John Kroll. Contributed photo

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

Dear Editor,

My name is John Kroll and I am excited to announce that I am running for the Wausau District 1 City Council seat where I will be on the ballot for the Spring Primary Election on Feb. 15.

I am a born and raised Wisconsinite growing up in the central part of the state. I am a modern working father of two young daughters. The past two years have stretched many families to their limits. I’ve come face to face with the questions many residents in our community face today – Where can we find a home or apartment in our price range? Should we look for new job or move to another city? Where can we send our children to child care and can we afford it? Should one of us stay at home to save money? Where should we send our kids to school? Would we be better off selling a car and use public transportation? If you’ve recently asked yourself any of these questions, just know you’re not alone.

These questions my wife and I ask each other are expressed by families of all ages that have spoken to me. While many of these issues, if not all of them, are very difficult, I believe they are intertwined and can potentially be remedied with systemic solutions and viewing them through the lens of long term resilience and sustainability.

Affordable Housing has a different meaning for most citizens. The general threshold provided at the federal level is under 30% of total income is considered affordable. This number hasn’t changed since the early 1980’s. Is that sufficient for the 21st century? Does this simple number reflect the challenges and current situation we as citizens of Wausau are experiencing which includes sharp increases in home, rent, and energy prices? I would argue it does not.

This is why I’m intrigued to hear from the continuation Wausau Affordable House Task Force meetings. I strongly believe that a new definition of affordable housing is needed to fit the city of Wausau to help distinguish the discrepancy we have as a community vs. the rest of the country. My hope is that the definition and possible recommendations that come out of the task force not only helps low-income residents, but all residents.

Affordable housing has been a big part of my career. In my experience working in residential energy programs and helping thousands of homeowners and renters, low-income residents are the ones who struggle the most with the burdens of rent spikes, surprise home repairs, higher utility bills, and improper maintenance upkeep. Yet every resident deserves a home/apartment that is affordable, durable, and comfortable, regardless of income. This is why I’m a big advocate for including maintenance and operating costs in to a new definition of affordable housing that everyone can benefit from. Wausau already has programs such as the Homeowner Rehabilitation, Rental Rehabilitation, and Live it Up programs. These starting points could potentially be upgraded to fit other criteria to include things like rebates and increased building standards.

Homelessness is a reoccurring theme that citizens of District 1 have brought up. I appreciate the compassion our District has for our friends in need. As a member of Wausau’s Citizen’s Advisory Committee, it is a topic that comes up every year as non-profits request funding assistance to help the homeless. The funds are usually temporary, but I’m proud to serve on the committee and the impact it has created yet acknowledge there’s much more to be done. We haven’t found a permanent solution yet, but I believe we can find one together as a community when viewing it through the paradigm of community resilience.

Wausau is in a unique situation of being a major employment hub in Northcentral Wisconsin yet not quite having all of the job opportunities that big metro cities offer. This scenario reflects the challenges Wausau is having Attracting and Retaining Employees.

The preliminary report from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists unemployment rate in Wausau at 1.5% percent for November 2021. With such a low rate, how are Wausau and private businesses still being affected by worker shortages? There are many answers, but we can find some explanations from the original questions I posed at the start.

Working families, especially low-income ones, are having their resolve tested by child care costs and accessibility. According to BLS, child care costs have doubled nationally from 2001-2021. With students still having virtual learning in today’s schools, it makes a lot of sense for some parents to leave the workforce and take care of children at home instead of working.

Families who rely on public transit are even more strained. Residents of low-income and minority areas have challenging times getting to employment as some routes are not as effective and the destinations are not always to high employment areas. The Wausau MPO has noted these issues in there Transportation Plan 2050 but challenges still persist. I’m interested if the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act could provide funding for transit projects in Wausau while tackling emissions at the same time.

A strategy that can pull many issues we face together in Wausau is focusing and committing toward Sustainability Planning. Many cities across the country, including Wisconsin, are implementing blueprints to tackle a range of problems from environmental protections, health initiatives, affordable housing, greenhouse gas reductions, long term job growth, and overall increases in quality of life. When I think about the challenges we are presented in Wausau, I truly believe a comprehensive Climate Action Plan will tackle the above issues and will help steer the progress needed in a positive manner.

Recent breakthroughs have been made in Wausau in the form of Wausau’s Environmental Justice Resolution and potential environmental clean-up locations and should be celebrated. However, these wins are just the tip of the iceberg that could be possible with a true vision for sustainability and resilience.

I have the honor of serving as Chair for Wausau’s Sustainability, Energy, and Environment committee. I appreciate our discussions and impact we are able to make on the committee, but I am hopeful that I can bring those discussions and vision to the next level at City Council.

Thank you for reading.

John Kroll
Wausau District 1 City Council Candidate

About me:

I grew up in central Wisconsin and graduated from Western Technical College in La Crosse, WI with a degree in Building Science – where I still serve on the program’s Advisory Board.

My family and I chose to move to Wausau because we wanted a place where we felt we can make a strong impact in the local community and a city that was on the verge of making some real positive progress. We were pleased to find a smaller city vibe with big city amenities, a great park system for our kids, and a friendly and active neighborhood. We’re blessed to call Wausau our home.

You will find our family on nice days at all of the excellent parks in Wausau, the many area campgrounds, and tending to our gardens. I love hiking and canoeing and hope to visit the Boundary Waters Canoe Area later this year. I’ve been playing bass guitar since high school and still enjoy the occasional moment of solitude to rock out when our kids are gone.

I have two Meet and Greet events scheduled for anyone who would like to attend.

  • Saturday, February 5th 2022; 9:00 – 11:00 am at the Wausau Downtown Airport
  • Thursday February 10th 2022; 6:00 – 8:00 pm at Kin and Kind

You can find me on Facebook: @JohnKrollforWausau