experience includes Volunteering with 4-H, Boy Scouts, MS Walk, Badger State Games, Bike Wisconsin, and Marathon County Historical Society Amateur Radio Operator holding an FCC Extra Class License Served on the board of directors for the Wisconsin Valley Radio Association Serving as an Emergency Coordinator for the Wisconsin Amateur Radio Emergency Service What motivated you to run for office? Wausau is a great place to live and I believe that we can work to make it even better. I ran for the Wausau City Council to bring fresh ideas; I’m proud of my achievements and I wish to continue the work serving as an alderperson for District 2. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years? The see the following challenges facing the city in the coming years: 1- Infrastructure Sitting on the council for two years gave me an inside view of the sad state of our municipal infrastructure. Too many years of deferred maintenance has gone by and now we are stuck with expensive solutions to these problems. As the city experiences record growth‚ we need to channel those gains into our infrastructure. 2- Debt Load Our debt load is higher than some peer communities but it is manageable. We’ve restructured our debt so that 80% can be repaid within 10 years. Due to the city’s growth, we’ve bonded less in 2019 than we did in 2018 while at the same time maintaining a fiscally responsible budget for this year. I will continue to be prudent in our financial decisions so that the city can continue the positive course of reducing its debt. 3- Affordable Housing I feel affordable housing is a priority for me in the coming term. We’ve done a great job at building quality market rate housing and now need to work at providing more safe and affordable housing. We laid the groundwork with rewriting our zoning code to make it easier to create more affordable housing options. We now need to work towards leveraging state and federal tax credits along with local incentives to build more workforce housing and adopt a ‘housing first’ policy that addresses the needs of those that are housing insecure. A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt? The debt load is higher than average because we’ve taken an aggressive approach to pay down our debt. With record low interest rates it makes good financial sense to catch up on infrastructure projects that have been put off by too many years of deferred maintenance. We could reduce the debt load by refinancing the current bonds for  longer terms but that would hamper our long term ability to borrow money. I believe a more aggressive pay down makes good financial sense even though it takes up a higher than normal percentage of the overall property tax allocation. Moving forward‚ the best way to reduce our debt is to grow the tax base either by attracting more people to the city by building more and denser housing and by bringing in and expanding business opportunities. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects? Wausau historically has a shortage in quality housing that has both driven people seeking to live in the city out to the suburbs and this has artificially increased the costs of available housing stocks. In the last two years hundreds of units of market rate housing became available or will soon be on the market. We’ve done a great job at providing quality housing and now need to work at providing more affordable housing. I see that happening in a few ways. First: changes in the zoning code have made creating affordable housing more possible. In the first major rewrite of the zoning code in over 50 years‚ the opportunities now exist to create more infill housing and denser housing options. Second is the pilot rental inspection program. Affordable housing does not mean substandard housing and the city now has the ability to inspect housing in the most rental dense part of the city. Third is using TID money to build workforce housing. We have two tax incremental financing districts that will close in the next few years. As a TID reaches the end of its life cycle‚ there are provisions that allow additional expenditures if that money is used for workforce housing. Leveraging these initiatives along with Federal and State tax credits as incentives to developers will help build new workforce homes and increase the quality of our affordable housing options. Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs? I think it can be a challenging prospect to attract more developers to an RFP. I don’t know what a suitable number of responses for an RFP should be‚ as it often seems there are only a limited number of developers that may be interested in a particular project. Timing also plays a big part in the RFP process and the city needs to continually engage with developers on potential opportunities so they are ready when an opportunity presents itself. I think a good starting point to get more developer involvement is the master planning process the city has done with its development zones. This gives developers a road map of what to expect so they can make longer range plans and then have a project ready for when an opportunity goes out to RFP. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts? I think it’s not an either/or prospect but a mix of strategies. Some people will always want a new home to move into and others will want an opportunity to fix up an existing or historic home. Same with business‚ there will always be an appetite for Class A office space while others will want the funky vibe of a historic storefront. The Live it Up and Fix it Up Wausau programs and the city’s commercial rehabilitation loans are tools the city has used successfully to renew existing spaces in our community and we need to continue promoting those. The addition of hundreds of new housing units have also met a previously unfilled need. We need to continue to be proactive in providing of mix of opportunities for those that wish to live and work in our community. City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community? Tackling homelessness needs to be public/private partnership. The city can do its part through community development block grants and providing development incentives for workforce housing; but the private and non profit sectors need to step up and create programs and projects that mitigate homelessness and help those that are housing insecure. Those suffering from chronic homelessness may suffer from addiction so I believe a ‘housing first’ policy where you first address the basic needs of a safe and stable place to live‚ and then work on the addiction issues is the best policy. The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all? Race is a difficult subject and our own Wausau City Council is working hard to address issues of bias in how we approach local issues. I believe we do treat people differently- not so much explicitly‚ but certainly implicitly. As elected officials we need to identify and address our biases and work towards neutralizing it. I don’t have any easy answers to this issue but as an elected official I will work hard to listen and empathize with others so I have a better understanding of how policy decisions can have unintended consequences. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future? The “but for” test in providing economic incentives to developers is an important determination but it also can be a difficult test to quantify. I believe that earlier developments‚ especially along the riverfront‚ where a bit more liberal in their incentives as there was a greater level of risk or uncertainty in the overall plan. But as we see these projects come to fruition the level of risk lowers and we can take a harder look at how the incentive package affects the overall bottom line for development. I believe that any developer looking for an incentive over and above the cost of land needs to submit a pro-forma analysis as part of the incentive request. Critics say selling city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not? The sale price of land should be weighed as part of an larger incentive package. In some instances it may make sense to sell the land at a discount instead of giving some other form of development incentive. For example‚ the city had several businesses expand or relocate in the west side business campus and their only request was the land necessary for expansion. This small incentive was enough to help them grow their business and increase the tax base for the city. What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? I believe the most promising development is the entire Riverlife project. Although it got off to a rocky start‚ it has energized what was once a brownfield just 5 years ago. The positive work completed south of Bridge St has spurred quite a bit of interest for the properties north of Bridge and we are seeing a wide variety of housing and commercial interest for those spaces. The recently completed Towers District and South River master plans foretell what can happen as development continues along the river. What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future? My vision for the Wausau Center Mall’s future is one of transformation. I think we need to get out of the mindset of what the mall area consists of and see it as more of a mixed use commercial and residential space. I imagine part of the building may opened up allowing for a retail experience similar to what is now found of 3rd Street. I also vision some mixed use space with retail on the 1st level‚ followed by commercial space and residential units above them. I think the recently completed market study plan and traffic study around the mall area are good roadmaps of what to expect the mall will become in the next 3-5 years. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making? Civic engagement is important and one of the roles of an Alderperson is to inform their constituents of activities happening at city hall so the residents can provide feedback. This can happen through listening sessions‚ public hearings‚ and interfacing with the community. I’ve long been an active voice in our neighborhood by regularly participating in our Longfellow Neighborhood Group meetings. I’ve encouraged residents to attend public hearings and have taken their feedback as I’ve weighed important decisions on the council. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office? We are living in unprecedented times right now and I believe the immediate concern is the safety and well being of the community. My experience on the council and knowledge of the city’s budget and resources will be vital in making important decisions to keep the city moving forward. Beyond that we may need to make adjustments to the overall economic development plan to ensure the city’s overall vitality. What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots? Experience‚ dedication‚ and trust are all traits that voters should consider in re-electing me. My experience as an incumbent on the council and relevant experience of being a small business owner and entrepreneur; my dedication in researching the issues‚ engaging in the conversation‚ and being available for the residents in our neighborhood; and my trust in doing the right thing to help move the City of Wausau forward. Overall I am proud of my record on the council from the past two years.  I will continue working to bring fresh ideas and perspective to the council and maintain my commitment to make Wausau a better place to live and work. More can be found on my website at www.michael-martens.com.

Tiffany Rodriguez-Lee, 28

Tiffany Rodriguez-Lee
Current occupation: Grants & Outcomes Director for the Boys & Girls Club of the Wausau Area Education: Bachelor of Science in Marketing, Master of Fine Arts in Writing (in progress) Prior political experience and/or community experience: I am an active citizen that dedicates my time to many organizations. I am a member of the Marathon County Board of Health, Wausau River District Board of Directors, Vice President of the Wausau Area Montessori Governance Council, a Girl Scout Troop Leader, and an active volunteer with Rise Up & The Women’s Community. What motivated you to run for office? I love Wausau, that’s why I chose to live here and raise my children here. However, when it came to local government, I did not feel represented. I decided to run to do something about that, to ensure we have new faces at the table that truly represent and reflect our community. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years? There are a few things that we need to turn attention to in order to remain future focused while taking care of our citizens now. Strategic planning will allow us to stay on track and ensure we are spending our taxpayer money wisely; smart public investments are key. That comes with raising questions and incorporating a better vetting process when it comes to developments. As a city we also need to keep affordable housing and better infrastructure for public transportation at the forefront of our minds. Inclusivity is another major challenge, as highlighted in the most recent Marathon County Life Report 37% of respondents said that they have experienced discrimination. As a potential Alderperson, and as a community, we need to take that seriously. I will work tirelessly to ensure all voices are heard and all populations are taken care of. That includes our LGBTQ+ community, our residents of color, our youth, our differently-abled, and our elderly. The lack of openness that minority groups feel will have major negative effects on our citizens overall wellbeing, and our ability to retain a viable workforce, and it should not be taken lightly. A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt? Compared to surrounding communities, 21% of tax dollars being allocated toward debt retirement is much higher than most. However, I understand that we can’t just ignore that the debt has been created. I would encourage and be open to looking at plans that allow us to continue to allocate money toward debt while limiting the amount of new debt we are taking on. I would like to see that allocation toward debt be brought back to a more acceptable average, allowing us to allocate the difference to important public services such as our public school system. Creating mountains of debt and then creating an aggressive plan to attack that debt is not a sustainable model and is not how we move Wausau forward. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects? It is obvious that Wausau is in desperate need of affordable housing options including low-income housing. While higher-end housing projects serve a purpose, there is a way to prioritize real affordable housing first. Fair Market Rent is determined each fiscal year by the HUD and is used to set payment standards for federal housing assistance programs. Wausau’s fair market rent has been determined as $497 a month for a studio apartment, $605 for a one bedroom, and $774 for a two bedroom. However, some of our most recent developments labeled as affordable do not come near that. Nearly 38% of Wausau renters pay more than 30% of their income on rent. As noted by the Life Report, this creates financial constraints making it difficult to leave money for other expenses such as food and medical. Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs? I think it’s important that we first do some reflecting and ask ourselves why we are only getting a handful of responses. What is the need or the why for the project and how are we communicating that?  When we aren’t getting the amount or the type of responses that we are looking for, we need to really understand why before just taking what we have and rushing into a project. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts? During my time at the Wausau River District, I saw first-hand the incredible impact that revitalization has on a community. There is a lot of heart and integrity in neighborhood revitalization. Starting fresh with new commercial spaces and new homes with gentrification causes major problems and forces the displacement of citizens. Neighborhood revitalization, on the other hand, take a more community-oriented approach to economic shifts. City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community? Homelessness is not a Wausau specific issue. We can learn from other communities, even those that are larger than us, and scale what is working for them in a manner that works for us. While I might not have agreed with the loitering fine that targeted our homeless population, it spurred a lot conversation that was vital in helping our vulnerable citizens. The Housing Task Force created by Ben Bliven of the Police Department, is a perfect example of what is working. This group brings together so many different agencies and community members to create obtainable and sustainable approaches to homelessness. Aside from collaborating and supporting the task force and their decisions, we can also turn focus on a few things;
  • Affordable housing options. Those that are currently homeless aren’t always without a job. Many were on the brink of homelessness and many more are on the edge s well. Truly affordable housing models can help those that are struggling financially.
  • Accessibility to resources and job opportunities. There needs to be a larger focus on the development of better public transportation. This may come in the form of a pilot project. However, it is important to note that giving residents access to resources and jobs in Rib Mountain, Weston and the Industrial park is extremely important.
  • For our current homeless population, a supportive housing solution has proven to work and will continue to work if we are willing to put some resources and money behind it. Supportive housing is a proven solution to homelessness for the most vulnerable chronically homeless people. It pairs housing with case management and supportive services.
The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all? Every single citizen of Wausau should feel welcome and accepted in this community. As a Latinx woman, I have always and will always fight for those who feel marginalized here.  I support the expansion of diversity training opportunities and exploring non-discrimination ordinances. As a city we need to ensure that public information and meetings are truly accessible to all and are held in respectful manners. When injustices occur, my potential constituents can expect me to speak up. I would rather speak up and be uncomfortable than be silent and fall in line with the status quo. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future? One could argue that any and all business proposals could say, they can’t move forward unless they have city investment. This leads to exploitation of the “but for” rule. Many small business owners moved forward with their plans without city participation, putting themselves on the line for their success. While I support city participation and smart public investments, we have to take a good hard look at the process and what truly qualifies. Our status quo lacks measurable outcomes to indicate whether the project was truly a smart public investment. We also need to facilitate more open and transparent communication when it comes to how we are spending taxpayer dollars, and establishing a system that holds city council accountable to the taxpayers. Critics say selling city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not? I think the city should receive more when selling city-owned property to developers. I think there are great opportunities to sell land at significantly lower prices when the situation is right; perhaps to a non-profit agency or other pressing community need. However, there are still many instances when $1 for land just absolutely shouldn’t be an option. I think there are ways to scale how we sell our property, especially when it comes to high priority and high impact areas. What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? While we don’t know exactly what will happen, I think our most important development right now is the Wausau Center Mall. I trust that our local owner’s will engage with the community to make the best decisions on the Mall moving forward. The Mall’s new use will have a major impact on our downtown, it’s small business owners, and our community as a whole. What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future? I trust that having the mall in the hands of locals was the best decision. I also trust that they will utilize prior plans and feedback, and that they’ll take in new feedback and plans and make a thorough decision. The mall may very well not look or feel like a mall anymore, because it has outlived that current model. I imagine this project will take time, and that mixed-use development would be a high priority. I look forward to having more conversations about the mall’s future. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making? I have had many conversations with people in my district that feel unheard, unseen, and feel that open communication is lacking. One thing I look forward to implementing is a district wide meeting in a welcoming and public space, that will occur a few days before council meetings. This monthly meeting will allow my district residents to chat with me about what is coming up on the agenda, and serve as an opportunity to have their concerns and questions noted. That will allow me to enter council meetings with a thorough understanding of what my district needs.  As an Alderperson, I will take the work seriously and ensure that I communicate clearly and regularly with my district. That will include interactive and engaging meetings where all are welcome, as well as email newsletter options. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office? There is a lot of work to be done and I am excited to dig in. I will be prioritizing resurrecting the council’s Ethics Committee, implementing monthly district-wide meetings with my constituents, that I hope to do in partnership with our county board representative, and I will also be prioritizing evaluating our plans for infrastructure that encourages affordable housing models and diving into our public transportation issues. What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots? I’m running for Wausau City Council District 2 to bring energy, change, and a new perspective to Wausau. It’s important to me to ensure that all voices are heard and represented in local government so that we can move forward together. As a member of City Council, I will work hard to engage the public and advocate for transparency while supporting a strategic plan for Wausau that includes smart public investments. Looking forward, it is imperative that we strive toward becoming a more sustainable, inclusive, and prosperous community. It’s time to look forward, think about Wausau’s impact, and ensure we do better for our future generations.

