Wausau Pilot & Review

Editor’s note: Responses from William Bublitz were added to this story as soon as they were received.

One of two primary races in advance of the spring election, Wausau City Council Dist. 1, on the city’s southeast side, has drawn three candidates.

On Feb. 15, the top two finishers will move on to the spring election, which will be held April 5. Dist. 1 is now represented by Pat Peckham, who announced earlier that he would not seek another term. See the map below for district boundaries.

William Bublitz, John Kroll and Carol Lukens are vying for the seat. All three candidates were given the same set of questions on Jan. 31 with a Feb. 7 deadline. Of those, Kroll and Lukens responded. Should Bublitz respond later, his answers will be added.

William Bublitz, 67

William Bublitz. Contributed photo

My name William Bublitz and I’m67 years of age, so I’m retired. I’ve never held office before, but have done volunteer work at various places. Though I am only a high school graduate, I am still learning about various subjects by reading and other research. You can go to my Facebook page William Bublitz for 1 District and get more information on my platform and share your concerns with me. 

What people should know about me is that I come from a small town about 20 miles north of Janesville. I don’t drive and I have been homeless. This gives me experience in what I wish to get done in Wausau.

The challenges facing Wausau are:

  • Affordable housing. We need to encourage landlords to keep their rent down to where people can afford them and encourage the building of affordable housing. The task force they have now is a good start.
  • The hiring and retention of city employees. The transit system usually has 7 -8 parttime workers and now they’re down to 1, the last I heard. We need to talk to management and the workers to see what it’s going to take to hire city workers and keep them.
  • Something for people ages 17- 21 years of age to do. Once you graduate High School, they can’t go to their dances and, outside of attending school games or concerts, they have nothing to do, they are also to young to go to bars where these thing take place.  I would try to get a movie theater back in town, a place where they can have dances, maybe a roller rink and arcade.
  • Getting well paying job here and employees to fill the positions. Go out and make Wausau an attractive place to build a business and encourage graduates from high school to stay, and graduates from college to return.
  • Homeless people need places to stay. Wausau can’t just rely on the Salvation Army, the Women’s Shelter, and other charities to always house them. With the lifting of the eviction moratorium, suddenly families have become homeless and charities received less money to take care of them. We should take an empty building that the city owns and turn it into a shelter for families.
  • Sidewalks in the winter. Some sidewalks are seldom shoveled and crosswalks are, in place poorly maintained. For example, the crosswalk at Sturgeon Eddy and Grand Ave, I usually have to call the mayor’s office to get it where you don’t have to walk down the street to cross safely. People are suppose to clean their sidewalks 24 hours after if quits snowing or get a ticket. Start enforcing the law.
  • Expanding the bus system needs to be done so people who can’t drive don’t have to pay more than they can afford to get to a place that they can their item. We need to sit down with Rib Mountain and Weston to see what we need to do to get them to get the transit system in their cities. We also need to see what we need to do to get a bus stop at Fleet Farm, as that is the closes thing we have to one stop shopping in Wausau. It is also one of the few places left were people can by clothing at a reasonable price.

I feel that I have some good ideas, but I’m always wiling to hear from my constituents and take their ideas under advisement.

John Kroll, 38 – Energy Auditor/Rater

John Kroll. Contributed photo

Prior elected office, if any: None

Other public service, if any: Serve on two appointed committee positions for the City of Wausau – Chair for the Sustainability, Energy, and Environment Committee. Member of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee

Education: Associate’s Degree – Building Science from Western Technical College, La Crosse, WI

Election website or Facebook page, if any: Facebook: @JohnKrollforWausau – https://www.facebook.com/JohnKrollforWausau

What are three things you want people to know about you before heading to the polls?

  • My wife, our two young daughters, and I moved to Wausau because we are a community focused family and felt Wausau was on the brink of some real positive change. What we found was a welcoming city with an excellent recreational park system that our whole family enjoys.
  • My family and I are big outdoors lovers. We enjoy camping, hiking, gardening, and sledding.
  • I’ve had to overcome a severe speech impediment that stuck with me in to young adulthood.

What is the greatest challenge facing Wausau and what would you do to address it?

