By Shereen Siewert

The Marathon County Board of Supervisors will have at least six new faces this year when a new group of representatives is sworn into office.

That’s because six incumbents — Katie Rosenberg, Loren White, John Durham, Maynard Tremelling, Bill Miller and Jim Schaefer — have opted not to seek another two-year term on the board.

Several incumbents on the board have challengers to contend with in the April 7 election, while three districts in which incumbents are stepping away from office have two-way contests. Candidates in contested races are:

  • Dist. 1: Isaiah Hoogendyk and Michelle Van Krey
  • Dist. 2: Jennifer Bizzoto and Romey Wagner (inc.)
  • Dist. 3: William Harris and David Nutting (inc.)
  • Dist. 6: Jack Hoogendyk and Jeff Johnson (inc.)
  • Dist. 7: Becky Buch and Mary Ann Crosby (inc.)
  • Dist. 16: Bill Conway and Jeff Zriny (inc.)
  • Dist. 29: Jim Bove (inc.) and Chris Dickinson
  • Dist. 33: Tim Buttke (inc.) and Ron Covelli
  • Dist. 35: Jacob Langenhahn (inc.) and William Litzer
  • Dist. 36: Bruce Lamont and Michelle Schaefer
  • Dist. 38: Jonathan Fisher and James Sala

Wausau Pilot & Review reached out to all Marathon County Board candidates. Answers, from each candidate who responded, are posted in their entirety below.


Michelle Van Krey, 30, Dist. 1 candidate

Current occupation or relevant experience: Community Development Specialist, City of Wausau

What motivated you to run for office and why are you qualified?

I decided to run for Marathon County Board because I care about making sure residents of District 1 are heard and well-represented on the county level. I enjoy being engaged with this community and it’s important to me that we are all working hard to make Marathon County the healthiest, safest and most prosperous county in the state. District 1 has had engaged and informative representation for many years and I want to make sure that level of representation continues. My experience working for community-based businesses and nonprofits, as well as my career with the City of Wausau, gives me a unique understanding of the successes and challenges not just for our district, but for the entire county. Working at the Department of Public Works was especially beneficial, as maintaining and improving roads, bridges, etc. is also a huge part of the County’s work and budget. I’ve been able to foster interdepartmental relationships, hone my communication skills, and see how the City and County could work together to achieve similar goals.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Marathon County in the next two years?

Just a couple weeks ago I answered this question much differently! After speaking with many District 1 residents, I initially said that continued support for NCHC was my main priority for the next two years, followed by attraction/retention of workforce, and access to important infrastructure like high-speed internet and safe roads. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the closing of schools it is more evident than ever before that access to high-speed internet is something our county desperately needs. Families in rural parts of our county are having to sit in the library parking lot to do school work with their children and employees are struggling to work effectively from home with poor or no connection to the internet. The Marathon County Board has been working towards a plan but it is clear that it should be the top priority when the new term starts.

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 Marathon County is open and welcoming to all?

Ensuring that Marathon County is open and welcoming to all is extremely important not just for the attraction and retention of workforce, but also for the well-being of our residents. If elected I would continue to support the Pride Month resolution passed in 2019. This resolution declares that regardless of age, gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability, all people have the right to be treated fairly and that Marathon County is an open, inclusive and diverse place to live and work. In addition to the declaration, the resolution includes a call to action for county board members to better educate themselves on challenges faced by minority populations in our county. The board has specifically included diverse presentations at the educational meetings and if elected I will encourage that to continue, and share with my constituents to create a larger dialogue. This constant learning and engagement is important to successfully shape policies that support our goal of being welcoming and inclusive to all people.

What is your solution to the staffing shortage in the DA’s office?

I attended the DA’s presentation to the county board where she explained the stress and turnover that being understaffed has caused her department. This department is critical to our county, and absolutely deserves to be staffed at 100%. It’s also important to understand that funding for prosecutors in the DA’s office is a responsibility of the state, with funding for support staff coming from the county. The county has been flexible in the past in supporting evolving staffing, workload, and technology needs, but budget constraints continue to tighten. We need the state to do their part. I believe that the first step supervisors can take is to reach out to our state legislators and strengthen our relationships with them. It’s imperative to effectively communicate our desperate need for additional prosecutors and advocate for Central Wisconsin.

If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on firmer financial footing?

  • Strengthen our relationship with the state. We need more funding for the DA’s office, and state levy caps are unintentionally requiring us to borrow for maintenance projects. Also, if the state accepted the Medicaid expansion, Marathon County would see $48 million invested into our community. This could free up money that we currently spend on health services to be used elsewhere.
  • Continue priority-based budgeting to help us make decisions about what needs to be funded and what would be nice to fund.

  • Request more data that reflects how our financial support of the nonprofits is saving the county money elsewhere. This information could then be used in the budgeting process to determine if we should continue to fund the nonprofits based on our return on investment.

How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our county?

District 1 residents have a long history of being active, engaged and making their voices heard! If elected, I promise to be accessible to all residents so that level of engagement can continue in our district. When our SES Neighborhood meetings resume I will continue to attend and provide county updates to the group. I am also dedicated to continuing the regular district 1 meetings that Supervisor Katie Rosenberg and Alder Pat Peckham started to provide residents with an easy way to connect with both their county and city representatives.<

What else would you like voters to know about you?

I love District 1! My husband and I specifically chose to buy a home in this district because of its unique level of engagement and sense of community the residents have created. It would be an honor to serve them by representing our district on the Marathon County Board. I enjoy meeting new neighbors and hearing about what matters to them so please reach out and let me know what’s on your mind!


Dist. 2

Romey Wagner, 67, Dist. 2 incumbent

Romey Wagner

Current occupation or relevant experience: Facility manager of the Entrepreneurial & Education Center, President of the Northern Valley Industry Board, member of the North Central Health Care Board, current Marathon County Board supervisor

What motivated you to run for office and why are you qualified?