Dist. 3: Tom Kilian (challenger) and David Nutting (incumbent)

Tom Kilian, 41

Tom Kilian
Current occupation: Owner of Kilian Integrated Marketing LLC. Past agency experience in the Chicago area serving Fortune 100 and 500 accounts. Education:
  • International Baccalaureate Diploma (“Full I.B.”) – Wausau East High School, Wausau, WI
  • Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish (Presidential Scholarship) – Lawrence University, Appleton, WI
  • Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications (4.0 GPA) – Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL
Prior political experience and/or community experience: What motivated you to run for office? After living in the district and being involved in its issues for numerous years, I felt that many regular folks here have had nearly no representation – their stated concerns and opinions are frequently ignored.  I want to represent and protect the interests of fellow Wausonians in District 3. I have successfully represented the interests of people in the district on the outside, and it is time to take it to the inside and carry it across the goal line. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years? Broadly speaking, the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years will be resolving and remedying the challenges which have been created or neglected in the last four years. Let me break that down:
  1. The majority of city council representatives have not represented their constituents stated interests, needs, or concerns, and residents are fed up.
  2. Financial hemorrhaging must stop, and the fiscal priorities must be refocused on the people and appropriate governance.
  3. The City of Wausau’s policies have fixated on the acquisition of new residents from out of the area while neglecting the welfare and quality of life of its current residents. While the city has clearly been unsuccessful in generating even meager population growth, its acquisition strategy has done damage to the lives of citizens who actually live here.
A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt? In recent years, the City of Wausau’s debt per capita has actually been about 42% higher than similar Wisconsin towns, which is unacceptable and untenable. I would vocally advocate for reduction in city spending on elective decadence and unnecessary subsidies for luxury developments, while seeing to it that fundamentals for our citizens, such as infrastructure and essential services, are prioritized. If the city cannot manage to find its own fiscal self-control regarding TIF, I would support Senate Bill 560 or something like it. We need to cut the fiscal fat due to things like some of the private sector giveaways we have observed in recent years. However, as a strong supporter of our police and fire services, I will strive to see that funding for the officers’ training budget is increased so that requests for training sessions are no longer so frequently restricted or rejected. I will also advocate for additional and adequate funding so that the police could achieve “full staffing” to help break down the patrol bureau to run specific enforcement activities should the department see fit and desire. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects? Without question, affordable housing and low-income housing are more crucial. Statistically, Wausau’s median household income has declined and, unfortunately, has been roughly 27% lower than the state’s median household income in recent years. Over 25% of our town’s children live in poverty. We already face an affordable housing crisis that is likely to worsen, given the city has demolished massive sections of working- and middle- class neighborhoods for dubious projects in recent years. Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs? The good-old-boys culture continues to define our public-private relationships and, unfortunately, the city appears to be front-loading project RFPs with interested parties and developers even before those RFPs have been issued to the general public. Not only can this limit the option set, some may consider it unethical. This must cease. Additionally, I recommend increasing the length of allowed RFP response times. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts? Other than building more truly affordable housing, revitalizing existing homes and storefronts is more important for Wausau right now. That is not simply my opinion – other Wisconsin municipalities have recently put extensive time and effort into studying this matter and concluded that in addition to generating more affordable housing, the preservation and improvement of current housing stock is imperative to preventing and rectifying the gentrification and displacement problems that are increasingly damaging their communities. We should also be focusing on supporting the success of our existing local businesses and small businesses rather than subsidizing their new competition with tax dollars. City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community? 1) The community must address the co-occurring local challenges of homelessness and alcoholism and this would likely necessitate a public-private pilot program for a “wet shelter.” 2) We must ensure that zoning can sufficiently accommodate “tiny homes” and 3) We should leverage current city-owned property to establish areas for tiny homes that are adjacent to a set of supportive services and service providers for the disadvantaged within a centralized location. The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all? Mr. Nutting’s hateful rhetoric brought dishonor to Wausau on a national level. I, too, was raised Christian but, to me, those Christian principles inspire love rather than prejudice. I promise to represent the interests of all constituents. Through Environmental Justice work that I was a part of, corporate and government entities now know that if they oppose the interests of District 3 residents in a discriminatory fashion, they are touching a hot stove and, frankly, because of that, they likely have little desire to touch it again. All are welcome in District 3 if I represent it, and classism and bigotry will no longer be tolerated. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future? Some feel the “but for” requirement has been so bastardized by the City of Wausau that it is currently more of a tragicomedy than any legitimate component of a funding scheme. Part of bringing legitimacy and sanity to TIF in town – and elsewhere in the region – would likely include a shake-up of the Joint Review Board, as this, too, has essentially been reduced to a rubber stamp. Ultimately and unequivocally, there must be a sufficient return on investment if the government is to subsidize the private sector. City Hall should no longer act as a slush fund or ATM for “economic development” misadventures. The people should be the fiscal priority of their government because — in legitimate settings and democracies — the people are their government. Critics say selling city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not? The city should not be selling city-owned property to developers for $1 and the city should rarely be selling city-owned property for below fair market value for projects, as it could signal a clear abuse of discretion. As the League of Wisconsin Municipalities has advised cities in the past, they “should obtain an appraisal of any parcels to be sold to eliminate the possibility of a successful taxpayer’s suit challenging the adequacy of the purchase price. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has held that a sale of municipal property authorized by the governing body may be voided if a taxpayer can establish (1) illegality, (2) fraud or (3) a clear abuse of discretion on the part of the governing body. Newell v. Kenosha, 7 Wis.2d 516, 96 N.W.2d 845 (1958); Hermann v. Lake Mills, 275 Wis. 537, 82 N.W.2d 167 (1957). If a municipal governing body sells property for substantially less than a fair consideration in money or other benefits, it may be found to have abused its discretion.” What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? On the literal front, I presume the question revolves around economic or construction development. Unfortunately, most of those have been choreographed by City Hall and subsidized with our tax dollars for what appears to be the benefit of a select few, and I see little promise in the lion’s share of them. On the figurative side, the most promising development I see right now in Wausau is the development of greater civic resistance from informed citizens to city policies which do not serve their interests or the interests of regular folks. What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future? I think my vision for the Wausau Center Mall’s distant future is less relevant and timely than what I will likely be monitoring early on as a council member. I will have an interest in reviewing any present or potential role of the City of Wausau’s Financial Director (Treasurer) on the board of directors of Wausau Opportunities Zone, LLC, (WOZ), understanding the role of the general manager of WOZ, and inquiring about how bidding contracts will be handled in the future. Since there are both private entities and government monies involved in the endeavor, one of my primary tasks in this matter as an alderperson – as it should be – will be closely looking out for our community and its taxpayers, and making sure there are no potential conflicts of interest. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making? Government should be citizen-driven, and representatives should remember that they are fundamentally servants of the people. I will push to see that the most stringent participation guidelines and processes – often federally-based – are incorporated into and required for municipal projects (whether the projects are locally-funded or not) so that citizen-involvement corners are not cut and that the welfare and views of the most vulnerable are not sidelined. I plan on proposing stricter environmental protocols for city-owned property at the municipal level in order to – in part – diminish, as much as possible, the state’s regulatory discretion relating to inaction or non-enforcement of its own DNR administrative code. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office?
  1. Restore the decision-making authority back to the residents
  2. Increase government transparency
  3. Implement, continue, and/or expand protective and recovery measures related to the current viral pandemic and ensure an integrated municipal policy approach – from health to the economy to the community.
What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots? District 3 and Wausau deserve a bright future, and it is time that citizen needs and expectations be at the forefront of that future. Through electoral means, we can welcome in representatives, ideals, and goals for our community that cast this unacceptable status quo into history. We can welcome in representatives that serve the citizenry rather than the established ruling class, and who serve new needs instead of old money. If elected, I pledge that the priorities of District 3 residents will be my priorities as a city council representative.

David Nutting, 62

Dave Nutting
Current occupation: Senior Internal Shop Technician, E. O. Johnson Business Technologies, 27+ years Education: Born/Raised Wausau Public Schools, Wausau East Class of 1976, USArmy Artillery Specialist and Military Electronics courses, Cleveland Institute of Electronics Correspondence Courses; Bruning, Oce’, & Canon business equipment company schools. Prior political experience and/or community experience: 12+ years City of Wausau Alderperson 14 years Marathon County Board of Supervisors Grand Theater Volunteer What motivated you to run for office? A vacancy occurred on the Council in August ‘05 whereupon i was appointed to complete that term.  I was short about 15 votes each of the next two terms, and was reappointed to complete the vacancy when Mr. Folley suddenly announced his resignation to move to Florida. I have been honored to represent our district at both City and County levels to encourage the betterment And quality of life in Wausau and the whole of Marathon County. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years? I believe that a major challenge placed upon the City is from the DNR with it’s requirements for ever increasing higher quality of discharge standards from our aging sewerage treatment plant. The plans for this major renovation and it’s financing are moving forward to be in place in the time period that the DNR has placed upon that City Department. Coupled with that is the Challenge to Move the Clean Water Treatment Plant off of the low 1960’s industrial site along the east side of the river,  to a higher safer-from-flooding site on the west side.  Again great planning is in place by our City Engineering Staff to accomplish these two major projects at a time when financing costs are at their lowest percentage ever. A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt? The City’s debt is presently being retired at a record pace and TID’s are being  retired as planned.  Moody gives the City the highest rating possible for our size of a Municipality … it cannot go higher. The City’s fiscal health is good as  reported by independent sources and our Finance Director’s Department has received high ratings by independent sources.  The past Councils and this  present Council have understood the prudent use of very low cost debt to facilitate housing, business improvement, and infrastructure of all types all over the City.  The Council just approved the closure of a TID, now directing those taxes to the City, County, School District, and NTC.  The New Council shall inherit a good plan in progress. Steady as she goes. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects? Both types of housing opportunities are ongoing now and have been for many years.  For a time, there were many “low-income” or income assisted housing developments being proposed and constructed.  The East High Apartments is an amazing success project. Across the street from East High at the corner of Seventh & Fulton is a Community Development of traditional architecture income assisted apartments.  Trolley Court apartments was developed.  The former Sav-O building was saved and developed into another excellent income assisted set of apartments.  The former Federal Building across from the Library is another prime example right downtown, along now with the planned complete remodeling of the Historic Hotel Wausau by Gorman.  Community Development is offering funds for owners of our mature housing on the City’s West and East side to update and restore those that are zoned rental.  With the completion of Thomas Street has come the development of a number of new affordable apartments. New affordable homes are being built on Sherman Street now on those empty lot remnants left after that road was widened.  More affordable housing options are being sought after all the time.  Another development is in planning out near the Business Campus, while another is nearing completion off Westhill Drive across from Rassmussen College.  Then there is the Community Development project of the former Ponderosa building.  I have likely missed some, certainly not to mention all those taking place in Weston and Rothschild.  Other developers are focusing on the need for market rate and luxury housing with several in progress presently. Past and present Councils have and are encouraging all types of housing. Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs? Simply put … there is a shortage of Contractors after 2008.  I know of a number that went out of business.  Timing is another reason.  With so many projects out there, developers are swamped with work.  The earlier that an RFP can be issued for a project far off into the future, the better our chances for receiving more responses to RFPs. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts? Both options have to be focused on.  Community Development is ready to assist in the revitalizing of existing homes and storefronts.  New homes and commercial spaces will bring new tax revenue, … so the Council will always consider encouraging both. City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community? We have studied this subject extensively from the County’s perspective.  Inmates that are released from the Jail are at risk of being homeless.  The County needs to intervene here on encouraging exit services for them.  Also, these individuals may have addictions that are behind their homelessness. Additionally if a collaboration with various local employers could be arranged to put some of them to work and in combination with a living arrangement, this might be an answer to reduce homelessness in our community. The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all? The City of Wausau IS “open and welcoming to all”!  Marathon County IS “open and welcoming to all”!  A reporter likely would encounter that same response from all the rural and urban Townships, Villages, and Cities’ governing boards throughout the County.  Discrimination and Hate are against the laws of our land and should be reported by anyone experiencing these feelings. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future? Extensive discussion and vetting of proposed developments occurs now using the  “but for” reasoning. There have been projects turned down for TIF participation. Historically this tool has been used in geographical locations that have remained undeveloped due to various reasons. Critics say selling city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not? The payback to the community as a whole will be development and employment, thus bringing a non-tax paying property into a profitable status for the City, County, School District and NTC.  All communities use this tool to smooth the path for some challenging areas to be developed. What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? The River Life Developments south of WOW. What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future? WOZ has engaged a very successful local developer to re-envision The Whole Wausau Center footprint and traffic pattern.   It is finally in good local hands and we look forward to wonderful options and plans in the near future.  All ideas are being contemplated. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making? All residents always have open opportunities to participate in hearings and committee meetings.  All staff and Council members are and always have been reachable by the citizens they represent.  The Council weighs all decisions  based on information at its disposal, and determines the needs of the City as a Whole, as well as specific locations.  Decision-making is ultimately rests on the shoulders of the these 11 ordinary neighbors who have volunteered to step up to the plate to serve in this capacity.  Nobody serves on the Council or the Supervisory Board for fame or glory.  It is not an easy job and no one should enter into it expecting it to be easy, or expecting that they can make quick changes to operations. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office? My ongoing priority is to be of encouragement to our valuable experienced City Staff so that they can do the best job possible for our residents in providing services. I will continue to assure that development and progress and great quality of living features are ongoing.  Wausau Is Open For Business. I will continue to pursue options to encourage upgrading of the aging housing on the near East and West sides and seek out ideas to provide housing for the homeless. What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots? It has been an honor to serve this District for nearly 12 years on the Council and 14 years on the County Board of Supervisors.  I will always encourage the most services possible in the most cost effective manor, while seeking to improve and attract development and infrastructure improvements for the City and County as a whole.  This is a great City with great opportunities in progress and in planning.  Let’s keep this momentum going with my stable experienced representation.  Thank you District Three residents.

