Meet the candidates: Local races will be on the ballot at April 6 election

 

 

In early March, the County Line sent questionnaires to candidates for the Norwalk, Kendall, Ontario and Wilton village boards and the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District and the Royall School District boards. We received the following replies.

Village of Kendall

In the Kendall Village Board race, incumbents Lee Wyttenbach and Marlin Prell and challengers John Young, Billy Solchenberger and Mike Crneckiy will compete for three board spots. Incumbent president Richard Martin will run unopposed.

The County Line received questionnaire replies from Crneckiy and Wyttenbach.

CHALLENGER MIKE CRNECKIY

1) What prompted your decision to seek a village board position?  I have held leadership positions for multiple organizations and groups.  I understand the balance between leading and being led and am comfortable with both roles depending on the task and needs of the group.  My family and I have benefitted from our community and the work of those who choose to serve; I simply feel the time is right for me to offer my services as a village board member. 

2) What do you see as the role and duties of a village board member? As a village board member, I feel it’s important to maintain the excellent services and community that has been established. We also need to look for ways to draw business and people to our town without sacrificing the small-town security and comforts we enjoy.  

3) What do you see as Kendall’s strengths? What are its weaknesses?  A major strength of Kendall is what kept me and my family here for the last 20 years, we have extremely thoughtful and caring people.  I have felt welcome here since the day I moved in.  A weakness of Kendall is often the weakness of many small towns. There is a small group of people who work very hard to keep the community a quality place to live.  We are all busy and sometimes don’t want to get involved unless there is a complaint or an ax to grind.  As with any leadership group, new people bring new ideas and perspectives.  Kendall would benefit from more choices in each election and healthy competition for board positions. 

4) What strengths do you bring to the board?  I am a positive person who looks for ways to make things better.  My experiences have taught me that leadership is hard and not every decision will be popular.  I am willing to make hard decisions that are in the best interest on Kendall and its residents.  Holding leadership positions in multiple environments has given me the ability to see issues from different angles and the strength to make hard decisions.  I understand that a community has to look to serve all of its members providing opportunities for young children through our retired residence.  

5) Biographical information — I have lived in Kendall for 20 years, am married with four children, three currently attend Royall and one was a recent graduate.  Currently I work for Seasons Counseling supporting CCS (Comprehensive Community Services) programming in Juneau, Sauk, Columbia, and Adams counties. Prior to that I was in public education for 20 years as a director of pupil services, principal, teacher, and coach. Ten of those years were employed by the Royall School District as a teacher until I accepted an administrative position with another district.  I am currently an assistant football coach for Royall and have supported youth athletic activities in the district for the past 15 years. I enjoy living in Kendall, am a very happy resident, and hope I have the opportunity to serve as a member of the village board. 

INCUMBENT LEE WYTTENBACH

1) What prompted your decision to seek a village board position? As an incumbent it allows me to stay in touch with what goes on in the village.

2) What do you see as the role and duties of a village board member? The role is to attend all meetings and make decisions that benefit Kendall and its residents.

3) What do you see as Kendall’s strengths? What are its weaknesses? Strengths: I think Kendall has an active village board as demonstrated by the new sewage treatment plant, street repairs and very active community members. Weaknesses: Not enough active and concerned community members.

4) What strengths do you bring to the board? Age and very little wisdom

5) Biographical information — I have lived in Kendall for most of my life. I am married to my wife Cindy for 47-plus years. I have four wonderful children and 10 marvelous grandchildren. I have served on the church council, EKW school board, three different terms on the Kendall Village Board and was a member of the Kendall Jaycees.

Village of Norwalk

In Norwalk, two incumbents, Kim Nofsinger and Chad Marti, and one challenger, Christy DeWitt, will seek three spots in an uncontested race. President Levi Helgren will run unopposed. The County Line received questionnaire responses from DeWitt, Helgren and Marti.

CHALLENGER CHRISTY DE WITT

What prompted your decision to seek a village board position?  I was previously on the board for one year when Levi was voted village president and I decided not to run for a second term right away after having my son. My decision to seek a village board position at that time came after attending a few board meetings and realizing there wasn’t much for discussion going on. To me, it had seemed as though we had a “yes” board that would just agree with anything the president would say. Not everyone will always have the same opinion, and that’s a GOOD thing! In the same breath, board meetings also don’t need to turn into heated debates either. However, the point is to have these differing opinions and views to try and please as many of the village residents with the decisions made rather than catering to our own wants.