Creating a true commitment to the working families of the city. Wausau performs poorly compared to the rest of the state along state income lines. According to the Census Bureau from 2015-2019, Wausau median household income is around $46,800 and per capita income sits at $30,600. These are below the states averages of $61,700 and $33,300, respectively. To make matters worse, poverty in Wausau is over 15% while the state average is 10%. Combined with recent spiking energy, food, and housing costs, families are being heavily tested on their resolve. (Note: 2020 statistics not released yet due to COVID)

To put it simple, many Wausau residents are having a tough time. However, with any challenge, opportunities present themselves. Along with the affordable housing issue discussed below, transportation issues need to be corrected for residents, especially in low-income areas, to access work and essentials without the use of a car. Accessibility limitations and route times are both barriers that prohibit bus usage. These problems are well documented in executive summaries and Wausau MPO reports with no real meaningful decisions on the horizon. I believe to address these issues, it would be beneficial to have a transportation consultant guide these discussions.

With a renewed interest in public transit, job creation and household income can grow and maybe even attracting new industries to the area as well.

What is the best way for Wausau to tackle its affordable housing crisis?

Continue the Affordable Housing Task Force discussion on defining affordable housing. The task force was created for a reason and we await their guidance with great interest. With a new definition and recommendations from the task force, we can tailor programs, funding, and staff allocation to meet the needs of residents that are unique to Wausau.

There are aspects of housing that every citizen needs to deal with such as maintenance, utility costs, repairs, etc. This is why I am a big advocate for policy that make all homes more affordable for residents. I believe that with a new definition of affordable housing combined with some tweaks to City of Wausau home funding programs, building standards, and a re-framing of the meaning of affordable housing, we can set a path where everyone benefits from affordable housing initiatives.

Among Wausau’s many competing needs, what would you prioritize in the next budget?

Public transportation is a vital city service that isn’t meeting the citizen needs of Wausau. I believe hiring a consultant to mediate and design a transportation plan or make recommendations designed to maximize public transit options is needed. This will help all families by potentially creating bus destinations in other communities, linking to employment, shopping, and recreational opportunities, and reducing car traffic for bike commuters. THE CARES Act transportation funds will only last so long, so this issue must be addressed in the near future.

I am a big advocate for community resilience. Whether it be affordable housing, employment opportunities, environmental protections, energy creation, transportation, or community health, they should all be planned in a thoughtful, sustainable process. This is why I will support the creation of a comprehensive Climate Action Plan that Wausau can reference during policy making decisions.

How has your experience prepared you for Council service?

I’m already an active Wausau citizen by serving on two appointed committee positions — chair for the Sustainability, Energy and Environment Committee and citizen member for the Citizen’s Advisory Committee. Serving on these committees gives me knowledge and experience on how local government operates as well as establishing relationships with some of the city staff and elected officials.

My career has given me a unique platform to connect with residents on a personal level. I’m invited into their home, listen to their concerns, answer their questions, and help their needs. Not many professions allow this type of relationship to form. These skills of listening, engaging, and communicating with residents translate effectively to serving a local community.

If you would like to read my letter to the editor, you can find it here: https://wausaupilotandreview.com/2022/02/02/letters-dist-1-candidate-shares-vision-ahead-of-primary/

Carol Lukens, 57, Teacher with the Wausau School District

Carol Lukens. Contributed photo

Prior elected office, if any:  Have not previously held elected office.

Other public service, if any:  In addition to my role as a public school teacher, I have served this community through volunteer work with the United Way of Marathon County, Lutheran Social Services, St. Anne Parish, as an America Reads Program tutor and a Certified Diversity Circles Facilitator. At the state level, I have served as a Marquette University Center for Peacemaking advisory board member and consultant, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice board member, and professional facilitator for Peacemaking & Restorative Justice Circles for School and Community Settings. 

Education:  UW-Stevens Point, Bachelor’s degree in History and Broadfield Social Studies. Master’s degree in the Science of Reading from Mount St. Joseph University. 

Election website or Facebook page, if any:  https://www.facebook.com/CarolLukensforCouncil

What are three things you want people to know about you before heading to the polls?  

  • I am a lifelong resident of Wausau and am deeply rooted in this community. I raised my family here, have been employed in many sectors, and have been engaged with a diversity of residents.
  • I have a love for learning and finding creative solutions to complex problems.
  • I am driven by a passion for improving the lives of all citizens. 