Dist. 4: Judith Miller (challenger) and Tom Neal (incumbent)

Judith Miller

Judith Miller
Current occupation: retired, formerly in social services and finance Education: B.A. in liberal arts from UW-Stevens Point; earned  Series 7 and Series 66 licenses as well as licensing in life insurance and futures trading as post-graduate Prior political experience and/or community experience: Prior Chair of Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Victims Services (DASAVS) which founded our first shelter for abused women and children; former volunteer to Marathon County Humane Society and YWCA In-School Diversity Training Program; member of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) and Midwest Renewable Energy Association What motivated you to run for office? I decided to run after repeatedly watching our Council fail to do background checks on business developers, to ask questions, and to demand proof of the assertions developers have made. This led to the River Life disaster, leading to delay on a major city project, avoidable litigation, and distrust of citizens for this government. Despite the problems revealed by that enterprise,   Council continued its standard practices with the proposal of Urban ?Bistro purchasing the Westside Battery building: when the restaurant owned claimed that there was an approved loan in first position, the Economic Development Committee, currently chaired by my opponent, did not ask to see the letter or approval for the loan in first position and voted to approve a second-position loan from the City with no documentation and no proof of the owner’s assertion’ this is tantamount to a banker not checking credit rating and debt load when a customer asks for a home equity line. I believe my training in banking and finance will prove a valuable asset to the citizens of Wausau. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years? Retaining and building population. We have lost population over the last 7-8 years, we are failing to keep educated young people here, and we are not retaining people who need affordable housing. We need to re-evaluate our approach to growing our people resources because I do not feel that building expensive condos and trying to gentrify working-class neighborhoods such as Thomas Street is the answer. While some may feel that attracting rising “young professionals”, I would point out that the average working person in Wausau needs a living wage and the hope that they may be able  to afford a decent house here when they graduate from college and/or want to start a family. New entertainment venues are always exciting and fun, but we need new ways to support long-term residency for those very workers “young professionals” will need to employ in their enterprises. Those who cannot establish an affordable, safe and secure life here may get an education here but they won’t stay here to use it. A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt? Our debt level is definitely too high, and the burden on taxpayers has been steadily increasing. My first step here would be to exercise more oversight on City expenditures. I would appear that an allocation was made a few years ago, for example, to purchase “life-saving equipment” for both the Police and Fire Departments; an allotment of approximately eight units per department was made; only three units each were purchased. The rest of the money was not returned to the budget. Where did that remaining money go? And how many incomplete projects have been left investigated? That money, in itself, could be applied to debt repayment. Also, it was recently asserted in these another  pages by a city candidate that the customary way a householder would pay  ahead on  a mortgage is to seek another shorter-term loan to pay off the debt early and so save interest. Not true: the classic way to pay off such debt early is to make only one extra payment per year; strategic planning of this kind would certainly lead to a manageable drop in City debt levels. Strategic thinking and careful planning will be required to assure citizens of affordable lives. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects? I think we have put the cart before the horse by trying to create so many higher-end projects I think we have enough of those for awhile and now must turn our attention to both low=income and so-called affordable housing. Once we have rectified the balance, then these two things should probably run at the same pace and perhaps a touch more slowly then we have seen of late.. I ask, why would a high-end  business developer or housing developer want to invest in a city that cannot comfortably house entry-level workers, college students, and those wanting to pull themselves up into the middle class? And why would workers without opportunity for safe, adequate housing feel any incentive to stay here? Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs? Many slightly larger and slightly smaller cities in the Midwest are finding that developers are begging to do business in their communities, yet Wausau somehow is often not on the list. I think there are a few things we need to try: 1) we need to support a living wage for our workers, 2) we need to upgrade the look of several neighborhoods throughout the city (I think particularly of the area between Sixth Street and the railroad tracks in my neighborhood) by pursuing low-cost, long-term loans for people to replace and upgrade porches, walks,  roofs, windows and other visible signs of disrepair; we need to partner with the County to find efficient ways to raze blighted buildings that cannot be restored; 3) We need to restore our roads and other infrastructure; 4) We need to institute clean, green energy, green mass transportation, and  clean manufacturing processes; 5) We must support, promote, and exemplify a warm and welcoming community that beckons to newcomers. Pursuing theses new goals will appeal to younger people and demonstrate that Wausau is ready to embrace the future, features that younger people looking for a place to settle down seek. It is said that one must BE the change you want to make. We must try to BE the future we imagine for our city, and we must start now. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts? Again, we have often had the cart before the horse here: we must renovate and revitalize this city as it exists now. We have far too many vacant buildings that could become new small businesses or be renovated into safe low-income housing. How can they pull themselves up into the middle class? And why would workers with no hope of saving enough to buy a house or condo feel any incentive to stay here? Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs? Many smaller and larger cities have found that developers are eager to invest in their communities, yet Wausau cannot seem to attract proposals without, few though they are, without giving away the farm. I think Wausau must continue to advertise  the benefits of locating here but must also 1) work to repair roads and failing infrastructure that make our city seem neglected, 2) find creative ways to renovate and refurbish older neighborhoods by finding ways to institute low-cost, longer-term loans so that residents can upgrade porches, walks, driveways, and roofs, 3) we must look to new, clean, green solutions to bring new workers and employers here and to indicate we are part of the emerging economy, 4) we must invest in clean, green mass transportation to save energy and money, preserve our environment, and make local travel easy and convenient; 5) we must work long and hard to create a Wausau that is warm, welcoming, and diverse. I believe that these changes, coupled with a more careful and precise proposal process that asks for diversity of workforce, offers demonstrable levels of employment, and provides proof of a developer’s financial resources will lead to more and better proposals. City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community? 1) Elimination of the fine for lingering and/or sleeping after hours in the parking ramps and other such areas, an ordinance that my opponent supported; punishing the homeless is not the solution; 2) As I said publicly at the hearing on the homeless fine issue,  I believe, as do many national experts. That greater institution of the “Housing First” policy will result in far fewer long-term homeless; this policy operates on the principle that we must first find  safe, secure, permanent housing for the homeless and address other difficulties that may have contributed to lack of shelter AFTER that, i.e., addiction, depression, need for medical care and prescriptions, job training/ etc.  This program has resulted in amazing reductions in the homeless population in cities as large as Salt Lake City; 3) We have many large, vacant buildings in the city and it is time we put some of them to use. The west side Shopko is empty and is largely empty within; surely we could take control of this building and stock it with the generous supply of donated goods such as sleeping bags, blankets, etc., that one local group has gathered and provide a spacious place for the homeless here that would still give them some personal space, heat, running water (we could surely install a bank of showers), and is on the bus line. It is not the only building we might select for this, but it is one. The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all? Beyond my personal  obligation to identify and monitor my own unconscious biases, I have a few other ideas here; 1) Given the City’s expressed desire to provide ongoing diversity training to Council and staff, I think it should become commonly accepted practice among Council members to hold each other accountable for off=color comments and to seek actively to eradicate such verbalization from the public discourse; 2) I think we must make a concerted effort to recruit diverse people to join City committees and commissions, to co-lead or lead neighborhood groups and start new ones, to speak frequently at public hearings and become more active on City issues’ we must encourage, support, and invite this participation whenever possible; 3) I have spoken to our City Attorney about this idea and she has assured me this is possible” we should demand diversity of workforce from all developers and other contraators and should ask for documentation of this as well as proof that a living wage is being offered to their employees.; 4) We need to investigate further the possible need for ongoing translation services for populations such as ethnic populations within Wausau, new immigrants, and the deaf and/or hearing-impaired. These are clearly difficult problems to address as we have all absorbed ideas and concepts that are erroneous but can sometimes be deeply held. Person-to-person contact can go a long way to eradicating prejudice as former strangers become individual people to each other, but it also goes a long way to see people who look just like you represented at City functions. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future? We must seek to limit these expenditures and the creation of new tax-increment districts in future; this strategy has been overused, poorly monitored, and has certainly contributed to the taxpayer burden. Recently, we have also seen questionable strategies used such as moving monies from one TID to another to then lend that money to aid business development., redefining the boundaries of TID’s to better accommodate certain large local organizations, and the persistent construction of higher-end residential facilities when there is greater need for affordable housing. Critics say selling city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not? I feel we have often done our best to give away he farm to entice development and it has made Wausau look like a beggar; I think we have more than enough to offer potential developers than to feel the need to present ourselves this way, The particular project referenced is one for which the City, as I understand it, accepted a loan of $250,00, sold the Westside Battery building for $1, and still owe $200,000 on the loan. I have heard no one discuss the means of repayment or mention if the possibility of forgiveness of the balance remaining exists. This kind of economic policy is not acceptable and selling a building with such a high original value for peanuts seems particularly unwise. I fail to see the rationale for the City so often failing to seek ANY recoup at all of its original expenditure. Why are we any less valuable than the average family trying to sell a house or a car? What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? I am very interested in the proposal to renovate the old Holiday Inn, now the Best Western, on Wausau’s west side; this building has needed a new face and other remodeling for some time and the idea that the total parcel will be divided into three with a search for proposals for affordable apartment or assisted living quarters will bring a great face lift to that area. The other exciting project I must mention is the plan for The Barrelhouse Brew Pub (if I have the right name), a multi-faceted project that s captained by a young brew-master and the woman who owns The Mosinee Brewery, a business that has been very successful in Mosinee’s downtown. This proposal is backed by visible, demonstrable business success and also will highlight a woman-owned business that may well, because of its many-sided structure gives me strong belief in its future success, I met the one owner, Lynn, when she was busy decorating the interior of the Mosinee business and deciding on its advertising plan/ wat she had done there was already impressive, and she clearly does her market research before she launches a project. This proposal is backed by visible, demonstrable business success and also will highlight a woman-owned business that may well, because of its many-sided structure gives me strong belief in its future success, I met the one owner, Lynn, when she was busy decorating the interior of the Mosinee business and deciding on its advertising plan. What she had done there was already impressive, and she clearly does her market research before she launches a project. I have high hopes for this one. What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future? I am not so confident about this latest project, It  seems to me we have been bailing out the Mall, in one way or another, for a very long time, We should face the fact that malls like ours, and bigger one, have been failing for the past twenty years. I feel the best option would be to redesign that huge property by re-instituting some of the missing streets and dividing the acreage into smaller groupings of retail businesses such as a grocery store, pharmacy, perhaps some assisted living, e I think this creation of what I can see as a kind of small village within the downtown might well attract new small businesses and more out-of-town shoppers. I confess I can even envision an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, an animal grooming salon, a community pharmacy such as the one in Madison,/walk-in shish kabob cafe, and scattered park benches surrounded by small flower beds. It never hurts to dream. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making? I would try to institute more public hearings and make access to them muktileveled. I would investigate the need for on-site interpreters at such meetings; I would investigate what added ways of notifying people about such meetings are available such as perhaps sending email notifications to neighborhood group leaders on a monthly basis to inform their members; I would again seek every opportunity to encourage citizen participation in City activities. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office? 1) To institute better vetting of business developers and proposals; 2) To exercise greater oversight of all City expenditures and to eliminate monetary waste from incomplete projects that are not being tracked to conclusion; 3) To provide, to the best of my ability, overall clarity, accountability, oversight, and equity in all policies and procedures. What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their !!br0ken!! I feel that my experience in social services, particularly at North Central Health Care Emergency Services, my experience with Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Victims Services (DASAVS) and being part of the founding of our first women’s shelter here plus my experience in finance with M&I. AbbyBank, and Morgan Stanley give me the wide range of knowledge needed to make sound decisions and protect the best interests of Wausau residents.