I have spent the past 20  years or so serving in many capacities for the benefit of others, always trying to be the voice of those less heard. I have always planned to run for local office as a way to be involved directly in the discussion and decision making.  I spent eight years on the city council and the past two on the county board.  I am a past chairperson of the local American Red Cross, and active in numerous non-profit organizations here in the area.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Marathon County in the next two years?

This answer is different than it would have been three weeks ago as this virus has shut down the economy in the area and the County budget is supported by sales tax so we will have to be proactive in our adjustments to the expense set in our current budget and actively pestering our state representatives to have the legislature help us help the citizens.

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 Marathon County is open and welcoming to all?

All area residence along with us elected officials need to constantly keep visiting the feelings of others.  It has to be a paradigm shift from the ways of the past and keep educating through programs and investing in our youth to drive the change.  It will not change by just educating the elected officials.

What is your solution to the staffing shortage in the DA’s office?

The shortage of assistant District Attorneys is the State of Wisconsin’s responsibility so if it is not solved our Representatives in the legislature are failing us!

If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on firmer financial footing?

Continuously stay after our State Representatives to get more state aid for roads, transit, and health care.  We can’t get more help by cutting necessary non profits that help the less fortunate.

How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our county?

As before encouraging them to contact me on issues, listen to them, hope they listen to me and invite them to speak their mind at the meetings they are all invited to.

What else would you like voters to know about you?

I am married to Lisa and we have three adult children and have been in the area for over thirty years


Dist. 3

William Harris, 37, Dist. 3 candidate

William Harris

Current occupation or relevant experience:  Public Interest Attorney.

Relevant Experience – I have been focused largely in doing community and public service. I have been involved in volunteering, hosting, raising money, and organizing for a number of charitable events and causes for Cancer, HIV, ALS research, and to fight against homelessness. I have done outreach in the community with victims of domestic violence, veterans, and other organizations that aid in helping the homeless. As an attorney, I advocate for people that are low income with housing issues and victims of domestic abuse. I currently serve on 3 community boards in either a board of director or advisory position. I am 100% committed to this community and have worked to build opportunities, create a safe and thriving place to live and work for everyone, and have advocated and been a champion for those most in need.

What motivated you to run for office and why are you qualified? 

I was motivated to run for office because I have always tried to be involved in my community and have looked for opportunities to serve the public. Running for office though was something I used to think you could only do later in life. However, if you want to really make a difference and see positive change, I learned you can’t just be an observer. As President Obama once said “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” So I am running because this is my home and I care about my neighbors, the people of this county who work hard to provide a good life for themselves and their families, and I want to contribute and am committed to the betterment of my community.

I believe I am qualified because as an attorney for a non-profit, I advocate every day for the rights of low-income clients and victims of domestic abuse. If elected I will advocate every day for real solutions and work hard for the people of Marathon County as well. I will bring new ideas and a fresh perspective. I will listen and respond to the challenges we face in Marathon County in a thoughtful and fiscally responsible way. I will be accountable to the people I represent. I will work hard to make sure that Marathon County continues to be a welcoming community, and a great place to live, work, and raise a family. It’s time for a new direction, and I want to lead Marathon County Forward.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Marathon County in the next two years? 

There are a number of challenges Marathon County will face in the next couple of years. Dealing with the corona virus and the aftermath will certainly be one of those challenges. I believe it will continue to be a challenge for all Americans for a while, but that we will survive this pandemic and be stronger as a result. Marathon County is made up of hardworking, compassionate, and resilient people and we will get through this. I would want to make sure that we are a county that cares and that the County Board consults with public health officials to provide reliable information and that we provide resources where needed and do whatever needs to be done to help people feel safe, healthy, and financially sound again. Other challenges and priorities of mine will be downtown development – expanding public transit throughout Marathon County, building lasting infrastructure, maintaining high quality services, and supporting small business growth; ensuring resources aimed at providing for senior care, low-income housing assistance programs, domestic abuse shelters, and veterans services remain available and residents have access to them; and endorsing initiatives that support diversity and celebrate everyone’s contributions.

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 Marathon County is open and welcoming to all?

I believe Marathon County is a welcoming community, but I also believe there is still work to do. I would work to ensure that Marathon County is open and welcoming to all by supporting education, awareness, tolerance, and inclusiveness. I will also advocate for diversity in leadership, promote equal and fair access to services, and ensure visibility of all minorities and people of all backgrounds. I will support events that celebrate different cultures and their contributions to the community. I will support an agenda that helps low income residents oppressed by economic, social, and racial inequality to have equal access to justice. Fairness, impartiality, and justice should be guaranteed to all no matter who you are, how much money you have, or where you come from and I will do everything I can as a Marathon County Board Member to work hard to ensure the initiatives we pass reflect that. I will also advocate for the County Board to join the Government Alliance on Race and Equity. I hope, as a minority, to bring a different voice and background to the Board and I hope my candidacy will represent a move towards greater inclusion in our local politics and hopefully will yield greater participation by others from diverse communities. It is my belief that a stronger Marathon County is a more diverse Marathon County that embraces and welcomes people of all different backgrounds and walks of life. Marathon County is not a singular thinking place; it is a home to many and values the contributions of all. Truly, we are stronger together and will move Marathon County Forward, Together!

What is your solution to the staffing shortage in the DA’s office? 

I think the staffing shortage in the DA’s office is a major problem, with no easy solution for the County Board. It is largely the obligation of the state to provide funding for the staffing shortage in the DA’s office, but the County Board will have to engage in more advocacy in pressing the legislature to respond and provide funding given the dire need. I would also support creating a taskforce to explore other options and to oversee advocacy efforts.

If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on firmer financial footing?