What is the greatest challenge facing Wausau and what would you do to address it? 

I believe the greatest challenge is a combination of the employee shortage and lack of safe and affordable housing. Both issues are multi-faceted, interconnected, and COVID has made each more visible. While time is of the essence, the solutions need to be intentional and creative. 

Regarding the employee shortage (I will address lack of affordable housing in the next question), equitable wages and employee retention must be a priority. Employees need to know and feel they are valued and that needs to show in both wages and benefits. Recent reports from the Economic Policy Institute have revealed that income disparity in this community is worse than in many metro areas throughout the U.S. and worse than overall income disparity in the state. The top 1% of Wausau’s residents earn over $1 million per year while the majority of residents earns just over $50,000 on average. Working to lessen this income gap by instituting equitable wages is an important step in achieving employee retention and tackling the employee shortage. 

We are fortunate to have two quality colleges here in Wausau. I would love to learn about any current partnerships between them and local employers and would also like to see more opportunities for both adults and students that will help them develop skills while earning a living. The school I work at is fortunate to be partnered with a national nonprofit program, Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG), that supports students toward and after graduation. An expansion of Wausau’s Youth Apprenticeship Program would also greatly benefit both young adults and employers. While some employers are already involved with the program, there are others that are not but may be interested in learning more about it and/or participating.

What is the best way for Wausau to tackle its affordable housing crisis?

The creation of the Wausau Affordable Housing Task Force is a good start. We first need to redefine “affordability.” While the guideline for housing costs has traditionally been 30% of one’s income, there is a tremendous difference in impact for folks who make $80,000/year versus those making $20,000/year. The 30% share of income measure disproportionately burdens low income families; many impoverished families throughout the U.S. actually have housing costs equivalent to 50% or more of their income. That is simply not sustainable. 

This crisis is not limited to Wausau; it is being experienced around the country. Thus, I think it wise to research innovative solutions that have been successfully implemented by other communities. 

One possible solution is for non-profit organizations to purchase private properties, remove them from the for-profit model, and provide affordable housing options. Another is for cities to purchase private properties from for-profit landlords and even non-residential properties (such as empty school buildings) and convert them into affordable housing. Cities in Texas, Montana and Indiana have already done this and these models could be considered in Wausau.  Additional strategies other states are implementing include changing zoning rules that limit properties to single family units, allowing basement apartments, backyard cottages, and converted garages as living spaces, as well as rezoning wealthier districts to create more equitable solutions.

Among Wausau’s many competing needs, what would you prioritize in the next budget? 

With lack of affordable housing and employee shortage in crisis mode, I would like to see infrastructure and public transportation strategies as priorities in the next budget. 

How has your experience prepared you for Council service?

Overall, the diversity of my life, employment, and public service experiences has provided important insights and taught me that issues are often more complex than they appear. Thus, it is necessary to consider many perspectives. 

In my employment as a paralegal, I gained valuable knowledge and skills about laws, legal documents, finances, and office management. In the real estate boom of the late-80s, our firm represented financial institutions in Wausau where we took on the work of real estate closings. I worked with the financial institutions, buyers/mortgagees, real estate agents, sellers, creditors, county and city departments to gather financial information, prepare legal documents, prepare and balance statements and checks, and make sure all documents were recorded, debts paid, etc. Also, as office manager, I handled accounts payable and receivable, balanced accounts, prepared and filed all payroll tax documents and corporate tax returns. 

As an 8-9 year member of our governance council at school, I also regularly work with budgets and have written a number of grants for our school, one of which allowed for us to contract with a local driver’s training agency and provide training for students who would otherwise not be able to afford it. 

My role as a public school educator allows me to gain an understanding of the diversity of families in our community, witness firsthand some of the issues they face, and how those issues relate to our larger community. At the same time, it also allows me to encourage students and their families to participate in local government! Prior to COVID, I spear-headed a project to help some of our high school students get trained and participate as poll workers here. It was an important learning experience for them and a chance to give back to their community.

Together, these experiences demonstrate a diversity of skills and knowledge that I would bring to my role on City Council. I am grateful to all District 1 residents who have allowed me to meet them, listen to their concerns and suggestions, and I look forward to the opportunity to serve them!   

For maps and polling places, click here.