Choices for the county

(First published in the March 26, 2020 issue of City Pages)

Candidates in the contested races for Marathon County Board

Marathon County government runs, or has sway over, many critical operations. To name a few: the jail, health and social services, county roads, parks and recreation, and even plays a part in the courts and district attorney’s office. The legislative body running it all is the 38-member Marathon County Board of Supervisors, who come up for election every two years in spring.

     For the April 7 election, there are 11 county board seats with contested races, plus three open seats that newcomers are walking into uncontested. Which all means the board could see as many as 14 new members, and is guaranteed to see at least six, since three of the contested races are for open seats.

     Here are candidates for all the races, with an emphasis on districts within the Wausau metro area.

District 1 (open seat)

City of Wausau Wards 1, 2

Michelle Van Krey, Community Development Specialist for Wausau

Van Krey, 30, says the open seat presented a perfect opportunity to make sure Dist. 1 residents are heard and represented as they have been in the past. Her top priorities are attraction and retention of workforce, supporting North Central Health Care and the county nursing home and therapy pool, and access to important infrastructure such as safe roads and high-speed internet. Van Krey wants to continue to help fund area non-profits (cut in response to budget shortfalls last year). She touts experience with non-profits and local businesses.

Isaiah Hoogendyk, data analysis and engineer, Faithlife Corp.

With an open seat and a long interest in politics, Hoogendyk, 41, jumped at the opportunity to represent his district. His top priorities are core government services: Roads, law enforcement and jail, as well as North Central Health Care. He’s also passionate about parks, natural spaces and local tourism. Hoogendyk disagreed with the wheel tax and says it set a bad precedent. Hoogendyk touts his problem solving ability, resourcefulness and fiscal responsibility.

District 2

City of Wausau, Wards 3, 4, 5, & 9

Romey Wagner (incumbent), Entrepreneurial and Education Center Manager

A former Wausau alderman, Wagner, 67, is running because he wants the average citizen to be heard and enjoys the decision-making process. He sees responsible budgeting, maintaining roads and bridges and community safety as his top three priorities. Wagner bemoaned the cutting of funding to community non-profits and wants to see that addressed during the county’s next budget process, possibly through a sales tax increase. Romey touts his experience on multiple boards and organizations and his voice of reason.

Jen Bizzotto, attorney

Bizzotto, 29, says the county deserves a principled, forward-looking leader and says some of the board’s actions have brought it negative attention; county leaders should reflect the generous, welcoming community. Her top priorities are continuing to fund non-profits, investing in public infrastructure such as public transit and bike/ped accommodations, and adopting fair maps resolutions to combat gerrymandering. She cited the decision to double the board chair’s salary as lacking in strategic financial planning.

District 3

City of Wausau Wards 6, 8

David Nutting (incumbent), Senior Internal Service Technician, EO Johnson

Nutting, 62, serves on both the Wausau City Council and the County board. His top priorities are addressing the overcrowded jail; supporting the addition of a new judge for the county; and supporting the creation of a regional morgue, something that has been in the works for nearly five years. Nutting disagreed with the uniform addressing decision (that goes back a couple of terms); he would rather have seen affected areas and duplicate addresses fixed as needed. Nutting has served in the seat since 2006.

William A. Harris, public interest attorney

Harris, 37, cites former President Obama on why he wants to run: Someone can’t just be an observer if they want to make a difference. His top priorities are expanding public transit and supporting programs that address domestic violence and housing issues; funding senior care, veterans benefits and building lasting infrastructure; and supporting diversity and inclusion. He disagreed with board members who voted against a pickleball court revamp done completely with outside money (it was approved). Harris looks to bring fresh ideas to the board.

District 6

City of Wausau Wards 15, 16

Jeff Johnson (incumbent), retired probation and parole agent, and private detective

Johnson, 60, first ran because he wanted to make sure government reflected the interests of the people. His top priorities are improving the county’s roads; combat the rise of opioid and other drug use; and finally tackle the county’s rural broadband issue. He also wants the county to continue being fiscally responsible while carrying a low debt load. Johnson was disappointed the board shelved his plan to reduce the 38-member board by half, without much discussion. Johnson touts his lack of agenda and endorsement of the best government services at the lowest cost.