Tom Neal, 68

Tom Neal
Current occupation: retired marketing executive, now freelance copywriter Education: BA Psychology Prior political experience and/or community experience: 6 years on Wausau city council and various committees, Community Development Authority Board, City Room Tax Commission and have served on several other local boards What motivated you to run for office? Friends encouraged me when the seat opened up and I believed I could be a positive, progressive voice in local government. I thought it might be a huge chore, and it does keep me busy, but it’s been very rewarding for me to feel I’ve been of service in many ways. So, I’m seeking my fourth term because I feel the job fits me and I fit the job. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years? Growing our economy and attracting investment. We’re competing with many other communities for new businesses and new residents. By growing our tax base, we can spread out the tax burden and better afford continuation of vital services and amenities that make Wausau a special place to live, A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt? The city is already on track to eliminate a large majority of its debt in the next few years, and much of that debt was undertaken for major, necessary infrastructure initiatives that will not be repeated for the next 50 years or more. The city has borrowed when it needed to and when rates were very low. Its rating remains strong and I see less reliance on debt-based funding in coming years. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects? The city’s strategy is to address the full range of housing needs. While some high-profile market-rate projects attract lots of attention, and some pushback from detractors, there are and have been other significant efforts that address low and moderate income housing needs. I serve on the Community Development Authority Board; we are always looking at ways to provide affordable housing options utilizing federal funding sources. The Landmark upgrade project will use affordable housing tax credits and result in plenty of lower-rent units. The Trolley Quarter Flats and Badger Lofts projects also provide low-income residential. The city will continue to address this need, while recognizing that some developers will be focused on market-rate projects. Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs? The city needs to continue to grow and make itself more marketable. Obviously, developers tend to gravitate toward promising opportunities in communities that are thriving. Wausau needs to always communicate its successes and nurture a vibrant brand that’s synonymous with progress. RFP responses will grow as we appear more attractive and business-friendly. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts? It’s not an either/or proposition. We can and should concentrate on both. The Wausau Fix It Up revolving loan program is available to help home owners pay for remodeling projects. The Live It Up program helps new home buyers afford a down payment. There are business improvement and start-up loans. And, the city continues to encourage new development. We have to cook on all burners. City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community?
  1. Broaden public/private coordination to provide vitally needed practical support (shelter, health care, food).
  2. Promote public/private work programs for those willing and able to take part.
  3. Widen services that address root causes of homelessness, including substance abuse, mental health and chronic unemployment due to criminal history.
The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all? While that appears to be a disturbing trend, we should consider the very small survey size, the margin for error, and lack of anecdotal context. I believe people here are by and large decent, respectful and fair. Yet, we need to identify instances where injustice is found and take positive steps to rectify it. It’s hard to cure hate, but we can have an impact on mistreatment and ignorance. I serve on the mayor’s Welcoming & Inclusivity Committee to help make that happen. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future? In the wake of Act 10 and drastic loss of state shared revenue, TID financing is not just a popular tool, it’s the only municipal tool that allows needed flexibility to address infrastructure and attract major investment. Now, criteria to asses validity of a “but for” proposition include degree of perceived risk to the developer, physical on-site challenges, remediation of blight, and potential for significant incremental growth in tax value. Also, banks typically look for some level of city participation when developers approach them for lending. Critics say selling city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not? The city needs to focus more on future ROI than a few thousand dollars in land sale. Why demand $12,000 for an acre when the project can be worth millions in construction value and subsequent tax revenue, along with new jobs? That $12,000 can go right into the project, and make a big difference for some developers. The priority is to get city property back on the tax rolls, put our construction workers to work, and promote new jobs. What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? For sure, the riverfront (Riverlife and other near-downtown areas) offers the greatest potential and we’re seeing that play out dramatically right now on the east side of the river. It can and will also occur on the west side. Also, the recently expanded industrial campus offers much-needed new room for major developments. What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future? Certainly, it can’t remain a traditional mall, and everyone accepts that fact. Its immediate goal is to achieve short-term stability while its future repurposing potentials are explored. I see it evolving into a multi-use center with some mix of retail, commercial office, residential and entertainment. Its downtown location is a big asset, as is the availability of ample covered parking. We’re on the right track with local investors. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making? This can be a touchy issue. Ours is a representative form of government. Officials — whether local, state or federal — are elected to make decisions. The best officials are ones who communicate with the public, collecting and evaluating their input and offering clear information to them. With open council and committee meetings with public comment allowed, frequent public hearings, press releases, live and archived meeting videos, and other city outreach I don’t agree that the public is being left out. As always, some citizens will feel a certain way about an issue while others feel differently. Having a voice doesn’t mean always having your way. But, nobody is deprived of their voice being heard. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office?
  1. Contribute to a smooth transition on council and in committees with at least a few new faces coming in.
  2. Focus on existing momentum and continuity in vital economic development projects.
  3. Continue work on making Wausau a more welcoming, diversity-focused, and engaged community.
What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots? I’ve enjoyed my 6 years on council and various committees, effectively advocating for my constituents, making a difference in little and big ways, and I feel energized to follow through with opportunities and projects underway. I’m very accessible and responsive to anyone with a question or concern and will go to bat for them at city hall.

Dist. 5: Joel Lewis and James Wadinski

(current Alder Gary Gisselman is not seeking re-election)

Joel Lewis

Current occupation: Organizer (Citizen Action of Wisconsin), Home Care Worker (Work privately for grandparents, who are aging in their home. This responsibility is mostly taken care of by my wife and paternal Uncle, but I also help), and Participant-Hired Worker (Iris-Home care work for my Uncle-in-Law). Education: Wausau West graduate. Received Associate’s degree in Human Services and Psychology from NTC, then received my Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology and Human Services (Social Work Equivalency) from Upper Iowa University – Wausau Chapter Prior political experience and/or community experience: I had a Civics class at St. Matthew Catholic middle school, when I was in the 6th grade. The teacher that I had (who currently serves in local government) was a major inspiration for me. This is definitely the moment where I knew that I wanted to be politically active in one way or another…I just had no idea how at that time.  Then fast forward to when I was attending classes at Upper Iowa University. I had a former Merrill Chief of Police as an adjunct instructor. He had an assignment where we were encouraged to attend a City Hall meeting, or a committee meeting, etc. I attended a meeting at Wausau City Hall, and also a Forestry committee meeting for this assignment. My experiences there helped me realize that I could serve in this capacity. I had my first job as an Organizer shortly after graduating from college and wanted to run, but had to wait, because I did not want to challenge the Alder and Supervisor at that time. I eventually had my chance to run for County Supervisory district 5. I served there for two terms (4 years) from 2014-2018. As a part of my role there, I served on the Social Services Board, the Education and Economic Development Committee, and the North Central Health Care Task Force. I am active with several community groups throughout the North Central region, serve as a delegate for my Union and as a Trustee on the Marathon County Central Labor Council AFL-CIO, and have organized around a variety of issues in our community over the last 10 years. What motivated you to run for office? The moment that I saw the Declaration of Non-Candidacy from current Alder, Gary Gisselman, I felt compelled to run. I have been following Wausau politics pretty closely over the last 10 years, and feel that my familiarity with the issues, as well as my relationships with City Staff, other Alders, and community members put me in a good position to run. I respect Gary’s service, and the reason is that I feel he listened to all affected parties and the facts when making decisions for his district and the City. I want to continue this tradition that district 5 has deserves to have. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years? It is so hard to pick one. We need to be more diligent when we are spending large sums of money. The City of Wausau has enjoyed a lot of positive growth, and this is something that should continue, but we need to be mindful of how much money we’re spending and who we are working with. I believe that more time and research needs to go into the City’s strategic planning processes, especially in terms of economic development. A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt? This is why strategic planning is so important. While serving on the County board, I was always amazed at how little debt they had accrued over the years. They were very intentional about not increasing debt, and if costs went up somewhere, we worked very hard to find ways to save somewhere else. And it was never easy to decide where to cut spending…but sometimes this is what needs to be done. I think the easiest thing that we can do is be more careful when borrowing money for projects, and continue to pay down the debt that currently exists. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects? Creating opportunities for low-income housing. We have a lot of newer housing developments, but my understanding is that the rent at these places is not for low-income. One community professional told me that this was because these are to attract young professionals. This is great, but we cannot just pretend that we don’t have low-income residents. Who do we think serves us our food when we go out, or works in the various stores that we shop at? These people are not making very much money. If you take a drive around the greater Wausau area, it appears that we have a lot of people working low-paying service industry jobs…where are they supposed to find affordable housing? What about our community members living with a disability? Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs? If we could work to educate the public and businesses on the RFP process, and help them to realize that doing business with a City can be easier than it might seem at first. Government can move slow, and the RFP process might be intimidating for some entrepreneurs.  We need to find ways to make the process less intimidating. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts? Revitalizing existing homes and storefronts. Wausau has a deep and rich history, and much of that history is embodied in our historic buildings and homes. When it is affordable to do so, we should strive to maintain these gems, as they are part of what attracts people to cities like Wausau. City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community?
  1. We need to make sure that we promote the agencies that are working diligently to address the issue of homelessness and the wide array of challenges that can go along with it. We need to make sure that everyone knows that these places exist, and do whatever we can to help keep these agencies going.
  2. We should work with these agencies to see what needs the City can help with, in terms of helping those who truly want to improve their situations. These agencies are the experts and we need to listen to them more.
  3. I have a neighbor that worked to create a Marathon County Community Outreach Task Force.  She included my wife, me and a few others in the founding of this group. This group has several issues that they are working to address, but the biggest issue that led to this group’s formation, is the fact that even with all of the great agencies in our community, there are still homeless people that fall through the cracks, and live outside all winter long. This group has coordinated donations from countless members of the community, and delivered them intermittently throughout the winter. We need to do what we can to lift up groups like this as well.
The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all? In my work as an Organizer, I received training in diversity. One training that sticks out as helping me to grow, was called “White Fragility Training.” Here we learned about white guilt, and how this creates barriers to growth, and allows for justifications for systems that are oppressive to minority populations. As a white man, I have not always admitted that the system is stacked in my favor, regardless of economic background. But it is, and the more that I learn about this subject, and the more that I forgive myself for making mistakes, the more I am able to grow. And I do not have all of the answers. This is why it is vitally important for us to listen to all affected parties when making decisions. And when we don’t have the answers, we should reach out to the ENTIRE community in the decision making process. There are several groups i our area working to address these issues. We need to work with them and let their voices be heard, and we should take advantage of any training that we can to improve the way Wausau operates in terms of discrimination and hate. I also think that we need to work to inspire and encourage more members of the minority communities in Wausau to run for local office. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future? I believe that we use TIF too often, and that this is tied to not getting enough RFPs for projects that are deemed essential or necessary. So, we need to make the process easier and more attractive for private sector entities to make these investments first. Critics say selling city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not? The City should always work to get the best price possible. After all, we have bills to pay too. I would be willing to budge on this if we have a property that has become a financial burden to the City or that is so badly blighted, that the anticipated return on a low sell would make it worth it. What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? The Riverlife Development. I meet people from out of town all of the time that tell me that they love this. I even know of a few people that moved here because of this project! I hear a lot of positive comments about our 400 Block and the art culture that our community is blessed to have as well. What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future? This is a tough one. I honestly do not believe that I have the answers. I believe that the businesses and entrepreneurs in our community do have the information that would help us to make a sound decision. I believe that the opinions of the downtown businesses are vitally important here as well. I need to hear more from the community before I can get behind any one solution. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making? Simple…I would listen to them! And if I don’t like what I hear, I would do my best to be respectful of the people who are speaking anyway. They are taking time out of their lives to speak up, and they deserve respect for that alone. We can disagree with someone and still do so in a respectful manner. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office?
  1. Attend neighborhood meetings in Forest Park and the Athletic Park neighborhoods when able, to stay connected to issues within the 5th district
  2. Work on a strategic plan when able with the newly elected Council and Mayor
  3. Deciding which committees I would like to be request to be on, and becoming more educated about the issues pertaining to those committees
What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots? My work does get partisan during partisan elections, and this has given me a reputation of being on a certain side. And this is true. Many of us have picked one side or another when it comes to partisan politics. But the fact is, I want to serve ALL of my constituents to the best of my ability. I care about what people in my district and City want, and it does not matter to me which side they are on politically. We are one community, and I want to work together to make it the best place to work, live and raise a family that it can be. Please consider voting absentee, and voting through the mail to minimize your contact with those outside of your home! You can do this at www.myvote.wi.gov/VoteAbsentee