1) If elected, I will encourage and support initiatives to partner with organizations and businesses that want to contribute and help provide services to the community. One example of this recently was when the Greater Wausau Area Pickleball, Inc. organization in partnership with the Marathon County Board seeing a need to rehabilitate old and dilapidated tennis courts and provide more recreational services and activities to the community, generously donated the labor and materials to renovate these courts. It was a great outcome for the community, the businesses involved, and it reduced the financial burden on the County in rehabilitating these courts.

2) If elected, I plan to call for an economic impact plan that will look at the how, where, what we spend our money on, how we vet new projects/programs, and how we can improve financial viability and create financial opportunity.

3) If elected, I will also encourage programs that could benefit our community and are eligible to receive matching grant funds from the state or federal government to seek those grants, which will allow the County to share/reduce the financial burden.

How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our county?

I will attend neighborhood meetings, make sure residents are aware of important votes or changes to the County, and encourage residents to make public comment during meetings. I will also encourage residents to reach out to me through emails or phone calls. I will be accessible to the media. I will also encourage residents to stay engaged and get involved in helping to facilitate change. We all have to play a role in making sure our community thrives and I want to make sure that everyone feels that they have a voice in how we shape our future.

What else would you like voters to know about you?

I want voters to know that I will work hard for them, I will listen to them, I will work with them, and I will advocate for them every day! I want to make sure that as hard as the people here work for Marathon County, that Marathon County works for them. Every community has its challenges, but I believe that with the support of our community, together we can ensure that our county, our home, continues to grow and remains one of the best places to live in Wisconsin. So I am asking for your support and your vote on April the 7th. Because this is our home and truly, I believe that we are stronger together and will move Marathon Forward together! Thank you.


Dist. 6

Jack Hoogendyk, 64, Dist. 6 candidate

Jack Hoogendyk

Current occupation or relevant experience: Currently executive director of 501-c-3 non-profit called Hope Life Center. Experience: 12 years with Fortune 500 company included national sales manager. 4 years in county government, 6 years as a state rep. 14 years in non-profit. On the executive board of the chamber of commerce.

What motivated you to run for office and why are you qualified?
I believe I have experiences that make me effective at working with others in a respectful manner and getting things done for the good of the county’s residents. I believe experience in for-profit business, elective office and non-profit organizations give me a well-rounded understanding of the things that the residents of Marathon county go through; making ends meet, succeeding in business, working with non-profits to meet needs government cannot meet. These experiences also taught me how to be a better listener.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Marathon County in the next two years?
Balancing the budget. We are at the limit of tax levy with lots of demands on government 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 Marathon County is open and welcoming to all?
By enacting policies that treat everyone with the same level of respect that they all deserve. We must not segregate people into classes. What made America unique and great is that we are a melting pot. From many, we became one. Every person, created in the Image of God is equally deserving of love and respect, regardless of age, physical ability, intellect, lifestyle choice, religion, etc.
What is your solution to the staffing shortage in the DA’s office?
We need to continue to appeal to the governor and state legislators to press for equal representation based on population. The county can fund it to a point but we need state funding to supplement it.
If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on firmer financial footing?
1. Zero based budgeting. Every dollar needs to be justified.
2. Prioritization based on mandated expenditures. We can’t fund things that are not required by our charter. 3. Look for ways to privatize any service that can be outsourced efficiently at a savings.
How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our county?
I have been knocking on doors talking to constituents. Every piece of literature I hand out has my phone number on it and says “call me with your questions.” When I call constituents, I let them know my number so they can call back. I will attend neighborhood meetings to hear their concerns.
What else would you like voters to know about you?
One of the things I’ve learned is to listen to the constituents. In walking the neighborhood, I have discovered that many feel the board is too large. In fact, it is one of the largest (at 38 members) in the country. In response, I have committed to introducing a resolution to reduce the size of the board so as to make it more efficient, while assuring that everyone is equally represented.

Jeff Johnson, 60, Dist. 6 (incumbent)

Jeff Johnson

Current occupation or relevant experience: Retired Probation & Parole Agent, current Private Investigator

What motivated you to run for office and why are you qualified?

The fact that the County Board is a non partisan entity led me to believe that the board would function in a way that would seek the best solution for issues regardless of where that solution came from. I believe in doing the right thing because it is the right thing and I will continue to support the best interests of the county in all cases.

I had instilled in me at a young age the obligation to work towards helping others and working towards social justice. I served from 1980-1984 in the USAF and then worked for the state of Wisconsin from 1986-2011. In both cases I partly did so out of a commitment to this state and to this country. I served as an elected union official for 15 years and I championed the issues that were important to my constituents. I have tried to do the same over the past 2 years on the board.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Marathon County in the next two years?

The budget is going to be a challenge going forward after the effects of the Covid 19 virus’s impact on the economy is fully known. Without doubt adjustments will need to be made and priorities reset. This challenge will have a part in every decision going forward regardless of the issue.

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 Marathon County is open and welcoming to all?

I think that passing the Pride Month resolution was a good step forward in that direction. Marathon County has all of the physical amenities that young professionals are looking for when considering relocating, however that is not enough. We truly need to value diversity and welcome change if we are going to be competitive at bring in the people we need to keep this a vibrant growing county. Everyone needs to feels valued and welcome and we have work to do to achieve that goal.

What is your solution to the staffing shortage in the DA’s office?

There is no question that the District Attorney’s office needs more staff. Until the state steps up and provides the needed positions perhaps the District Attorney’s office needs to reset their priorities to a certain degree. Low level non violent crimes could possibly be disposed of more judiciously at times by issuing a municipal citation rather than always going the route of criminal prosecution. Not every defendant is John Dillinger or Pablo Escobar and I believe a little common sense could go a long way towards reducing the workload in the office.

If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on firmer financial footing?

1. No more blank checks. There are some departments that routinely go over budget and there is very little pushback when they ask for more money. This needs to stop.