Jack Hoogendyk, Hope Life Center Executive Director

Hoogendyk, 64, served a term in the seat two years ago. His top priority is public safety, and wants to focus on staff shortages in the patrol and communications divisions, as well as economic development and a balanced budget. He disagreed with the passage of the controversial Pride Month resolution last year — everyone is created in the image of God and the county shouldn’t create special classes of people, he says. Hoogendyk touts his belief in respectful debate, as was his aim when he served on the board.

District 7

City of Wausau Wards 17, 18, 29, 34

Becky Buch, retired teacher

Buch, 64, says she is running to uphold conservative priorities, sound budget management, traditional family values and responsible, effective government. Buch says in light of budget challenges, the county should prioritize NCHC services involving addiction and mental health, domestic abuse and how it impacts county services, infrastructure and environmental issues such as environmental runoff. She wants the county to work with surrounding municipalities in order to save money and wants to focus on the current circuit court backlog. Buch said the passage of Pride Month was discouraging, and divisive to the community. As a former teacher, Buch says she will be attentive to all perspectives.

Mary Ann Crosby (incumbent),  retired teacher

Crosby first ran last term out of a sense of duty, and wants to continue because she knows the ropes and can get right to work. Her top priorities are disease prevention, mental health, elderly health, child care and drug addiction; inclusion, making sure everyone has a voice, regardless of ethnicity, education or lifestyle; and addressing infrastructure issues. She lists her experience on both the county board and teaching as to why she would be a good board member.

District 16

Village of Weston Ward 9; City of Schofield

Bill Conway, director of operations

Conway, 51, is running because he says the county deserves a more open and inclusive voice in county affairs. Conway says the Pride Month controversuy illustrated the need to prioritize a culture of inclusiveness. He also prioritizes the county’s ability to attract and retain businesses and addressing the county’s infrastrucure issues (including lack of 911 service). His third is addressing the needs of the youngest and oldest populations. Adequate services in ADRC and funding Start Right is crucial. Conway believes in gathering as much input as possible in order to make decisions.

Jeff Zriny (incumbent), retired executive with Wausau Insurance and Sentry

Zriny, 71, is a past president and CEO of the Wausau chamber. He first ran for the seat to maintain his connection with the community. Zriny sees managing the budget amidst the oncoming recession and Coronavirus pandemic, as well as the expansion of broadband expansion as the major issues facing the board. Zriny says there aren’t any board decisions last term he would have liked to see go a different way, but says studying the county board size, the biggest in the nation, will be a key priority next term. Zriny touts his experience in business and his three terms on the board, and mentorship of you board members.

District 33

Town of Stettin Wards 1 & 2, Village of Marathon City

Ron Covelli, 56, is a quality engineer taking on incumbent Tim Buttke, 59, commercial and agricultural banker. Buttke’s top three priorities are maintaining infrastructure, supporting  human service programs and controlling the influx of drugs. Covelli’s priorities are the overcrowded jail and overworked DA’s office, focusing the budget on core services and promoting small business.

District 35

Towns of Emmet Ward 2, Marathon, Mosinee

William Litzer, 30 is a laborer at Litzer Dairy. He is taking on incumbent Jacob Langenhahn. Litzer says his top priority is agriculture, including the dairy industry, as well as downsizing the county board and passing a leaner budget. Langenhahn did not respond to City Pages’ candidate questionnaire.

District 36

Town of Rib Mountain Wards 3, 4, 5, 6, 10

Bruce Lamont, 59, is a retired pastor and is taking on Michelle Schaefer, 55, President of the Neighbors Place Board, for this open seat. Schaefer’s top priorities are developing a budget that serves the whole community; preserving outdoor recreation and natural areas; and expanding broadband access to all. Lamont’s top priorities are child care access, improving drug treatment and recovery, and developing the workforce.

District 38

Towns of Berlin Ward 1, Stettin Ward 4; Village of Maine

Jonathan Fisher, 36, is a finance business director. He is taking on James Sala, 62, retired, in this open race. Sala’s top priorities are fostering inclusiveness; business and talent retention; and addressing the needs of the oldest and youngest county residents. Fisher’s top priorities are workforce development, ensuring adequate resources for aging residents, and protecting county water resources.

District 29

Towns of Cleveland Ward 1, Eau Pleine, McMillan Ward 1; Village of Stratford

Chris Dickinson, 50, is a solutions Analyst at Marshfield Clinic Health System and is taking on Jim Bove, who is seeking his second term.