James Wadinski, 60

Jim Wadinski
Occupation: Retired Wausau Police Lieutenant, Currently Marathon Co. Reserve Deputy working Courthouse Detail. Education:  Associate Degree NTC.  35 years of continuing education in field. Experience:  Served on the boards as Treasurer of Wisconsin Crime Prevention Practitioners, Wausau Police Lodge, Optimist Club of Wausau.  Membership in: International Crime Prevention Practitioners Association, Wausau Elks Lodge, Wausau Moose Lodge.  I also have attended various City Committees over the years.  Many relating to community safety, crime prevention and youth initiatives. What motivated you to run for office? I talked with Gary Gisselman the current alderperson for district 5 before I made the choice to run and only after he told me he was not going to seek another term in office.  I am also running for alderperson because I believe I can visualize the different options, question the pros and cons and make the sound decision on topics in city government.  Decisions that will make Wausau the best it can be and still be fiscally responsible.  The City also needs to have a strong vision for the future.  Because the future is what we are all working for.  The future for us, our children, our grandchildren. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years? The top three issues I believe are the Mall and the best solution to making the property productive again.  The city debt which has increased the past few years and working on ways to reduce that debt.  Third is the roads, mainly the secondary roads, and the state of deterioration they are in and what we need to do to start to address this problem. A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt? Just in the last few weeks the Fed has lowered interest rates to historic lows.  Now is the time for the City to take advantage of these low rates and reduce this debt.  Then we need a better policy on when we want to take on more debt and if it’s in the best fiscal interest of the community and residence. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects?  First we need to measure the need in the intended area.  Then look at the return on investment and make the sometimes difficult decision on which is better for the community at that time.  Wausau may need to work toward some medium to higher-end housing to attract the higher-end jobs to the community.  This may be especially true in the City Center where the younger workforce can enjoy the “Downtown” lifestyle. Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs?  I would think that simplifying the process while covering all the bases and making sure we have clear objectives and evaluation criteria may be a start.  Also a good proof read by more than one person should be required. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts?    Because new homes increase the tax base and bring in more revenue and may bring more property to the City I think new homes are a great start.  Then with this new income stream we could work on revitalization. City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community?  Housing.  Work force development. For a few that may need the help easy access to mental health services.  This sounds simple but in reality it may be difficult to accomplish. The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all?   Discrimination is not just a thing of different color or religion.  When I was growing up in Wausau the community was not very color diverse but I still saw discrimination among the various Caucasian ethnicities.  If elected I would support different cultures, speak up if I see racism, lobby for nondiscriminatory laws and avoid assuming.  What matters most about a person is if they treat others equally and treat others how they would want to be treated.  In my career I have had the opportunity to reduce racial thoughts of others by taking the time to talk with them.  Reducing racial prejudice takes knowing your community well and choosing strategies that best fit our community’s needs, history and resources. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future? Originally TIFs came into being as a way to revitalize cities that were hurting because of urban flight, people moving out of cities.  Not so many year ago the laws changed so outlying communities could use TIFs to their advantage. Cities need TIFs now to compete with these other communities.  Whether to use a TIF or not we need to make sure the amount redirected is necessary for the project to move forward, and to make sure the benefits to the community outweigh the impact to taxing. Critics say selling city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not? I would ask the critics what is the significant downside.  The city should look at this very closely and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each project.  In my opinion it comes down to how much and how soon will the city benefit from this sale compared to holding the property for a future buyer, if they are out there. What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? The riverfront and all the opportunity for development. What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future?  Wausau will have to work hard to revitalize the Mall property.  It may take several years as I feel we should wait for the right solution and not jump into something that will not work.  Maybe smaller varied development is the answer. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making?  As alderperson my constituents will be able to contact me and ask questions and give opinions.  The hard part will be getting that input.  If I am elected please email me at my city assigned email or postal address and let me know what you think.  I will be working for you and your opinion matters. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office?  Debt reduction plan.  Road repair plan.  Start a redevelopment strategy for the Mall. What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots? I am a lifelong resident of the City.  I served 33 years as a police officer for Wausau retiring as a Lieutenant in the Patrol Division.  I am married to my high school sweetheart and we have two adult children.

Dist. 7: Lisa Rasmussen (incumbent) and Tracy Wheatley (challenger

Lisa Rasmussen, 49

Lisa Rasmussen
Current occupation: Office Manager, State Farm Insurance Education: Graduated from Wausau West HS 1988, Earned Associate in Claims & General Insurance designations Insurance Institute of America 1992 Prior political experience and/or community experience:  Served as Alderperson for District 7 since 2008, Council President 2010-2014 and 2016-present. Served as former chairperson of Capital Improvements & Street Maintenance Committee, and currently chairing Wausau’s Finance Committee and Public Health & Safety Committees for the City of Wausau. Served as President of Thomas Jefferson School PTO 2010-2015. What motivated you to run for office? Originally, in 2008 it was because our district needed a voice that would truly represent our area and get things done that made a difference in the district.  Our neighborhood pool was being considered for closure to build and aquatic center, taxpayer funded travel expense for many council members was out of control, the council was divided into two obvious voting blocs and our council person at the time, (who only served one term) told the media she felt pressured by constituents to vote against a project that her voting bloc wanted approved.  I was stunned.  We elected her to be our voice, yet when it came time to listen, she considered our opinions “pressure”.  A number of us in the district felt like our voice had been sold out to a voting bloc on the council.  I knew we needed a responsive voice and wanted to serve my community.  Since then, I have been able to create many positive changes and help bring things that improve quality of life for our residents to completion. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years? Finding the right projects and mix of land uses to redevelop the Wausau Center Mall will be one of the most challenging projects, but can bring huge benefits if done right.  We have the right local partners, but experienced leadership on the council will be needed to make sure we get the right results. A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt? The reason .21 of each tax dollar is devoted to debt service is because the city is on an aggressive debt retirement schedule that will repay over 80% of the city’s general obligation debt within 10 years.  The city makes larger payments on its debt, and uses a lot of shorter term debt to get better interest rates to reduce borrowing costs.   Similar to paying off your house or car faster by making larger payments, that type of approach saves money if the long run.  This is no different.  The debt spiked the last few years for a couple reasons.  First, we stopped putting a band aid on everything that needed fixed in the city, including facilities, infrastructure, and equipment.  That approach, over 12 years put us so far behind we couldn’t see daylight by 2016.  At the same time, we were presented with tremendous growth opportunities as the area roared back from the recession.  Developments like a new, $50 million facility for Great Lake Cheese among others, were smart investments for tax base growth and added jobs.  All of which build a strong local economy.  Now, with many of the things that were left unaddressed fixed, we turn our focus to debt reduction and watch for refinance opportunities to reduce time and interest where possible.  Closing TID districts early or on time will also assist so we then gain new revenue back into the general fund that may address some needs previously left to capital borrowing out of necessity.  We have a few districts coming up for closure soon, and just closed TID #5 last month.  That benefits all the taxing entities, including city, county and schools. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects? There is room and need for both.  For years, Wausau lacked market rate and high end housing in and near downtown.  For professionals who wanted to live near work, but not own a home, the offerings were few and many were sub par.  Infusing that market and price point with a new housing mix has created many projects that lease up as fast as they are being built.  However, Wausau also needs more affordable options as well.  We’ve done some, but there is room for more. The issue is that such projects do not cash flow for developers without heavy subsidies and tax credits.  This causes many developers to shy away from those plans, so the right developer is key.  Also, affordable housing is required to have a special taxing method that causes them to pay property tax at a rate that is about 30% of what a non subsidized development would pay. So the project pays far lower taxes, but uses an equal number of services, including trash and recycling, schools, public safety, etc.  Cities must find ways to balance the need for these developments against what is usually an expensive list of demands from the developer to make the project profitable. Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs? We don’t need a dozen proposals for projects, we need quality proposals.  Whether that is the best of two or three, or one good plan that has potential, the secret is not in quantity, it is feasibility and return on investment.  That said, Wausau needs to cast a wider net when it seeks proposals.  Releasing an RFP on a website, sending it to a few developers and relying on media coverage to attract proposals is not an optimal way to reach outside the region.  However, caution must be used.  Wausau cast a wide net and chose an out of town developer over a local one to develop Riverlife and got burned when the developer began taking losses on a failed project in another city.  That has caused taxpayers and alderpersons to prefer local options where the plans are viable because we know the players and their track records.  We have improved vetting processes for developers at my request as a member of the Economic Development committee, but the key is to choosing the right project.  If, when proposals arrive, there are not enough, or none are viable, then we can reject them all and re release the RFP at low or no cost other than staff time.  Wausau is not obligated to select proposals that come in as a response to an RFP. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts? Economically, new construction of homes and businesses creates a larger, faster impact since it adds new tax base, and net new construction is a measurement metric for setting our mil rate and other budget and expense factors that we need to have growth in, versus just increasing slightly the value of buildings we already have through renovations.  However, both are necessary.  Investment in existing structures reduces blight and increases value also, but not as dramatically in terms of growth.  Wausau has seen tremendous growth from new development the last 4 years.  In fact, that growth is largely why Wausau saw mil rate adjustment in the last budget of just over one cent, and allowed us to avoid larger increases that we had seen before. City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community? As a member of a recently created task force, I’ve been working on this the last few months with a dynamic group of stakeholders.  Some solutions could include creating a collaborative among non profits that deliver services to those who are or (who are about to be) homeless in a better way.  To better connect services to the people who need them, and cut red tape in the process.  Also, we should look at ways to partner with local landlords on a pilot program to remove barriers to housing for people who may have evictions or other adverse action preventing them from getting housing to find their way out of homelessness.  Also worth looking at are options for tiny homes and improving access to mental health services and drug and alcohol treatment for those who have experienced difficulty in accessing or completing these processes. The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all? Part of the trouble we have is that politics at the state and national level has become so divided that few can compromise or find the center to get things done.   Worse, is that the division has also brought out an increase in behaviors and conduct that never would have been acceptable before.  Yet, now some accept and even encourage this rhetoric, which is disappointing.  Somehow, some have lost sight of the fact that America was built by people with differences, celebrating their freedom to exist and practice these differences without fear of persecution.  Nearly every one of us have family that came from somewhere else and we need to recognize that part of our strength is the fact that we have many cultures and backgrounds to celebrate.  I think the best thing we can do in local government is lead by example, open up dialogues and recognize that not everyone’s experience here has been positive.  I think we need to be clear that racism and hate have no home here.  As a city we need to work together with groups whose mission is bringing Wausau together. As a community, we are stronger when we work together. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future? The “but for” test is a good measure to determine when tax increment financing is even applicable.  But beyond that, any project seeking incentives must either remediate blight, develop challenged areas, create jobs, substantially increase taxable values or a combination of these,  Return on investment should be happening in less than 10 years and tax increment incentives should not exceed 10% of the value of any project.  Agreements should use reverse TIF financing whenever possible so the developer is required to build the project and begin paying taxes on it before our funding enters the project, so we have measurable results before we invest.  TID plans create long term benefit for all taxing entities because the value of a completed and closed district over time is many, many times more than what it ever would have been had the developments in the district not occurred. Critics say selling city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not? It depends.  Normally the city sells development ready land in the business campus for $12,000 per acre.  However, if a site has challenges, or if a proposed project is expected to add substantial value or new jobs, it may be feasible to convey the land at a small price. However, in cases where land is conveyed for $1, then that should be the extent of our participation or other incentives should be results driven reverse TIF or minimal amounts only where a gap with conventional financing might exist.  Sometimes this is also necessary to compete for large projects, especially industrial ones where our neighboring communities are willing to give land to secure projects also.  We have faced this competition in the past from Stevens Point, Weston Merrill and Marathon for various projects. What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? The most promising development in the near future will be the completion of the Riverfront, with potential for new things on the north and south riverfront also that could offer new housing, dining and entertainment options as well as new possibilities for the farmers market, and possibly even a winter market. What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future? The Wausau Center Mall’s days as a retail hub are likely over.  We need to focus on a plan that redevelops and opens up parts of the mall, adjusts traffic patterns around and perhaps even through parts of it to create an environment to develop mixed use buildings, attract businesses that complement what is already happening downtown and create added entertainment and public spaces that can reconnect those blocks to the rest of downtown and our business district. These areas should fit the needs of the community and complement, not draw away from other things already built downtown.  Substantial private sector investment will be needed over time, but we finally have the right partners in place to lead the process. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making? Wausau already makes multiple efforts to encourage public engagement in decision making.  We host public information meetings often and have even taken those meetings to people where they gather instead of expecting people to come to city hall to attend meetings.  We’ve done surveys online for some planning issues,  hosted meetings seeking public input at the farmers market in the summer, at the grand theatre on a Concert on the Square night, and even moved them into the community, hosting some at NTC in addition to city hall in the past.  One thing we cannot help though is if people choose not to attend or offer feedback and then claim to be left out of the process, which has happened.  The new water plant is a great example.  We hosted three public information meetings at NTC, and each one was full, but nearly all of the people who attended were from my district, which is great!  But, we now have candidates seeking office from other areas who claim the public was left out.  In addition to the three public information meetings, there were 8 other open meetings where the plan was discussed, all of which allowed public comment.  Neighborhood groups discussed it also. Yet, we have candidates claiming all the decisions were made in a vacuum, which is not accurate.  Going forward, the key will be partnership.  Partnership where Wausau continues to offer opportunities for public engagement and feedback and where interested citizens take advantage of those opportunities. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office? My first priority in the next 90 days recently changed.  My priority over at least the next two months will be working closely with the council, mayor and department heads to manage the COVID-19 crisis that has impacted Wausau and the world.  The last two weeks, I have been in constant contact and briefings about the directives and guidance being issued from city hall.  I’ve been involved at this level so I can keep the council informed and get their questions answered, but also because serving as council president, if the mayor becomes ill and unable to work, I will be required to serve as acting mayor in his absence and will need to be able to be up to speed and ready to make key or critical decisions if the need arises.  Apart from that, if we can get containment on the health crisis, solutions for the homelessness situation are at the top of the list so the task force can report some options soon and solutions for expansion of public transit are also on my radar. What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots? Experience matters.  Please don’t choose an unproven candidate who says the main reason for running is that the council just needs to be younger.  Age is a number, and it does not mean that someone 49, 59 or 65+ can’t represent people who are under 30.  Wausau has seen a wave of success and growth because leaders work together and focus on community needs and successful growth.  We don’t spend time in-fighting, creating awful headlines and making no progress.  This is not the time to usher in a group of inexperienced leaders and wait for them to learn on the fly.  Especially in the midst of the crisis that we are now facing that is impacting our lives and economy in big ways.  Coming out of this situation will require experienced, steady leadership to ensure that the economy and our residents are able to weather this storm and recover.   I’m up to these challenges.

