Wausau Pilot & Review
Village of Kronenwetter voters will choose three trustees from five candidates on April 4 during the spring election. Kelly Coyle, Kim Tapper, Guy Fredel, Alex Vedvik and Chris Eiden are running for the village board. Tapper and Eiden are incumbents.
All five candidates were invited to share their thoughts on a range of issues, budgeting issues to accessibility and the challenges facing Kronenwetter. All were given 10 days to respond.
For candidates who took the time to fill out our questionnaire, their unedited answers appear below. The order in which they appear was chosen via a random generator to ensure fairness.
- Kelly Coyle: Age 50. Auxiliary operator, Weston Power Plant
- Guy Fredel, 71. Self-employed attorney
- Alexander Vedvik, 31. Senior electrical engineer
- Christopher Eiden, 59. Engineer
- Did not respond: Kim Tapper
What skills or experience do you have that makes you qualified for this position?
Coyle: I have many years of experience in business, finance and project management. I am assertive, yet willing to compromise and strongly believe in building a consensus position from many viewpoints. I believe these attributes would make me a well-qualified trustee for the village.
Fredel: I am an independent thinker. I have shown a commitment spanning more than 35 years to improve the Town of Kronenwetter and the Village of Kronenwetter. I grew up in the rural part of the Village, and have lived on Gardner Park Road and on Ruby Drive in the Evergreen area. I have been Chairperson of the Village Police & Fire Commission for several years when the Kronenwetter Police Department was first formed. I have also been a member of the Village Plan Commission as was a member of the vice-chairperson of the Kowalski Road Interchange Ad Hoc Committee. I served as Town Attorney for the Town of Kronenwetter for over 10 years. I was involved in organizing Kronenwetter Sanitary District Number 2. I prepared the budget for the proposed Village of Kronenwetter and the proposed remnant Town of Kronenwetter which were submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Administration in connection with the incorporation of the Village. These budgets were both accepted as submitted by the Wisconsin DOA.
Vedvik: I have a substantial amount of leadership experience in utilities and government administration from my previous experience at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin as well as with my current employment at Wisconsin Public Service. I am currently the vice-chair of the Kronenwetter Utility Committee and I also serve on the board of a local credit union. I have a B.S. in electrical engineering and a B.S. in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison so I believe my professional, educational, and community experience make me uniquely qualified to help our community especially in the important areas of water/sewer utilities, finance, and economic development.
Eiden: I am currently in my 10th year as a Kronenwetter Trustee, having served on all major committees.
Is there a particular issue that motivates you to serve?
Coyle: Kronewetter has tremendous growth potential. That being said, it is experiencing the kinds of challenges that any growing community faces related to infrastructure, emergency services and proper land use development. I feel that what has held the village back, to a certain extent, has been the acrimonious relationships within the current board members and some of the previous administrative staff. These pieces all need to work together in order for our community to prosper. I want to provide a new voice to village government without the drama or personal agenda, which is vital to representing, serving and respecting Kronenwetter’s citizens.
Fredel: I am concerned about maintaining low tax rates and low water and sewer rates in the Village going forward. I am also concerned about maintaining high levels of police protection, fire and emergency response services and road maintenance and snow plowing.
Vedvik: There are two main issues that motivate me to serve. The first is the water quality situation as well as the associated financial status of our municipal utilities. The second is in building cohesive leadership that exhibits professionalism towards fellow board members, Village staff, and members of the public. We desperately need a breath of fresh air. I aspire to improve the dysfunctional reputation of Village leadership. Our community is a desirable place to live and we need leadership that represents our citizens as a whole, regardless of whether someone has just moved to the area or has been a life-long resident, and every situation in-between.
Eiden: Getting a filtration plant for our water supply. We need to get the manganese filtered out.
What is the biggest challenge that Kronenwetter faces today, and how will you tackle it?
Coyle: Water Quality. The process is already underway with the eventual installation of the filtration unit. The priority at this point will be keeping it on track and moving forward in the process.
Fredel: Kronenwetter is facing the challenge of finding revenues to pay for increasing costs due to inflation as well as finding revenues to pay for a new well, a water treatment plant and performing expensive repairs to the Village sewer system and paying for road reconstruction for many miles of road in the Evergreen neighborhood and Gardner Park/Old Highway 51 areas that will need major work in the next 5 to 10 years. I expect home building to decrease substantially due to higher interest rates. One way to meet this challenge is to invest the $4,000,000 that the Village has to bring about higher rates of return. I did a 4 page memo that I turned in to the Village Administrator that showed that the Village could make approximately $150,000 more per year by changing how the Village invested its funds. I also gave public input before the Village Board to encourage the Village Board to act on this idea. At that meeting, the Village Board did instruct the Village Treasurer/Finance Director to move in that direction. There is still room for improvement. The Village may also be receiving additional revenues from Wisconsin Public Service installing Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines (RICE) to reduce the use of coal at the Weston Power Plant. Several years ago, I pointed out to a Village Board member that the Village had $9,000,000 in loans that could be re-financed at lower rates of interest. That board member along with a member of the Village Administrative Policy Committee got the rest of the Village Board to approve re-financing these loans at low rates of interest before interest rates went up. I estimate this saved the Village $180,000 per year. To generate more tax revenues and thereby keep tax rates low, I believe that the Village should continue to actively promote economic development in the areas previously identified by the Village for industrial and commercial development.