2. An overall evaluation on the benefit to county residents must be a major factor in approving any expenditures.

3. Cut the size of the county board in half. By doing so the county will save more than $100,00.00 every year that is badly needed in vital programs. I brought forth a resolution to cut the board in half and unfortunately the resolution was tabled. I will bring the resolution back if I am re-elected.

How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our county?

One of the benefits of cutting the size of the board in half is that there will be a need for more citizen involvement as appointees to every sub committee. Cutting the board will give citizens greater say going forward.

What else would you like voters to know about you?

I have no personal agenda to promote. I just want county government to provide the best possible service at the lowest cost.


Dist. 16

Bill Conway, 52, Dist. 16 candidate

Bill Conway

Current occupation or relevant experience: Director of Operations

What motivated you to run for office and why are you qualified?
I believe people in my district deserve a more open and inclusive voice in county affairs.  Having worked for, with, and on various non-profit boards my entire adult life, it didn’t take much convincing for me to run for the county board when I saw some of the struggles they were having this past year.  I saw many members acting with a sense of purpose and determination that exemplified all the best qualities of leadership: transparency, availability, humility, and respectfulness.  Unfortunately, I was disheartened by seeing my own supervisor attempt to defund Start Right, a vital program that provides families with the tools and resources they need to raise healthy, school-ready children.  He also voted to cut funding for some of the county’s best non-profits around, like The Women’s Community, Judicare, and The Boys & Girls Club.  And after doing a little digging, I soon discovered that he also had been absent from over 1/3rd of his scheduled meetings during his term.  That, in a nutshell, is what motivated me to run.

Before the pervasive dangers of the coronavirus were known, I spent a good deal of time walking down every single street in district 16 and spoke with many of my neighbors about what they would like to see from their county supervisor.  And everyone I met wanted pretty much the same things I want: properly funded services with reasonable taxes and an inclusive and open frame of mind.  And as I have quite a bit of boardroom experience under my belt, I think I’m qualified to represent them as they would like.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Marathon County in the next two years?
I believe addressing the needs of our oldest residents will be the biggest challenge for the county in the coming years.  It’s no secret that we’re all getting older, and I want to make sure that the seniors in our communities have the ability to live life as they like, and to stay in their homes as long as they’d like, with all the supports and programs in place to make sure they can do just that.  We’ve all heard about the swell in Baby Boomers retiring, and the ADRC-CW is an invaluable asset and must be funded accordingly.  And with the current pandemic being as dangerous as it is for older folks, we need to think strategically in that regard, now more than ever.
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 Marathon County is open and welcoming to all?
 I firmly believe that everyone has value and everyone should have a voice in matters that affect them.  To that end, fostering a culture of inclusiveness is my top priority as a county supervisor.  I have always embraced that which makes us different, and the human factor has always been the lens through which I do business; how my decisions impact the lives of people in our community will never leave the forefront of my mind.  There are already fantastic groups within the county that work to ensure equality and equity among people from all walks of life, and if we truly wish to promote a welcoming feeling of inclusivity (which I do!), the county board would do well to work with each of them.
What is your solution to the staffing shortage in the DA’s office?
While we are most likely going to be getting a new circuit court judge this year, which may alleviate the congestion somewhat, according to the state statutes, it’s the state’s responsibility to adequately staff the DA’s office, not the county.  And simply put; the state legislature must be held accountable and pay their debts.  The size of the DA’s workforce is determined by a formula which is -wait for it- provided for by the state, the same bureaucratic entity that is supposed to fund that workforce.  What needs to be done is send resolutions to Madison, as often and as loudly as is needed for the state to pay its bill.  My guess is that no politician on earth wants a headline of “Soft on Crime” next to their name in the paper.  And if it takes such saber-rattling to get them to step up and fund Marathon County’s prosecutors, then that’s exactly what we should do.
If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on firmer financial footing?
First, we need to take advantage of every federal grant and state aid package available.  From General Transportation Aids to the state’s Broadband Expansion Grants, we need to make sure we can use these monies to better the lives of those within our communities, essentially adding to our budget without raising taxes.
Second, we need to shrink the size of the county board itself.  There is currently a task force in place to determine the most efficient size the board should be (which will no doubt be a significantly smaller number than 38), and the cost savings of a reduced board size can be used to fund our essential services.
Thirdly, and most importantly, we must demand a shift in the board’s methods to focus on planned spending, rather than emergency spending.  Short-term fixes cannot be substituted for long-term solutions.  Raising four kids while working at a non-profit has given me a huge respect for the practical necessities of living within a budget, and when it comes to tax policy, we have to always strive for the absolute best bang for our buck.
How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our county?
Two-way communication is an essential element for an involved and invested community.  When I was out knocking doors and talking with residents in my district, I was astonished to find out that no one even knew our current supervisor’s name.  Nobody.  Not one.  Availability and accessibility are the most basic tenants of good governing, and as a county supervisor, I will hold scheduled office hours within my district, craft regular district newsletters, and maintain a constant online presence such as:  https://www.facebook.com/ConwayforCountyBoard .
What else would you like voters to know about you?

I’m currently the president of the DC Everest Idea School’s governance board and the president of the Wausau Area Montessori Charter School’s governance council.  Serving on both of these boards has not only taught me the value of collaboration, but honed my sense of strategic planning as well.  If elected, I will enthusiastically represent the fine folks of District 16 and make sure everyone has a voice.