Tracy Wheatley, 26

Tracy Wheatley
Current occupation: Teacher and Waitress Education: Bachelor’s Degree What motivated you to run for office? I am running for city council because I love Wausau and I believe that I have a unique perspective to bring to the city council. I grew up in the area, lived in multiple cities within the state, and chose to come back to Wausau to buy a house. I want Wausau to be a community that is inclusive, celebrates diversity, and is a welcoming place for people to make their home. We have a lot going for us here thanks to the hard work of the generations before. I’m looking forward to continuing that tradition of hard work and caring for each other to improve everyone’s lives. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years? It’ll be important to restore trust in local government by showing citizens that local leaders are making decisions and acting in ways that improve the overall well being of the community. Citizens need to know that they are living in a place with a transparent government and that their voice matters. A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt? It’s important to look at how we can balance paying off debts in a timely and realistic manner while still supporting our government services to ensure they’re being the best they can be. Being very careful about taking on new debt and balancing future payoff with current needs is a high priority. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects? I believe that we need to take care of our current citizens and creating opportunities for low-income housing is part of that. We have people who are living paycheck to paycheck and easing the burden of rent is a step towards breaking cycles of poverty. Wausau is a beautiful city and I want to encourage new people to move here, however, we need to take care of current residents as well. We need to remember that there are people in the middle class and ensure that there are adequate housing opportunities for those people too. Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs? It’s important to attract and maintain a diverse workforce that shows that Wausau is a good investment for developers. We need to highlight the assets that the city already has and provide ample time and publicity for RFPs. The city also needs to consider whether or not the development really should happen if the response is very low. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts? I think we can find a healthy balance between revitalization existing homes and storefronts and new building structures. The revitalization of existing homes and storefronts is important because we need to maintain what we already have to a high standard. City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community? One strategy is to increase busing to get people to jobs within Wausau and the surrounding areas. Another is targeting the root causes of why people end up homeless. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty sites lack of affordable housing as the number one cause of homelessness and that low wages contribute to that issue.  Lastly, enacting housing first policies and coordinated efforts to get people into shelters without barriers to entry is important to keeping children, families, and individuals safe and allowing them a fresh start. The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all? City leaders need to lead by example and do everything they can to educate themselves on the issues facing groups that are targets for discrimination and hate. City leaders need to be proactive about diversity training and education within the government and provide opportunities for education to the general public. We need to continue supporting and encouraging cultural events and celebrations while strongly condemning those who demonstrate hate. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future? We need to critically look at the long term impact of what the development would bring to the city as a whole. Any decisions made about city involvement should be part of a unified plan for the city so developments fit within the scope of the whole city. Determining the need for city participation starts with asking the right questions and finding the experts in each situation. Critics say selling city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not? I would seek out experts and guidance before making any kind of decision on whether or not the city should sell a property like that. What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? I’m really interested in the ideas proposed for the River Edge project, specifically the improved trails. This could increase foot traffic downtown and make our city more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. The project needs to be determined to be environmentally viable and safe for the developments that are proposed before proceeding on construction. What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future? I think there’s a lot of cool things that have been done in malls across the country and with some out of the box thinking, we could create something really unique here. I’m open to ideas and new ways of thinking about the space. Whatever direction we take the mall in, I’d look for the plan that it benefits the community and has long term viability. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making? It comes down to process, open communication, and proactive thinking and action. Creating and following a clear process to ensure that residents are active participants in decision making will help keep people in the loop and active in the process. Ultimately, the health and well being of the people who live, work, and visit Wausau is of utmost importance. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office? The COVID-19 pandemic has made itself a top priority. This will involve working with residents and local businesses to get government funding and aide and advise best practices for staying safe during the outbreak. Recovering from the shut down will be the top priority. I’d look to immediately start working on solutions to help the homeless population and start examining the River Edge development that is already underway and collecting bids. What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots? Please request an absentee ballot and make sure to vote!

Dist. 8: Linda Lawrence (incumbent) and Sarah Watson (challenger)

Linda Lawrence, 71

Linda Lawrence
Current occupation:  Retired; District 8 incumbent Education: BA, Social Sciences; Minor Political Science, UW, 1997 Prior political experience and/or community experience: City council District 8 – 1986-1998 Marathon County Board, District 8 – 1986-1998 with two year hiatus. Mayor of the city of Wausau, 1998-2004 What motivated you to run for office? Death of my friend and Alderperson, Karen Kellbach. Initially to fill in, but I believe I am effective at resolving issues for residents and lending my experience to making good decisions for the whole community. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years? COVID19 makes clear you cannot anticipate immediate (and dire) challenges, but the same one carries forward…providing stellar services that citizens expect and deserve, at a price we are all willing to pay. A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt? Refinance when you can for better interest rates and terms like we just did, be cautious about any discretionary new borrowing without off-setting revenues.  The water and sewage treatment plant project borrowing will make this a challenge. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects? It isn’t a case of either-or, depending on whose dollar is being spent. New HIGHER-END housing increases the tax base, which helps spread city expenses over more taxable properties. New LOW-INCOME projects benefit first time buyers and persons on limited incomes, which is good for the community as a whole in addition to the specific owners or tenants. Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs? You could reissue the requests using different parameters, deadlines, terms, etc. You could reissue the requests casting a wider publication net.  It is well known that a developers tend to work in the same communities over time with a certain scale of economy and comfort level. But, surprises happen, and you keep trying to achieve your development goals, be they housing, river development, the downtown, industrial park or others. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts? I guess it would depend on who’s doing the building and (re)investing?  I have great trust in the private sector to know the markets and invest their dollars with an expectation of certain return. If it is the city and federal block grant dollars, there is probably greater demand for reinvestment…lead abatement, energy efficiencies and the like.  It’s all important, and I would rely on Community Development staff to assess housing conditions and make recommendations through their advisory council. Conditions change, availability of money, influxes and outflows of people and jobs. City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community? A.  Short term…assess the need…find a building or buildings…who will operate it? How. . What is the budget. Fund raise….state, federal, philanthropic, county, city, private citizens. (Stop studying it with more minimal group process.)…B. Long term…keep your eye on housing stock, wages, job opportunities and mental health care availability. Layers of partnerships working together. The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all? Appointments to boards and commissions/employment should reflect the community; create more projects for community dialog, public awareness and support of cultural events and efforts. I saw a public art project in Georgia as a great example. Representatives from various groups could use public access television to promote and educate. The city could run an excellent PBS series on race as being an illusion…for under $400 we could play it forever and use it as a basis for discussions. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future? In my experience this has been a concern, not only the “but for” provision but how communities have taken advantage of state TID law flexibilities.  It is true that tax increment financing is the only real tool cities in Wisconsin have to leverage development, but each project has to pass muster on its own for whose equity is going where, and when, and for what? How long is the pay back, when can the TID close? Critics say selling city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not? In an ideal development world, the city would get fair market value for property it transfers for development. However, in older communities, with older downtowns, brown fields, parking challenges, increased construction costs as opposed to green fields (such as Weston or Rib Mountain), and old infrastructure, it is a necessary evil. What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? I think possibilities for repurposing the mall, but always business park expansion, because that is where many of the good paying jobs are. What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future? Mixed use, unique small housing units with common area footprints,  small shops and services. It will probably be opened up somehow as many older malls have done to better mesh with other downtown stores. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making? There are basic processes that the city follows in developments and large projects. Someone comes to the mayor or staff person with ideas. Many private, informal meetings occur to flesh these out. They eventually reach a standing committee. Most of these can, and should  be held in public session. Some actions require public hearings. We each have responsibilities:  the city, to make sure laws and ordinances are followed, that closed sessions be as limited as possible, that  proper communications are made through notices, the website and media;  the public, to attend meetings, ask questions, meet with staff and elected persons, if necessary, and, I will add, to not be paranoid and hastily accusatory.  In a representative democracy, if you are not a member of the elected body, it takes some work and persistence to stay informed, and it’s the city’s duty to get that information out to the public arena. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office? (I’m not on Facebook), 1. so figure out how to best be available to my district, how to get the most input and feedback.  2.  Meet with each department head to talk about issues and challenges on the horizon.  3. Depending if there is a new mayor, develop understanding of the mayor’s goals and expectations for the city. What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots? I am kind, approachable and personable. I have an aging three plus pound Yorkie. I am experienced at when to raise eyebrows and questions over something that seems off. I love to read, mainly non fiction, and watch documentaries. I am a loving mother and grandmother who wants to keep Wausau safe and dynamic for all their futures, and the families of my friends and neighbors.

Sarah Watson, 40

Current occupation: Economics Instructor Education: BS Economics, MA Economics, MS Instructional Design & Technology, MA Sociology Prior political experience and/or community experience: I have no previous political experience but have been volunteering with Cycling Without Age and as a friendly visitor for Heartland Hospice What motivated you to run for office? I wanted to become more involved in my community. I feel that my experience and passion can positively impact the city.  A new and fresh perspective is needed to really change our city and continue a positive trajectory.  I want to listen to my neighbors and represent everyone in my district What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years? To continue to advance development and attract new businesses, especially new workers, to the area.  Even though the recent pandemic has caused many to be laid off or have become jobless, I feel that once businesses are back open, those people will return to work and we will again be in need of working-age individuals in our community. The challenge is to compete with all of the other cities these younger workers could choose and become the place that is most attractive. A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt? First would be to re-examine the budget to see if there could be ways to trim spending but not eliminate needed services. To trim expenses, we could investigate more efficient ways of operating that could cut costs such as moving to new software or technology to streamline processes. Examining our existing partnerships and negotiating better rates for multi-year agreements and eliminating duplicate or unnecessary contracts. Another option would be to monetize other public land joining forces with private businesses, like charging for advertisement space, etc. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects? It’s a balance, but at this moment we have many higher-end housing projects in the works, so finding housing for lower-income earners is important. One thing I have heard time and time again from Wausau residents is there aren’t enough affordable rentals. We need to examine this more. Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses. What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs? I think improving and streamlining the process for RFPs could be helpful. In looking into one RFP application process due April 2020, no digital submissions are considered. If an electronic process could be established that is consistent for all RFPs, that may increase submissions.  Also, establishing a vendor and business listserv that could be emailed when new RFPs are created might be helpful because it would create a batch of potential interested prospective applicants and notify them more immediately in the event a project would be appropriate for them. It could be similar to the Quest Construction Data Network system in place for bids, but something that could cover RFPs as well. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts? We have a lot of unused storefronts and homes in need of improvement. I think we should attempt to preserve what we have, we have become so much of a throwaway society, we should focus on good structures already present. These structures add to the charm and character of this great city. I will work on offering incentives to restore rather than build. City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community? Reducing the square footage a house must be in the city would be first. That way, we could experiment with tiny house options.  Another option would be to increase access and outreach of supportive services to those battling substance abuse or mental illness.  Lastly, I would like to see a living wage encouraged in our city.  Currently, the MIT Living Wage Calculator estimates that the living wage for a single person living in Wausau is $10.80.  Many local employers already pay that amount, but it would be nice to encourage that as a minimum. The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all? I would work closely with the organizations in our community that are championing that cause. If they need funding, partnership or help with increased awareness, I would provide that. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future? Tax increment financing districts should be used sparingly. There is an advantage of helping to entice development, but the burden on resources and the unknown change to property values that could occur make it a process to be entered into cautiously. I think that RFPs should be requested and bids collected with the knowledge that no TIF funding even be considered. Critics say selling a city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not? I believe the costs and benefits should be weighed. Depending on the project, $1 could be justifiable. But also, businesses should realize that they will profit from the development and should be held to a fair market price. What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? I am really excited about how the city is developing more recreational paths and safe biking lanes for cyclists. I think this will continue to enhance our community into the future. What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future? We could repurpose the location to be a maker’s, co-working or start-up space for our local citizens.  A place where they could create similar to those in bigger cities.  Another option would be to convert it into a hybrid between apartments and retail, the retail could include more recreation and entertainment options like movie theaters, arcades, etc. to have more things to do in the winter downtown. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making? I can only promise to listen, provide and attend forums to hear their concerns and seriously consider those concerns, not minimize them. We are here to serve our districts and the city as a whole and, although there will be disagreements, acting respectfully to our neighbors and actively listening is the key to feeling part of the process. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office? First, I would like to actively work on a plan with the rest of the council on what we will focus on over the rest of our terms.  It is through teamwork that true action can occur.  One of those items I would like to see is modifying the square footage requirement in hopes of seeing tiny homes as an option to help with homelessness.  Then, I would like to investigate and help revitalize public transportation in our city and neighboring cities. Although gas prices are at a very low point at the moment, many rely on public transportation and the current system is not effective. What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots? I am very passionate about serving my district and city.  I look forward to working with the other members of the council to listen to the community, put into place a plan of action and carry that plan out with as much transparency as possible.  I look forward to being your District 8 Alderperson.

