Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot and Review gladly publishes letters from readers and all candidates for local offices. The views of our readers are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot and Review. To submit a letter, email editor@wausaupilotandreview.com or mail to 500 N. Third St. Suite 208-8, Wausau, Wis., 54403.

Dear editor,

I am one of the neighborhood advocates who has been attending over 200 city hall meetings for the last eight years. I am “that woman” that Mayor Mielke has been talking about at city hall! It is just one of the stereotypes and backroom rumors used to discredit women like Mary Thao, other council candidates and I for being critical of city policies of the city and in holding regular city meetings during the pandemic.

Here is what you need to know about me. I have owned a home on the near west side for 15 years. I am retired. I have had a good education. I have had a career in accounting and in grants management for government agencies and not-for-profit corporations. It would be a privilege to represent my District 11 west side neighborhoods on the Wausau City Council.

Relevant education:

  • A Master’s Degree in business administration from Roosevelt University in Chicago
  • A Bachelor’s of Science Degree in accounting from Northern Michigan University in Marquette
  • Leadership Wausau graduate of the 2005-06 class held at the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce

Local civic involvement:

  • Leader of the Wausau Neighborhood of Wausau for six years and active member for 10 years.
  • Former vice president of WIN, the Wausau area consortium for affordable housing. Members included The Salvation Army, American Red Cross, WCC, Catholic Charities, The Neighbors’ Place, and NCHCC.
  • With Thomas Lee, former co-chairman of the Minority Interagency Group working with nonprofits and agencies serving minority residents in Marathon County.
  • Representing Catholic Charities of the Diocese of La Crosse based out of the Wausau office, Board Member for F.E.M.A. funding for the individual counties of Marathon, Portage, Adams, Juneau and Clark. National board members included the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities and The Salvation Army.
  • For Habitat for Humanity Wausau Chapter, member of the Family Selection Committee for five years, reviewed applications from prospective families, financial information and credit history; visited families’ current living conditions with other HFH committee members.
  • Former volunteer legal guardian of a disabled senior for seven years.

Here is what you should know about why I am running. Eight years ago, there was a serious auto and bicycle accident at Fourth Avenue and Callon Street. Neighbors at our monthly neighborhood meeting advocated for the city to make improvements to that dangerous intersection. Neighbors and I attended city meetings and advocated for a traffic change; the four way stop request was approved by the city committees and the city council in a matter of a few months.

While coming to more meetings at city hall, I learned and advocated about a neighborhood petition from Northwestern Avenue homeowners with country lots, against a developer with a vague recycling plant business plan (within two months changed to a tight cluster of rental apartments on the west side of the railroad tracks), which years later never developed. Even though I may be from the west side, I care about what happens in other areas of the city and I want to support our residents in other neighborhoods.

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. Mr. Franz never did provide audit reports to the city. Mr. Franz did not pay the Riverlife subcontractors and Franz eventually went into bankruptcy leaving the city to deal with millions of unpaid bills.

On the Thomas Street reconstruction, I questioned how having a four or five-lane road merging down to a two-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 Avenue and on the city purchasing only Riiser Oil gasoline for city vehicles and trucks when normally a bidding process is required. I recommended that city staff and alderpersons financially vet RFP (Request For Proposals) such as Riverlife and West Side Battery developers. I 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.

On the west side of District 11, Mountain Lanes has been razed and new luxurious apartments are being built on that site; estimated rents range from $975 for one-bedroom units to $1,375 for two-bedroom units.  Shopko has closed on 17th Avenue.  There are plans to re-purpose Shopko into smaller boutique stores and add another strip mall just north of the Pizza Hut and Starbucks location on 17th Avenue.

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 three pieces with the Best Western handling the northern part of the property. It would be wonderful if some other type of senior living could be developed in the other two parcels since Elm and 17th Avenue is just a short walk away to two grocery stores and other retail shopping.

The city council needs to start focusing on the other 98 percent of the city of Wausau such as: improving roads; paying down on the principal on city debts (paying interest only now); and a complete review of TIF expenditures and the districts.

There was a recent March 11t Westies Candidate Forum that was videotaped, which you can view or share at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaysPRTKiqA.  The Wausau Pilot and Review Council Candidate Q & A for all districts can be found at: https://wausaupilotandreview.com/2020/04/01/candidate-qa-wausau-city-council/.  The city council candidates’ questions and answers start at District 1 and run through the last District 11, where Patrick Bacher and I are running for office, which is at the end of the article.

We need a city government that does more than play Monopoly with $223 million dollars in borrowed money or approve projects for the downtown best suited for Denver, not Wausau. We need leadership that will understand that Wausau is fine to be what it is, a small town with great schools, museums, fine arts, festivals and 400 block events, 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 to change the direction of Wausau for the next two to four 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 7.

Please take care of you and your family in these difficult times. Hope to meet you around the neighborhood in the weeks to come.

Debra Ryan of Wausau