Jeff Zriny, 71, Dist. 16 incumbent

Jeff Zriny

Occupation: Retired Health Insurance Executive (Wausau Insurance and Security Health Plan)

What motivated you to run for office and why are you qualified?   
In may last position after I retired from the insurance industry, I served as the President and CEO of the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce. While at the Chamber I worked closely with Administrator Brad Karger. One of his objectives was to encourage more people from the business community to run for county government. I retired in December of 2013 to care for my wife who was dealing with a major degenerative neurological condition.I decided run for an open seat in the 16th district which would allow me to remain connected in the community and use my past business experience to assist local government. I believe I have great business experience (principles and and strategies) to share with our county government.
Upon being elected, I was appointed by Chairman Gibbs to serve on the CWA Airport Board, MCDEVCO Board, (where I served as chairman for two years), Education and Economic Development Committee of Marathon County, Marathon County Executive committee, and the North Central Health Care board where I have served as chairman for the last 5 years.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Marathon County in the next two years?
I would see the COVID 19 pandemic, managing our limited budget during the healthcare crisis and recession which will have a negative impact on sales tax revenues, and broadband expansion as three major issues facing this board. It’s hard to pick a top priority since two involve  crisis and are more reactive in nature. Clearly we have residents throughout the county that have internet access issues that  need to addressed.  This is now being magnified by our children receiving their education for what appears to be the balance of their school year and asking more workers to work from home.
Some who run for county supervisor indicate their desire to cut/control taxes.County tax revenues are not like other municipalities where they are able to pass a budget and raises taxes. We actually start with maximum pot of money and have to work backwards on the expense items. Our actual rate decreased 8 cent this year with equalized property values increasing by 4.4% which impacted the average tax payor by an increase of 2.26% or an increase in taxes of $16.59. This a formula established by the State of Wisconsin. Our challenge as a county board is to make the best decisions on services with capped revenues.
What is your solution to the staffing shortage in the District Attorney’s office?
Another little know fact is the funding of the DA positions in the State of Wisconsin. They are funded by the state and Marathon county provides office space and support services. The state budget under funds Marathon County. Here’s where the tension comes with a fixed budget. In this last budget I proposed we reduced our Start Right program by $150,000 to fund two positions the DA’s office which is really the responsibility  of the state. You can see the challenges we face with our budget
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 Marathon County is open and welcoming to all?
Last June the board spent a considerable amount time on this area. The Diversity Affairs Committee also provided some guidance.  The board is involved in ongoing diversity training at our m monthly meetings. We are very aware of the existing workforce shortage so we are working hard to be inclusive to attract people to our community.
If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on firmer financial footing?
As stated above, we have difficult decisions concerning services for our residents. Our infrastructure requires constant attention. We are reluctant to borrow for ongoing capital improvement but were forced to do so this year. Boilers, windows, roofs need replacing to name a few. I believe we are fiscally prudent. We’re constantly looking for ways to save money such a leasing vehicles instead of buying when there are favorable buy back terms.
How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our county?
I attend my District 16 City of Schofield to provide a county report and receive feedback for the county board. The county board has a defined Public Engagement process that we have utilized over the past few years. We encourage public comment at our monthly meeting but have very little through out the year.
We have created specific task forces which include community members to address issues. The most recent was the search committee involved in finding our new administrator.
What else would you like voters to know about you?
My last comment has to do with North Central Health Care where I have served on the board representing Marathon County for the last 6 years. NCHC has undergone a massive transition over those 6 years. There was a period over 5 years ago where the future of this three county organization was in jeopardy. Today we’re in the midst of a $70 plus million building project which includes a new aquatic therapy pool, new adolescent pyschiatric hospital(new expanded service), CBRF, new psychiatric hospital, new Mountview Care Center nursing home and rehab center. Over the past year, we have engaged a consulting firm to help this community develop a coordinated approach to behavioral health and substance abuse services. This will be a broad based recommendation and will include the educational system, medical health systems, and law enforcement in addition to NCHC.
As you might be able to decipher from my comments, I am enthusiastic about everything that is happening at NCHC. Beyond that focus, I am fully engaged in the running of our county government. The real test is when you walk out of a January board meeting at 10:30 PM and it is -20 degrees and you have the satisfaction that you are serving the residents of Marathon County.

Dist. 29

Chris Dickinson, 50, Dist. 29 candidate

Chris Dickinson

Current occupation or relevant experience:  Senior Solutions Analyst at Marshfield Clinic Health Systems.  Vice President, Stratford Board of Education (9 years).  Veteran of the US Air Force (10 years, rank of Captain)

What motivated you to run for office and why are you qualified?   
I believe I have a civic obligation to participate in my community.  Having done that successfully for 9 years as school board vice president, I wanted to expand that participation to the county.  I believe I can bring rational thoughts and logical discussion to the topics presented to the board.  My breadth of experience in multiple business industries (sales, advertising, publishing, medicine, information technology) and the military will serve the county well. 
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Marathon County in the next two years?
The county’s economics, budgeting, spending, tax revenue, etc.  The challenges and insights brought on by the COVID-19 will play a part in that, to ensure business and government can respond effectively in a contingency.  opart of that in rural internet capabilities, ensuring people can work from home.
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 Marathon County is open and welcoming to all?
By behaving in a respectful and thoughtful manner toward all people, showing them that who they are has value and matters.  The differences people have need not erupt in arguing all the time.  We should be able to have dignified, meaningful conversations that center on policy without bringing labels into it.
What is your solution to the staffing shortage in the DA’s office?
State problems and solutions become local problems and solutions all the time; just look at what has happened in the past 10 years with school budgets and local districts being given greater control.  So, if the state refuses to act on a problem they created, the county must.  I am in favor of funding the DA’s office at least temporarily so that those locked up receive fair and just due process.
If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on firmer financial footing?
Increase tax revenue by trying to bring more business and consumers into the county
Find areas of the budget to trim so that only the critical needs programs are in place
Support measures to bring high speed, reliable internet across the entire county so that businesses can compete and consumers can communicate and work from home.
How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our county?
By speaking with them in the communities I serve and listening to them when they reach out.
What else would you like voters to know about you?