Dist. 10: Sherry Abitz and Lou Larson

(current Alder Mary Thao is not seeking re-election; Sherry Abitz did not respond)

Lou Larson, 66

Lou Larson
Occupation: Semi retired, Part time food truck driver C J’s Catering. Education: High School graduate Lakeland High Minocqua Prior community involvement: Thomas Street advocate, Founding member of Citizens for a clean Wausau, I have attended many City Council and committee meetings over the past four years. What motivated you to run for office? Citizens in District 10 need a strong voice in City Hall; I will be that representative. There are infrastructure needs in this district that have long been neglected I will work to get repaired. City Hall has lost its way with the citizens of this community. They’ve already spent too much money on vain projects that don’t directly benefit the citizens of District 10. A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt? I owned apartments in the past and am familiar with common sense finances. We need to pay off our loans and not take on new debt that doesn’t have a return on our public investment. We also need to look at our assets and liquidate properties with little value for city residents. Lastly, the city needs a third-party economic adviser who doesn’t have any skin in the game and can give us the information we need as a council to make the tough decisions. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects? We need both. To date we have not yet found that balance that accomplishes both. City officials have placed too much emphasis on high-income housing. We’ve seen too much low-income housing torn down in Wausau and not replaced or instead replaced with high-income rentals. Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs? Wausau’s RFP process needs to be overhauled. It has not worked to benefit the citizens of Wausau and the results have been millions of taxpayer dollars wasted on incompetent decisions and wasteful spending. The city needs to get out of the land development business and leave it up to the private sector. It takes up too much time and valuable resources. Wausau should eliminate the Economic Development Director position. It costs taxpayers too much money. Wausau should hire one from the private sector when needed. Wausau should also hire a realtor to sell city-owned properties instead to giving them away for a dollar. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts? Every opportunity needs to looked at individually. We need to know what’s going to be the most cost effective and if it will it be a good fit for the neighborhood. Citizen engagement and input is a necessity! There are two examples in District 10 right now: there were apartments built along Thomas street during phase one of that project and while they are new and look pretty on their own, these buildings look awkward to the rest of the neighborhood and are not a good neighborhood fit. Second, along Sherman street there are three homes being built on vacant lots after the street’s expansion years ago. When you drive by, these homes look like they are a part of the neighborhood. They are a very good fit! City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community? 1. Housing: We need affordable housing for these folks. Tiny homes could also be part of the housing solution. 2. Jobs: Wausau needs accessible jobs that pay a livable wage. 3. Training: Folks will need job training and assistance to get those who want the help back on their feet. The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all? As a Christian I believe that we are all God’s children and should treat our neighbors as we would treat ourselves. As an American, our Constitution reads “All men are created equal.” As leaders in this community, it is most important that we adhere to these principles and lead by example. We must keep an open mind to opportunities to help us better ourselves and our community. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future? The most important thing we need to look at is the return on our public investment. Too many of our TIF dollars are being given away with little or no return. We need to be selective in who we give these dollars to. It seems that everyone who comes forward with their hand out gets money. We also need to look at whether or not these dollars are going to produce living wage jobs, which so far, they have not. TIF abuse has been a huge problem for the current city council which has created a mountain of debt for city taxpayers. If I’m elected to city council, I will support SB560 or put a moratorium on unnecessary TIF spending until we get our financial house in order. Critics say selling city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not? Of course we should get more or at least break even on properties we acquire. It’s common business sense. The city’s dismal record with its properties has cost taxpayers millions! City council needs to get out of the property business and leave it to the professionals. If it’s a good idea, private industry will take it over. We need to get back to serving the citizens were elected to serve. What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? There isn’t one. There isn’t anything, that’s public knowledge right now, that will bring living wage jobs to the area or affordable housing. We have RiverLife; that hasn’t delivered any of the above. We have millions invested into the mall with no results and no public plans yet. There has been nothing on infrastructure repair for District 10. Even the water and sewage proposals need to be questioned because people don’t trust City Hall’s practices or how hastily these projects became plans. This is a trust issue because something always seems to be bungled or overlooked. What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future? It’s not about my vision, it’s about what’s best for the community. Right now, it’s in the hands of developers. Hopefully they can come up with something that is not only satisfactory for this community but also something that will serve the community and bring a return on our millions of public dollars we invested in the project. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making? Frankly, the city needs to follow through with the promises they make and listen to the people they serve! For two years we’ve been seeking soil testing along the Thomas Street corridor and Riverside Park. It has been promised and not happened. It seems there’s always money for a new brewery, bar, high-end apartments, ice cream stands, and restaurants – yet when it comes to the safety of our citizens, there is no money. These practices need to change and if elected I will work towards this change! If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office? The first 90 days are going to be a huge learning process, but I will: 1. Listen to my constituents and learn the needs of District 10. 2. Put an end to the city’s binge spending and look for ways to govern within our financial means. 3. Look into the water and sewage plant proposal. Too many times in the past when these things are hastily put together it ends up being a mess or costing unnecessary millions. If we are doing this, we need to do right and for the best price tag. Trust here is a huge issue! What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots? I am not your business as usual candidate. We cannot afford these practices anymore! I will work to bring fiscal responsibility to City Hall, reel in deficit spending, and look for ways to pay off debt while not cutting services. I will put the people’s interests first over business and corporations and restore trust and integrity to City hall.

Dist. 11: Patrick Bacher and Debra Ryan

(current Alder Dennis Smith is not seeking re-election)

Patrick Bacher, 52

Occupation: Mental health professional (fulltime Community Corner Clubhouse) North Central Health Care Education: BA UWSP Prior Experience/ Community Experience: I have lived in my home in district 11 for 15 years. I work in mental health collaboratively with many local partners and agencies. I have addressed concerns with the council and county board, attended numerous meetings through the years and have been involved in city issues. I have a strong interest in Wausau and love the city and the restaurant, shopping, diverse amenities, and outdoor recreation opportunities it provides. What motivated you to run for office? I ran for District 11 alder in 2018, but despite carrying ward 23, I wasn’t successful. I learned a lot from that race, and I’ve been involved in Wausau city government for many years. I really love this city and want to be present and working hard to help it grow in the right direction.  Many neighbors, community partners, and city leaders encouraged me to continue to follow that passion. Having attended many meetings since I moved here 15 years ago from Stevens Point, I have learned from my participation and involvement in city and county issues, and community events. Professionally, I am an advocate. I enjoy helping people and connecting them to resources. I want to work for the people of my district. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Wausau in the next four years? There are numerous concerns shared with me in my meetings and interactions with residents. My neighbors are concerned about the quality of their neighborhoods, affordable housing, our homeless population, the condition of our roads, opportunities in living wage jobs, and retaining young professionals. City debt is also an important concern. Diversity and inclusion needs to improve in Wausau. Addressing these concerns could lead to economic growth and continue to make Wausau a wonderful place to live, work, and play. A breakdown of how city taxes are currently allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps would you take to shrink that debt? Addressing current debt is very important. Freezing borrowing and encouraging outside investment would help. The debt must be paid off, and future decisions should not bring additional debt. A master plan for development would create a clear long-term map for projects involving our future. I feel the River Life project was a misstep with financial planning. Certainly Wausau needs to identify building and projects that improve the city and improve the lives of residents. We need to work together to create new affordable housing and business opportunity. Before the city chooses any developers, they need to be fully vetted. That project is underway now, but the delay wouldn’t have happened with an audit. The city has legal counsel and needs to proceed with knowing where the money is coming from. A master plan would create and ensure strategic planning, and ensure that residents know how their tax dollars are being spent to promote private investment, and grant monies, and not create more debt for the tax payers of Wausau. What is more crucial for Wausau right now- creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher –end housing development projects? Why can’t we accomplish both? I feel with any city investment, low income housing should be the priority. I live in a neighborhood of single homes, but district 11 is very diverse with income. Professionally I see a need for affordable housing, and many rentals are not updated or improved. However, outside investors are moving forward with higher-end apartment developments. We are a new campus for the Medical College of Wisconsin and those investors are addressing the need for that population. We can create opportunity for all incomes. Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses. What, if anything could the city do to attract more responses to RFPs? Our economy is currently in crisis with the Covid-19 pandemic. I think we are all learning this will be a long-term recovery process. There must be an advantage to the city, and an outcome for the developer to make a Request for Proposal feasible for both sides. The city needs to vet investors to assure the project will go ahead smoothly. I hope Wausau has learned from the lesson of River Life. Wausau has available land to develop. Let’s make any projects worthy of any city investment to improve the city and the lives of residents. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts? Revitalizing existing neighborhoods and businesses is more important. We have blight in our older neighborhoods. Helping home and business owners improve existing buildings should be the priority with tax credits and grant programs. We need to preserve our unique Wausau heritage. New developments are happening on the fringe of Wausau and in neighboring municipalities. Wausau has a beautiful downtown and charm. Let’s preserve it. City officials have repeatedly identified tracking homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community? I think much progress has been made with the Housing and Homelessness Coalition of Marathon County. Areas to continually address are definitely safe, stable, affordable housing, access to drug and alcohol treatment, and continued collaboration with community partners including the Wausau PD and charities. Wausau is a resource rich city, and working together improves outcomes. The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all? Wausau and District 11 have a very diverse population. Diversity and inclusion are vital to the city’s success. We have been sliding backwards in helping our minority populations feel safe, respected, and included in our community. More residents are reporting discrimination, and have concerns with personal safety. Many of Wausau’s young skilled and educated residents have been leaving the area. We have been losing population in the past 10 years. This should cause alarm in our community. We are all human beings and should treat each other as we hope to be treated. This starts with dialogue. We need community discussion that is inclusive, fair, and respectful. Personally, I addressed the county board during the June Pride resolution debate. Professionally, I am an advocate for diverse and minority populations. Our businesses, educators, and many organizations have been working hard to include and serve diverse and under-served populations. We should do all we can to make culturally diverse populations including our Hmong, African American, and LGBTQ+ feel welcomed, included and engaged in Wausau. Collaboration also increases and supports economic opportunity for business growth. Let’s work together as neighbors with a shared goal to make Wausau a welcoming and safe place for all. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future? The city must first address current debt. This should be the priority. We cannot continue to borrow or spend tax dollars until we bring our debt down. If a TIF project is considered, it must involve gain for the city and improve lives and our tax base. Critics say selling city owned property to developers for 1$ has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for city projects? Why or why not? The city should not sell property for $1. If property has value (it does), than a fair price will ensure an investor has a feasible plan to improve it. Factors to consider should be improving the tax base and fairness to existing businesses and property owners. What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? The YMCA/ Aspirus project downtown looks great and will serve residents well when completed. What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future? This decision is placed mostly on its new owners. Wausau did not fail the mall, the concept of a mall has died nationally. Keeping the parking structures and putting streets back through would be an improvement. Opening existing structures back to the streets and creating space like other redeveloped malls in cities our size would improve opportunities for business opportunities. We must be respectful to our downtown’s treasured small businesses and restaurants. We have a great downtown despite the Wausau Center. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in decision making? The city council needs to listen to residents. Transparency and openness in all meetings should always be the practice. Water quality is important to everyone in the city, not just near the Thomas street project. Clean water and addressing environmental concerns are vital for our health. If we don’t include all stake holders, we are not governing well. I’m disappointed that all neighborhoods don’t hold meetings, or that some have tried, but cannot maintain an agenda or strong participation. I believe in accessibility to your council member. Clear and open meetings, a quick return on questions and emails, and plain old fashioned conversation with residents to hear concerns should be the norm, and it would be my privilege to be able to help residents with information and resources to answer their concerns. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office? 1) Accessibility to neighbors and residents I represent. 2) Building collaborative relationships with new colleagues to achieve results. 3)  Getting to work on city issues (addressing the many topics in this candidate questionnaire.) What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots? Cooperation and communication create results. I’m in touch with concerns and issues shared across the city and in our neighborhoods. Listening to concerns and being ready to work together with all stake holders is my goal. I look forward to the hard work and the opportunity to serve District 11. Professionally, I’m a listener and an advocate. I am open, and believe in collaboration and government transparency. I work fulltime in the community and have experience in important issues that help connect people to resources in Wausau. Being very involved with and connected to community partners is my strong point. I have been working with the United Way, The Neighbor’s Place, The Salvation Army, The Women’s Community, Community Development, Marathon County Literacy Council, and other organizations.  I will be a voice for my district. Cooperation and communication create results. I’m in touch with concerns and issues shared across the city and in our neighborhoods. Listening to concerns and being ready to work together with all stake holders is my goal. I look forward to the hard work and the opportunity to serve District 11. Being an alder is a non-partisan position. I know how to collaborate, compromise, and get things accomplished. We have wonderful resources in Wausau and a future of positive growth with all partners at the table.