Vedvik: The iron/manganese levels in our water are too high. We need to get our planned filtration plant on-line as quickly as possible while also limiting the water rate impact as much as possible. My experience in the field of utility regulation will help our Village with both of those tasks. In fact, I pushed not buying water from Rothschild which had elevated levels of PFAs which saves the water utility ~$250k annually while the filtration plant is being built. I saw no benefit in exchanging one set of contaminants for another while having to spend an additional quarter of million dollars a year. These savings will also lower the amount the Village will have to borrow for the filtration plant. The other major challenge Kronenwetter faces today is regarding conflicts of interest and behavior from our elected officials. I am committed to being a part of the solution since I inherently believe elected officials should be held to a higher standard regarding conflicts of interest and behavior. I have maintained professional behavior through my role on the Utility Committee and would continue that towards other board members, Village staff, and the general public if I am elected as a Trustee.
Eiden: We have several, but clean water free of manganese is at the top of the list. We are currently pursuing a water treatment center to address this.
What is the best way to address differences of opinion on the board of trustees, or between trustees and the administration?
Coyle: Issues should be talked out and debated in a respectful manner, with the hope that a common ground can be found or at the very least, a common understanding. The staff was hired for a reason. The trustees were voted in for a reason. Each of them have something to offer. We must respect their talents, point-of-view and experience.
Fredel: In my opinion, members of the board of trustees should vigorously debate the issues that come before it. In doing so, the trustees should keep in mind that they should treat each other with respect and without making personal attacks and without being disagreeable. The relationship between the trustees and the Village administrator should be clearly defined. The Village Board should set goals and objectives and establish policy and provide oversight while the Village Administrator should implement the goals, objectives and policies established by the Board. The Village Administrator should continuously communicate the steps being taken to implement the Board’s goals, objectives and policies. The Village Board is accountable to the people and the taxpayers while the Village Administrator is accountable to the Board. Both the members of the Village Board and the Village Administrator should treat each other with respect at all times. Careful hiring decisions must be made regarding a Village Administrator and all staff members.
Vedvik: I think this is a two-part question. First, the issue at hand needs to be understood. Many disagreements can result from not even agreeing on what the actual problems are that need to be addressed! Next, all reasonably available information and facts need to be considered. Not every decision can have perfect information so I think clearly presenting the facts pertaining to the discussion at hand while also clarifying the issue I think needs to be solved can help resolve some consternation. It is very easy to talk past one another when arguing about different issues. Of course, all this discussion should be performed professionally as well. I do not believe “escalate to de-escalate” behavior is effective in ensuring a positive and collaborative environment between trustees and with Village staff.
Eiden: Really just stating your case with facts and do your best to explain this to get the point across.
How can trustees be more accessible to the community?
Coyle: Encourage residents to attend board and the various committee meetings. Involve the public in the decisions by accepting input and reflecting this input in the choices made by the board. Trustees should also make the effort to attend and participate in as many community events as they are able.
Fredel: The trustees are elected to serve and represent the people who live in the Village—all of them. This means being willing to anyone who has a concern and being respectful and responsive to those concerns. I will be accessible to Village residents by phone, by e-mail and when I am out and about in the Village.
Vedvik: While trustees can be contacted by phone or email, I think it is important that maintaining professionalism is imperative in keeping a positive relationship with the community. This applies to public meetings as well. People are more willing to be engaged and are more empowered to provide productive input if they feel their thoughts and concerns are being considered. I think it is imperative that citizens as a whole are being represented by their elected officials rather than just a select group of people.
Eiden: We currently can be contacted by phone or email. One approach I really enjoyed was during last year’s election. Several Trustee candidates with current Trustees got together at different Kronenwetter establishments and talked with the public. It was very well received and we all learned a lot.
Could you support a board decision you did not vote in favor of? Why or why not?
Coyle: Absolutely! Disagreement is part of human nature. There needs to be differing viewpoints in order to determine the best outcomes for the community. The last thing you ever want is an echo chamber.
Fredel: My policy would be to generally support all board decisions—even those decisions that I did not vote in favor. The majority should rule. There may be rare instances when I would question a decision if I felt that new information came to light or if circumstances had changed. In these circumstances, I would try to encourage the Village Board to take another look at those situations.
Vedvik: We elect a seven-member board for a reason. We need different perspectives on the board. Unfortunately most decisions are not “black and white” so professional judgment is required when making a decision. I could absolutely support a board decision that is well-reasoned out that I personally disagree with. However, if I felt the board acted in a manner that was wholly unethical, I would have a hard time supporting a decision in that case. In short, I think it is important to still be supportive of simple disagreements but it is critical to maintain a solid moral compass.