First, I believe my moderate conservative values align better with the values of the citizens in the district.  And citizens should have a representative that understands and supports their views to the board.  Second, I am always willing to listen to opposing viewpoints and try to understand why someone holds those views.  While there are some opinions I have that would not be swayed by that discussion, most issues do not require that firm mindset.  Thus, I will seek to have meaningful conversations in hopes of finding common ground for the best of the county.


Dist. 33

Tim Buttke, 59, Dist. 33 incumbent

Tim Buttke

Current occupation or relevant experience:

Commercial and Agricultural Banker, 1994-Present

Dairy Farmer, 1982-1994

Marathon County Board, 2016-Present

Stettin Town Board, 2015-Present
What motivated you to run for office and why are you qualified?

I have always been interested in local government. As a lifelong resident of Marathon County and the Town of Stettin, as well as a banker and former dairy farmer, I feel that I bring a unique perspective to the County Board.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Marathon County in the next two years?
Balancing the needs and wants of the county versus our limited fiscal resources is always the biggest challenge. The jail, staff shortages in the District Attorney’s Office, maintaining our roads, and developing our broadband coverage are all vital components. The COVID-19 crisis will create some added stress 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 Marathon County is open and welcoming to all?
There certainly is a perception that Marathon County is not a very welcoming place for minorities, and some of that perception is warranted by past actions. That is why in 2019 I voted in favor of the Pride Month Resolution, but more needs to be done. Laws and resolutions don’t change minds, so continuing a dialog with the various minority groups will be important.
What is your solution to the staffing shortage in the DA’s office?
The County Board needs to continue to pressure the State of Wisconsin to fund the Assistant District Attorney positions, as is their mandate. The County will fund the clerical staff positions as it has traditionally done.

If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on firmer financial footing?

First off, I have to disagree with your premise. Our county is on very sound financial footing thanks to fiscally prudent decision making over the past several years. Our Moody’s bond rating is the highest that it can be for a county our size. Support from state government was severely ratcheted back over the past decade, leaving the counties with little option other than to either raise taxes or cut services. We have balanced these areas judiciously, and at times have had to dip into the contingency fund to cover unforeseen expenses, but overall we are on solid financial footing.

How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our county?
Over the 4 years that I have had the privilege of representing District 33 I have had numerous conversations from constituents regarding a number of issues. We may not always agree, but I always listen to their concerns. I would encourage all residents to be more active in providing input in local government through emails, phone calls, or showing up in person at County Board and Committee meetings.
What else would you like voters to know about you?

Well, I have two great kids, and I have been married to my wife Kay for almost 32 years. I am a 1978 graduate of Wausau West, and received a B.S. in Agriculture in 1982 from UW-River Falls. I love sports, movies, books, and performances at the Grand Theater ( let’s hope we get back to that soon!)


Ron Covelli, 56, Dist. 33 candidate

Ron Covelli

Current occupation or relevant experience: Quality Engineer, Endowment Fund Committee Chairman, Former Church Council Vice-President, Former Scout Master, Retired Varsity Soccer Coach

What motivated you to run for office and why are you qualified?

To promote honest and open County Government, represent all age groups and promote civil and respectful debate. I’ve been able to lead large groups of students and young adults to work together to produce positive results both on and off the field. I’ve been able to lead major improvement teams on projects that have saved countless hours and dollars in manufacturing.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Marathon County in the next two years?

The biggest challenge in the next two years will be to predict how the economy and communities will react to the Covid 19 pandemic and how we sustain the County services during these next two years.

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 Marathon County is open and welcoming to all?

I will stress that we maintain the current laws that protect against discrimination and hate that have been around for quite some time. If we don’t enforce the law consistently, we will send a message that it’s ok to discriminate and hate. I think most residents in Marathon County are really good people and as we learn more about our diverse population we can help educate people on how people feel when hate is brought forth in situations. We are a loving community and need to promote this.

What is your solution to the staffing shortage in the DA’s office?

I would look at why the jail is overcrowded to begin with. What is the data behind the incarcerations and if we can stem those root causes to begin with. The DA needs help with the huge backlog and we need to push the State to provide funding even harder than we have in the past. Let’s face it, the funding for more resources in the DA’s office is a tax wether through the State or Local level and we will all pay in one way or another.

If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on firmer financial footing?

I think the biggest step right now, for the next two years, is figuring out how we going to come out of the Covid epidemic financially? We don’t know yet, but we can work on preparing for that. We will need to define what that looks like, measuring where we will be and taking steps to mitigate the financial risks we will be seeing.

How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our county?

I like to meet with folks of all ages to get their input on issues that the County faces. This is a position that I’ve taken for many years on making teams successful and getting positive outcomes. It’s about two way, respectful communication and problem solving.

What else would you like voters to know about you?

I’m a long time resident of Marathon County. I’m a regular working guy that has helped bring people together for many years. My family and I also like to attend old car shows and host Woodchuck players. My family loves baseball.


Dist. 35

William Litzer, 30, Dist. 35 candidate

Current occupation or relevant experience: Equipment setup at Marathon Cheese Corporation and Farm Laborer at Litzer Dairy
What motivated you to run for office and why are you qualified?
To make a difference in my community and County. There are things you do on and off the court. When I am not setting up equipment at Marathon Cheese or working on the farm. I am out in the community making a difference. I am qualified thru my experience, my involvement in my community and I have ideas that will make a difference in the county.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Marathon County in the next two years?
A stabilized budget, economic development in the communities and townships, and agriculture in the county.
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 Marathon County is open and welcoming to all?
well be the better person. this issue will take time to make a difference as we seen it in our past, present and future.
What is your solution to the staffing shortage in the DA’s office?
making sure we have a efficient system when it comes to the courts
If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on firmer financial footing?
1. micro manage the budget- leave no stone unturn and make sure every dollar is use properly.
2. a discipline budget, by these two points. One: the main budget on what we need now, and two:the piece of “Act of God”, things are out of our control. for example road washouts, epidemics, etc
How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our county?
town hall events and informing the public.
What else would you like voters to know about you?
I want to downsize the board from 38 to 26. Currently each supervisor represent 3563 voters per district. We are the 11th biggest county in the state. Comparing us to other counties, the 6th to 10th biggest avg about 5510 people per district and counties 12th thru 16 gives a avg of 4011 people per district. So doing some caluations if we cut the board by a third it would gives about 5208 people per district. Also noted that the avg between these two groups the avg number of supervisors is 30 for the 5 counties bigger than us and 24.2 for the 5 counties smaller than us.
I want to create economic development in townships.