Debra Ryan

Current occupation: Retired Education: Bachelor’s degree in Accounting & Business Administration from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. Master’s degree in Business Administration from Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois. Gerontology casework in Gerontology Certificate from UW-Parkside, Kenosha, Wisconsin. Prior political experience and/or community experience:  No prior political experience. Leader of the Wausau Neighborhood of Wausau for 6 years and active for 10 years. I was previously Vice President of WIN, the Wausau area consortium for affordable housing. With Thomas Lee, I was previously co-moderator of the Minority Interagency Group serving minority residents in Marathon County. As a member of the HFH Family Selection Committee for 5 years, I reviewed applications from prospective families, financial information, credit history and visited families’ current living conditions with other HFH committee members. Representing Catholic Charities of the Diocese of La Crosse based out of the Wausau office, I was a board member for F.E.M.A. funding for the individual counties of: Marathon; Portage; Adams; Juneau; and Clark counties. For 2005-2006, I was part of the Leadership Wausau class that met at the Wausau Region of the Chamber of Commerce. What motivated you to run for office? Eight years ago, I started attending city council and committee meetings initially regarding two four way stops requests that improved walking, biking, and driving safety in the Westies Neighborhood of Wausau. I started attending city meetings about the same time as our new alderperson, Robert Mielke. I advocated with Northwestern Ave homeowners with country lots, against a developer with a vague recycling plant project (within 2 months changed to tight cluster of rental apartments on the west side of the railroad tracks), which years later never developed. On the Riverlife project, I advocated that the city of Wausau request additional financial information such as the prior years’ audit reports from Mr. Franz as part of the RFP process.  Mr. Franz did not pay the subcontractors and eventually went into bankruptcy leaving the city to deal with millions of unpaid bills. On the Thomas Street reconstruction, I questioned how having a 4 or 5 lane road merging down to a 2-lane bridge made sense.  I was also concerned on the design of Thomas Street road project with the lack of sufficient input and respect towards Thomas Street neighbors.  A flat center lane without medians would have allowed for a center turning lane for each block or emergency vehicles use when needed.  I also supported the testing and proper handling of contaminated soil in the Thomas Street road project as well as the soil testing in Riverside Park. I have given my input to alderpersons on issues of: no bids on the birds’ project on Stewart Ave and on the city purchasing only Riiser Oil gasoline for city vehicles and trucks when normally a bidding process is required; the need for the city to financially vet RFP (Request For Proposals)  such as Riverlife and West Side Battery developers. I have recommended that the city revise the RFP process so to take city directors, President of the city council and alderpersons out of the RFP scoring process and go with an outside review panel to handle those responsibilities without any conflict of interests. With Dennis Smith deciding not to run again as alderperson, I decided to run for city council so to have another council member that would continue to question: city financial decision making; the increasing use of debt for a new city water and sewer plants (without a city referendum); and TIF possible overuse and misuse. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Wausau in the next four years? In the next four years, the city plans on building and completing a new water plant and the major renovation of the sewer plant with estimates of over $122 million dollars to be spent on these 2 projects. The city of Wausau population is virtually unchanged at under 39k. According to the Water Commission, 60% of usage is by residents in homes and rental properties and 40% by commercial properties.  Some residents water utility bill will be increasing by over $20 per month which amounts to $60 per quarter or $240 per year.  For residents on fixed incomes such as some families, disabled and seniors, there is no growth in these neighbors’ revenues to handle the large anticipated increases in city of Wausau utility bills. Some of the city of Wausau’s underground water and sewer lines are over 100 years old.  Joe Gehin was director of the water works for about 3 decades (?).  Maryanne Groat has also been with the city for I believe 3 decades.  Under Gehin’s and Groat’s leadership, the city could have  set up annual Reserves for Plant and Equipment replacement.  With long term planning, these reserves could have been accumulated and been used to cover the balance of the cost of the water and sewer plant upgrades.  In checking with Jim Force of the Water Commission recently, I learned that there was no Reserves for Wausau Water Works for Plant Replacement and only $2 million was set up as Reserves for Sewer. We are lucky that interest rates are low at this time.  Back in the 1980’s, interest rates were up to 16%.  With this pandemic, federal, state, and local municipalities are scrambling on how long businesses and employees will be affected and IF government will get any revenues compared to the projected budget the rest of this calendar year.  The federal and state government may have to alter what environmental upgrades are reasonable to achieve if the pandemic ends up creating a recession or depression within the next 6 to 18 months.  I do believe the city needs to rethink on what environmental improvements can be afforded or delayed due to this catastrophic closing down of businesses. I recently spoke with Wausau Waterworks commissioner Jim Force; Jim plans to advocate for water conservation education for residents.  Having worked in the city of Escanaba, Michigan utility office back in the 1970’s, I plan on working with Mr. Force on educating our Wausau residents on water conservation. A breakdown of how city taxes are currently being allocated show police and fire services at the top of the list, followed by 21.75 percent of tax dollars being used to retire debt. If elected, what steps – if any – would you take to shrink that debt? I would look at not just paying interest only on the city debt but also paying down the principal each year so to reduce the overall debt and hopefully close some TIF districts early. What is more crucial for Wausau right now – creating opportunities for low-income housing, or encouraging higher-end housing development projects? In the last few years, developers have been building hundreds of luxury apartment units around the city of Wausau; some apartments start at $1,100 per month for apartments without utilities included.  Gorman and Company (who the city of Wausau awarded to finish the Riverlife  project originally started by Franz) had recently backed out of the project.  Gorman preferred to renovate the historic Landmark Apartments at Scott Street and 3rd Street overlooking the 400 Block. The Landmark Apartments were previously a downtown hotel that had been converted into apartments.  Although recently touted as market rate apartments by Chris Schock, the Landmark Apartments has been one of the best Section 8 landlords in the county, per a former Community Development Section 8 professional told me back in 2002. In 2002, I lived at the Landmark Apartments for a few months before buying my west side home; a number of seniors, singles and the disabled lived in the Landmark building.  I had a 7th floor apartment that overlooked north 3rd Street and the 400 block.  I was happy to hear of the recently announced and planned renovation of the Landmark Apartments; I hope the owners will continue to  accept Section 8 housing vouchers for those residents that prefer to live downtown. There are hundreds of small older motels that are considered SRO’s (single room occupancy) units where residents and some families are living since all utilities are included; the rooms are furnished with a bed, desk, tv, microwave, and/or dorm size refrigerator.  These older SRO units are normally under $500 and are affordable to these residents around the Wausau area.  A number of these older motel units are located outside the Wausau limits and on Grand or Schofield Ave, far from available public transportation. There is a great need for more affordable units for families and seniors needed in Wausau. After the spring election, I am hoping the new council will work on RFP’s (Request For Proposals) for affordable and subsidized housing units. Many requests for development proposals released in recent years have been met with just a handful of responses What, if anything, could the city do attract more responses to RFPs? Part of the issues goes back to the Wausau data provided in the Riverlife RFP (Request for Proposals) by the city of Wausau from July 29, 2015.  https://www.wausaudevelopment.com/Portals/0/Resources/Documents/RFP_WausauEastRiverfront.pdf  “The City of Wausau is the primary city of a thriving metropolitan area of nearly 140,000 residents serving a trade area of over 330,000 as the gateway to the Northwoods of Wisconsin,” according to Chris Schock.   In 2017, Marathon County, Wisconsin had a population of 135,000 people and under 39,000 people living in Wausau.   For local developers, the real metropolitan data would be known or found easily; developers outside of our region may not realize that the Riverlife proposal RFP population and trade area data may be inflated. About 4 years ago, I asked through open records to review the Request for Proposals. As I recall, there did not seem to be any RFP advertising done by the city of Wausau in the Milwaukee Journal, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal Midwest outlets, Crain’s Business in its Chicago, Detroit, nor its Minneapolis outlets. I suspect large regional developers may have checked with advertising companies on Wausau’s data.  In Chicago, the highly regarded national advertising firm of Leo Burnett could have checked out the Wausau (city RFP) data. The city of Wausau market is the 18th largest city in the state; a number of larger international corporations may not have any interest in our smaller less populated area of the state. Having realistic regional Wausau data that matches corporations with similar markets would have possibly attracted more appropriate developers and companies.  I would recommend that the entire RFP process be reviewed and have accurate Wausau area data that can be confirmed as part of the packet in future Request for Proposals. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes and commercial spaces, or revitalizing existing homes and storefronts?  Revitalizing existing homes and storefronts. IMHO, the older housing stock is better made and will be standing a hundred years from now.  For example, I purchased my 85 yr old home back in 2002 at $67,900.  My current replacement value is $174,000 of my home since my home has: brick fireplace; oak wide molding; maple and oak flooring; plastered walls; open oak stair case; air conditioning; french doors in living room; 200 amp service;  700 sq ft per floor; master bedroom is 14×17’ and spare bedroom is 13’x 14’; copper plumbing; enclosed porch; 2 car detached garage; and aluminum siding.  Similar new housing would probably be in the $200 – 300k range. Smaller and locally owned businesses have the personal service niche that is growing in our community and with available parking just outside the storefronts so renovating these smaller storefronts are only a fraction of the cost of new and larger buildings (that may require razing buildings and dealing with contamination issues with the soil). City officials have repeatedly identified tackling homelessness as a top priority. What are three solutions you see that could reduce homelessness in our community?
  1. Building of new affordable housing in the Wausau area so that older motels (as Single Room Occupancy) that be not the only housing for $500 or less with all utilities included for families, disabled and senior on fixed incomes.
  2. Work on improving transit runs to where affordable housing is located as well to where employers are located. Current bus routes are not available outside of the city limits nor to the Wausau Industrial Park where higher paying jobs are located.
  3. Building housing close to the transit station would help those families and individuals that may not be able to afford a car when first starting at a new job.
The most recent LIFE report showed a sharp rise in the number of people in Marathon County who identify discrimination and hate as a significant concern. If elected, how would you work to ensure that Wausau is open and welcoming to all?  There only seems to be a few city departments where minority workers feel welcome to work such as in the Wausau Police Department and one minority woman in the city/county IT department.  In the customer service area of city hall, there was a major retirement of staff in the last few years. I inquired on how was the city reaching out to recruit minorities but I never received a city response. As the former co-chair with Thomas Lee for the Minority Interagency Group, Thomas Lee brough forward an expansion of media options connecting with the Hmong community; Hmong radio program and Hmong monthly magazine.  Eventually, the city of Wausau and Marathon County eliminated Thomas Lee’s position about 10 years ago.  Mayor Mielke does not seem to remember Thomas Lee or his contributions. When the new garbage and recycling carts were changed over a few years ago, there was no bi-lingual instructions included on the cart; only English instructions were shared. I have some Hmong neighbors in my neighborhood.  One young girl I met when she was only five years and got to know her over the last 15 years. I have recently attended some of the Diversity and Inclusion committee meetings at city hall.  Mayor Mielke invited Yee Leng Xiong, President of the Hmong American Center, who sat next to me at the meeting.  Mr. Xiong explained that the Hmong community has had concerns about racism since the prosecution of Dylan Yang.  Mr. Xiong made is clear that it was up to the mayor to resolve things with Mary Thao; Mayor Mielke was shocked about no Hmong candidates to fill on the diversity committee and he started complaining that Mary Thao was the one to blame. I do not think that Tom Neal nor Mayor Mielke should be involved with this diversity committee  if this group will eventually succeed and go in directions that are worthwhile.  In my impression,  Mayor Mielke and Alder Neal are more focused on celebrating diversity by having ethnic festivals and not in improving relationships, dealing with racism and in respecting all residents  from the city of Wausau. Tax increment financing is a popular economic development tool that is only to be used if a proposed development would not occur “but for” city participation. What is the best way to evaluate the need for city participation in the future?  The “but for” city participation should be an incentive for projects that most developers would not build due such as affordable or subsidized housing projects for families, disabled and seniors.  There are hundreds of market rate and luxury units available now in the Wausau area but there are hundreds of shortages in affordable housing units. Critics say selling city-owned property to developers for $1 has significant downsides and shouldn’t be an option. Should or should the city not receive higher prices when selling such property for projects? Why or why not?  Recently the West Side Battery property was sold for $1 even though there is a loan to the Alexander Grant Foundation still due for $250k?  Who will pay for the difference….the General Fund by we the taxpayers of Wausau? What is the most promising development in Wausau right now? The most promising development is the renovation of the Landmark Apartments since it is a beautiful and historic landmark rental apartments in the heart of downtown Wausau. I am a big fan of rehabbing older homes and buildings.  I am also looking forward to the renovation of the Plaza Tower into a renovated Best Western. The Plaza project hopes to be broken into 3 pieces with the Best Western handling the northern part of the property.  It would be interested if some other type of senior living could be developed since Elm and 17th Ave is just a short walk away to 2 grocery stores and other retail shopping. What is your vision for the Wausau Center mall’s future? I have visions for either a downtown campus, or a warehouse and/or manufacturing plant with enough parking for students and employees.  On the east side or middle section of the mall property could easily become the county courthouse annex for services not court house related if the River Drive UW Extension offices were vacated (for a new rental and condo housing developments along the river as city consultants envision).  The east side of the mall could also allow for further expansion of the Jail annex to the west side with underground tunnel and/or a skyway for connecting the two sections.  In the long run, I do think the mall will become affordable housing with possibly keeping the ramps for tenant and courthouse parking. Some residents have expressed frustration, feeling that they have been left out of the decision-making process when it comes to major projects or issues like environmental contamination in their neighborhoods. What would you do to mitigate their concerns and ensure residents are involved in future decision-making?  As part of the alderperson’s responsibilities, city council members should be attending monthly neighborhood meetings or regular quarterly meetings so to be engaged and listening to neighbors’ concerns and input.  There is at least one alderperson who has not attended regular neighborhood meetings nor returned calls nor emails to neighbors; these neighbors feel that their concerns are ignored by their alderperson and at times by the majority of the city council. The whole Thomas Street neighborhood concerns with contamination that might be dug up during the road reconstruction was minimized by city staff, the mayor and some alderpersons.  From my understanding, there was never installed any air monitoring stations around that neighborhood so to monitor the air quality before, during and after the road construction. To include the concerns of neighbors in future decision making, I would recommend that the new council will include citizen representatives on all committees.   There are some citizen professionals that may have more expertise in various city activities and fiduciary functions  than some of the  current members of the city council.  City committees need more common sense financial leadership, discussions and input from we, the people. If elected, what are your top three priorities in your first 90 days in office?
  • Getting a new President of the Council who is down to earth, approachable, sensible, highly qualified and highly educated. There should be changes made in committee membership so that each committee is approximately 50% men and 50% women membership of citizen members and city council members.
  • Getting the most highly qualified members in Economic Development and in the Finance committee membership that have the higher education and work experience to handle from Day One to oversee these important fiduciary functions.
  • Total in depth review of all TIF projects and expenditures and estimated closing dates.
What else would you like voters to know about you before they cast their ballots? We need a city government that does more than play Monopoly with borrowed money or approve projects for the downtown best suited for Denver, not Wausau.  We need leadership that will be understand that Wausau is fine to be what it is, a small town with great schools. parks and neighborhoods with, hunting, fishing, skiing, and biking just minutes away from our homes.   We need city’s leaders who keep their promises to ALL of the city’s residents and neighborhoods.  I am running for council to make sure we have the kind of city government that keeps its promises to we, the PEOPLE of Wausau. Please vote so to change the direction of Wausau for the next 2 to 4 years.  Please vote early by absentee voting or by going to city hall. For those wanting to vote at the polling places, the spring election for city council and mayor is Tuesday, April 7th.