Eiden: In reality I would have to support a decision even though I was against it. Its what government is all about. Its not about me.
How can the village balance the need to provide quality services to residents with the need to respond to the local taxpayer burden?
Coyle: No answer given
Fredel: In addition to the statements made above, I would consider seeking grants, and ending those tax increment districts that had paid off their loans and their other liabilities so that the local taxes would flow to the Village. Whenever possible I would promote using TID’s to pay for infrastructure costs and maintenance that can properly be paid for by a Tax Increment District. Properties in areas with newly installed municipal sewer and water should pay hook up fees to be able to hook up to sewer and water systems that have the capacity and the equipment that enables new areas to be served. Why should the existing sewer and water users always have to bear those costs?
Vedvik: We need to be pragmatic in our decision making and prioritize our needs versus wants based on the facts we have available. We need to be good stewards of our taxpayers money. We might have some disagreements on what our needs versus wants are, but I would think we would all agree safety related issues should be at the top of the list. For example, we know the water quality has elevated iron/manganese levels so we need to put that at priority number one to resolve.
Eiden: We need to critically examine and research every decision we do when it comes to spending taxpayers dollars.
As a trustee, where would you look to make budget cuts?
Coyle: No answer given
Fredel: My guiding principle will be to listen to the people so that I understand what they want and prioritize spending on necessary services and what is most important to a majority of the Village residents. I will avoid unnecessary spending on “pet projects” that will only benefit a few people.
Vedvik: There has been a lot of money that has been spent re-hashing certain Village Board members’ personal interests and vendettas. So that is one area I would cut, no more Village resources being used for elected officials’ personal gain or vendettas. We would also cut spending on staff recruitment if we could resolve the Village staff turnover issue.
Eiden: Currently our budget has been gone through quite thoroughly eliminating any unnecessary spending. Because of this our roads have been taken a back seat to any majors repairs.
Are there any areas you would not consider cutting?
Coyle: No answer given
Fredel: Police protection, fire and first responder services, road maintenance and snow plowing are examples of areas I would not consider cutting. To have quality services, the Village needs to pay staff competitive wages. I would rather spend money maintaining Village assets than have to incur major costs to perform repairs that are due to neglect.
Vedvik: It is critical that Kronenwetter remains a safe community for all of its citizens. Thus, I cannot foresee it being wise to cut the budgets of our police or fire departments.
Eiden: Police and Fire Protection
What is your vision for the future of Kronenwetter?
Coyle: No answer given
Fredel: My vision for the future of Kronenwetter would be built on what the residents of Kronenwetter tell me is most important to them. The residents that I have talked with tell them they enjoy living in the Village because it is quiet, friendly and safe. These residents want their taxes to be kept low. I would see a future where there are new places for people to live, and more commercial and industrial development to help keep taxes low and to help keep water and sewer rates low. I see a future for Kronenwetter where we listen carefully to new, younger residents to hear what their thoughts are, then respond to their ideas and their thoughts in a meaningful way.
Vedvik: To maintain Kronenwetter’s status as being the most desirable place to live in the area. I wish to foster a new era of positive collaboration between elected officials, Village staff, and the citizens of Kronenwetter. I want our Village to provide clean and affordable drinking water. I want our Village to maintain its status as a safe community. I want our Village to make pragmatic long-term decisions so that it can continue to grow well into the future while meeting both the short-term and long-term needs of our current residents.
Eiden: Just to keep Kronenwetter the best place to live in the area. I want a safe community that isn’t burdened by debt
Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?
Coyle: I have a diverse background that has included service as an army combat engineer, earning my MBA, owning & operating my own business, various project management roles, building a transportation network for elderly & disabled individuals. This is my community and I am invested in doing what is best for the village of Kronenwetter.
Fredel: I am a very tolerant person. I am accepting of all points of view and of all types of people. I know that I am not always right on every issue. I know that intelligent people spend 5 times as much time listening to others than they do talking. I will prepare for each Village Board meeting and each committee meeting for any committees that I am appointed to. I will make every effort to attend all Village Board meetings and all committee meetings for committees that I am appointed to. I believe in being as transparent as possible and in making as much information as possible available to the residents of the Village. I will focus on making the Village a better place for everyone.
Vedvik: I am a lifelong resident of Wisconsin, a Kronenwetter taxpayer, and a devoted father who chose our community to raise a family. I think I want the same for our community as just about anyone else who lives in our Village. I want to keep Kronenwetter as the most desirable place to live in the area and I think I can help with that by being a pragmatic and professional decision-maker who puts the citizens of Kronenwetter first. At the end of the day we are all proud of our community and I wish to be available as a resource to all Village residents.
Eiden: I am here to serve the community. If any resident has questions or concerns they should not hesitate to contact me.