We have so much to offer in our township. We have Jobs, Agriculture, land, Natural resources. For example every job in agriculture supports an additional 1.46 jobs somewhere in the state. If we create growth in the township, it will help the surrounding communities as well. Think “Wisconsin Made, Wisconsin Strong, Wisconsin Economy”


Dist. 36

Bruce Lamont, 59, Dist. 36 candidate

Bruce Lamont

Current occupation or relevant experience:  Retired Administrative Pastor of a large Wausau Church.

What motivated you to run for office and why are you qualified?

I recently retired from 31 years in the ministry and want to continue to give back to the community where I have lived with my family for the past 23 years.  I am very qualified because I have been on various church boards for 31 years and have been highly involved in the budgeting process and administrative decisions.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Marathon County in the next two years?

The next two years will be unprecedented due to the Coronavirus.  The health, safety and prosperity of all Marathon County residents will be affected and we will need to focus on how to help individuals and businesses recover.

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 Marathon County is open and welcoming to all?  

We are all God’s children and need to respect each other even though people have differences of opinions. We need to focus on the good that people are doing in our community and not fuel the fires of division. As a Pastor, I was welcoming of all people and as a supervisor I will stand up for the needs of everyone in the community.

What is your solution to the staffing shortage in the DA’s office?

I am aware of some of the issues involved, but at this time I would need to learn more about the variables involved before I could offer solutions.

If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on firmer financial footing?

The County should make better use of priority based budgeting. Spend wisely, cut unnecessary waste, and keep taxes low.

How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our county?

I will make a special email address available where people can contact me and a phone number to reach me, which due to the Coronavirus seems to be the best options at this point.

What else would you like voters to know about you?

I am married, have a family of 4 grown children, 1 dog and 2 grandchildren.  I am an avid outdoorsman, play on a golf league, and play guitar in the praise band at my church.  I have volunteered in the community at the Marathon county jail leading worship services for years and have done the same at area nursing homes for the past 22 years.  I have been endorsed by Bill Miller who after many years of serving on the board in district 36, has decided to pursue other interests.  I have also been endorsed by: Scott Parks – Marathon County Sheriff, Chad Billeb – Marathon County Chief Deputy Sheriff, Kevin Hermening – Financial Planner, USMC Retired, Iran Hostage 1979-1981, Kurt Gibbs – Marathon County Board Chairman, Craig McEwen – Marathon County Board Executive Committee, Chair – Public Safety Committee, and Joanne Leonard – Past Chair – Human Resources Committee, Past Chair – Aging & Disability Resource Center.


Michelle Schaefer, 55, Dist. 36 candidate

Michelle Schaefer

Current occupation or relevant experience:

President, Board of Directors for The Neighbors’ Place (2020)

Board Member (2017-Present)

Hospice/Aspirus Volunteer

Therapy Dog Volunteer

Wausau School District Board of Education (2006-2015)

President, 4 years

Vice President, 3 years

Blessings in a Backpack Board of Directors (2015-2017)

What motivated you to run for office and why are you qualified?:

Rib Mountain has been my home for more than 23 years, and I believe that District 36 deserves a seasoned leader who will foster positive change.  I am the only candidate who has both held an elected office, and demonstrated an extensive, proven track record of community leadership.  My nine-year tenure on the Wausau School District Board of Education, where I served in a leadership position for seven years, is one example of my dedication to our community as an elected official.

I am also proud to have worked with families facing food insecurity in our community as a board member for Blessings in a Backpack, and am continuing this mission in my current role as Board President of The Neighbors’ Place.

It is through this community engagement, as well as a parent who raised my own children in this community, that I have developed a deep understanding of our Rib Mountain shared values.  I would like to bring these values to the County level, and to foster an environment where everyone can live with dignity and reach their highest potential.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Marathon County in the next two years?

I believe there are two significant challenges.  First of all, the County Board will need to utilize critical thinking to develop a budget that supports the entire community.  As levy limits continue to put constraints on our funding, we will have to balance the need for critical programs while also supporting the key attributes that make living in Marathon County so special, including our outdoor areas and natural resources.  As we look at county funding, strategic budgeting decisions will be essential.  How we fund will be just as important as what and by how much we fund.

Secondly, the County Board must make quality, affordable, high-speed internet available to everyone.  The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the gap of high-speed internet access in our county.  Our community and the County Board must make this a priority so that our children have the ability to learn digitally and our residents can work remotely as a means to stay connected to school and business. Quality, affordable high-speed internet can no longer be viewed as a luxury, but as the necessity it is.

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 much would you work to ensure that Marathon County is open and welcoming to all? 

I had the opportunity to attend the LIFE Report forum on January 24th through my role at The Neighbors’ Place.  For me, it was heartbreaking to hear from the panelists about the struggles they have faced.  The experience was eye opening because while I was certainly aware that hate and discrimination exist in our community, I did not truly realize the extent of the problem.

To actively work towards reducing acts of hate and discrimination in our county, I firmly believe that all county businesses, non-profits and government entities should utilize all the Calls to Action in the LIFE report as a lens in their decision making.  The County Board itself must lead by example and create policies that support and respect everyone.  Decision-making must include listening to different stakeholder groups as well as creating opportunities for this to happen. We must acknowledge that the fabric of our community continues to diversify and evolve, and look at new and innovative ways to embrace these changes.

What is your solution to the staffing shortage in the DA’s office?

As a candidate, and not an incumbent, I believe it is premature to offer a solution to an issue that I have not been involved in for the entire process.  However, once elected, I would hold the County Administrator and County Chairman accountable to ensure that there is routine and regular communication with the state to work toward a solution to this problem.  I believe that there should be monthly reports on the progress and status of their efforts.  As a County Board member, I will take the time to develop a more complete understanding of what the issues are and I will schedule regular contact with my representatives in the State Legislature to engage their support.  Efforts to resolve this issue should not be reserved for the budget process.

If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on firmer financial footing?

I believe that the County is on firm financial footing.  The challenge we face is how to maintain a strong financial outlook while balancing the priorities:  developing and maintaining our infrastructure; provide quality, affordable high-speed internet; and address the ever-increasing needs of our community.  As I previously shared, utilizing critical thinking in the budgeting process is essential.  In addition, I would be interested in developing/encouraging collaborations between municipalities in our county to ensure that residents have access to programs and services. Finally, I believe that the county needs to continually explore alternate funding sources to support our budget priorities.

How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our county?

One thing that I have learned as a candidate is that many people do not have an understanding of what the County Board actually does.  My husband, Fred, is on the Town Board of Rib Mountain and people are generally aware of the Town Board’s responsibilities simply because many of its policies relate directly to our daily lives (permits, regulations, etc).  When I was a member of the Wausau School District Board of Education, people understood that we developed policy around education in the school district.  As a County Board member, I will work to help my constituents understand exactly what policies and programs the county is responsible for.  As previously stated, where appropriate, I will encourage the Board to seek input from a variety of stakeholders by creating opportunities to gather feedback.  In my experience at The Neighbors’ Place, I have learned that sometimes vulnerable populations do not always feel like they have a voice and as a result, do not readily come forward.  We must ensure that people know that we value all opinions.  To that end, I will be available to my constituents to listen to their ideas, questions and concerns by hosting quarterly coffee hours to encourage transparency and engagement in county issues.

What else would you like voters to know about you?

I would like voters to know that at the very heart of it, I am deeply committed to the quality of life of all residents of Marathon County.  I believe that we are all responsible and have a part to play in making our community a better place. Community service and civic engagment is my way to accomplish that goal.


Dist. 38

Jonathan Fisher, 36, Dist. 38 candidate

Current occupation or relevant experience: Financial Business Director
What motivated you to run for office and why are you qualified?
How many times in the last week or month have you heard the phrase, “we’ve always done it this way”?  For me, it is far too often and it is time to change that.  Fresh ideas and challenging the status quo are required to stay ahead of the curve to mitigate the impact of issues facing the County.  The current issue of social distancing to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus is a prime example.  When my employer decided to shift everyone to working remotely, my first concern was to confirm who on staff had access to reliable internet connection.  Let’s shine the light on our current methods of thinking to ensure they continue to be effective and efficient, so let’s take out and shake out those old ideas!  With several years experience in financial management and public service through volunteerism, I am here to work to support the residents of Marathon County while focusing on the priorities of accountability, sustainability, and mental health and wellness.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Marathon County in the next two years? 
I believe that our need to support our aging community will be a challenge over the coming years.  After sitting on the Health sub-committee for the most recent United Way LIFE report, it became abundantly clear regarding issues impacting our aging population.  The overall population aging demographic for Marathon County continues to grow, so ensuring adequate resources are available to help our population age in place will be essential and should receive proper levels of funding and support.
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 Marathon County is open and welcoming to all? 
First of all, hate and intolerance have no place in our community.  Welcoming and inclusiveness resonates when it comes from the “tone at the top”.  In order to help attract and retain talented young professionals from all demographics, the County board should lead by example.  Encouraging input from residents with multiple viewpoints and diverse backgrounds, will lead to new ideas to drive a stronger, more productive community.  Taking time to learn from one another is incredibly important as we move forward as a community.
What is your solution to the staffing shortage in the DA’s office? 
The Marathon County board focuses on ensuring the proper number of skilled staff is being provided to support the State DA’s office,  and this is essential as we continue to handle the current opioid epidemic.  While ensuring these staffing levels, we must work closely with our State legislators to provide the adequate, formula driven funding to support the needed DA workforce.
If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on firmer financial footing? 
With the current levy limits in place; smart, strategic decisions must be continually made to ensure a strong financial footing.  First step would be by utilizing my years of budgeting and expense management experience to dig in to help eliminate waste and excessive redundancies in planned spending.  Secondly, combining these savings in planned spending with accessing all available State and Federal level grant funding opportunities (eg. broadband expansion grants, transportation aid, etc.)  Finally, fully funding essential service maintenance and repairs, simply “kicking the can” on these expenses will lead to future elevated maintenance costs.  As everyone knows, it is always less expensive to fix things right the first time than simply adding a bandage until later.
How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our county? 
My goal will be to obtain more frequent engagement with, and input from, residents of District 38.  I plan on meeting this charge by utilizing additional digital platforms to connect with residents via their preferred method of communication, as well as organizing listening sessions to meet with residents in person. I would also encourage additional attendance at the stated board meetings or participation with the committee process.
What else would you like voters to know about you? 
Besides my time in corporate finance, I am currently an active member with our local Wausau Elks lodge, volunteer Ski Patroller with Granite Peak, and enthusiastic fundraiser for many local non-profits.  This volunteer work to support both our local residents and visitors to our region, has given me an excellent vantage point to press for continued improvement at the County level.  I eagerly look forward to representing District 38 and all residents of Marathon County!

 

Investigative journalist, music enthusiast, blogger, animal lover, kayaker, knitter, wife, mother.

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