What do you see as the role and duties of a village board member? There are many things we need to do as a board, but I think some of the most important things to keep in foresight is growth and improvement. To do that, we need to be smart financially, listen to our residents, and build up our image. Some people would say we’re a very small town with not a whole lot to offer. So, how do we get people to want to visit our town and establishments to help boost our small economy? What do we need to do to make our residents happier and more comfortable? These are just a couple things on the list that I think we, as a village, need to figure out.

What do you see as Norwalk’s strengths? What are its weaknesses? Norwalk is a small town with wonderful people. We have many opportunities for improvements, of course. But I wholeheartedly believe most of us in the town want to see us thrive and flourish. We have nice parks and a beautiful bike trail with easy access that gets used by a lot of the families in town as well as those passing through! I think some of our weaknesses have to do with business. I think back to when we had a couple restaurants, a couple bars, a grocery store, some car shops, etc. and it’s sad to now see the small businesses dwindling. Now, I’m not saying that the village is to blame for these businesses disappearing. However, like I said previously, we need to figure out how to get back to that place and figure out how to get main street back up and running, so to speak.

What strengths do you bring to the board?  I bring many positive attributes to assist the board in matters that benefit our community. I have a commonsense approach with great communication skills. These skills help me achieve many goals in a timely and successful manner.

Biographical information — I’ve lived in Norwalk for 20 years, my parents both grew up in Norwalk/St. Mary’s Ridge, and prior to me moving back to Norwalk, my grandparents lived there. So, Norwalk has always been a part of my life in some way or another. I now reside in my grandparents’ old house with my husband and two children and make the commute to Oakdale for work in the health and safety department at a mine.

BOARD PRESIDENT LEVI HELGREN

1) What prompted your decision to seek a village board position? My motivations remain the same as they did when I first attempted to run for the board back in 2017 — I feel like Norwalk is a great place to live, and I wanted to contribute to the community. I never ran as a rejection of anyone who has been or is on the board.  

2) What do you see as the role and duties of a village board member? Bring ideas and concerns to the forefront.  It is cliché, but I think the best thing the board members can do is listen.  You will never be able to appease everyone, but it is a duty to attempt to do the right thing for the village as a whole. We must do the best we can to hand things over to future generations in good shape.  Also, make sure that the residents and taxpayers continue to get good value for the services provided.

 3) What do you see as Norwalk’s strengths? What are its weaknesses? Norwalk’s strengths far outweigh the weaknesses, in my opinion, but we certainly can make improvements. I think our greatest strength is the current employees that we have in place. 

I have been extremely fortunate to work with this group of individuals during my time on the board. They keep things moving in our community. Also, people want to be here (by the time this prints, the 2020 census numbers should be available, and I would be surprised if Norwalk doesn’t show growth since 2010). Many small and younger families call Norwalk home, which has caused a strong housing market. The parks here are nice, and the bike trail feels like a bonus. We also have many individuals and organizations that donate a considerable amount of time and money to make Norwalk a great place.

Some of the weaknesses probably come down to the bottom line, money. We will always lack funding, as most of our tax base comes from the residents — it is truly a residential community with a few smaller businesses. The wastewater facilities are being addressed, which is a significant expense. Some of the streets are in disrepair, such as North, Church, and Water streets. Eventually, tough decisions will have to be made on those fronts.

The other negative is that there is currently nowhere (or limited) to build new and replacement housing with housing demand. My house is the most recent in the village, and it was built in 2005. I believe it is the oldest new house in any of the neighboring communities.  

4) What strengths do you bring to the board? I have a willingness to listen and learn. I respect our employees and value their input. As president, I can try to gather as much information as possible and present it to the board to make an informed decision. 

On topics that I am not qualified for, I will defer to knowledgeable people.  

5) Biographical information  — I was born in Garden City, Kan., and moved to Norwalk when I was 1. After living in a farmhouse outside of Norwalk for a couple of years, we moved kitty-corner to the then grade school when I was 4. Outside of short stints living in La Crosse and Superior for school, half a year living in Orlando, and a year in West Bend — I am a lifelong resident of Norwalk. When I was younger, I never considered moving back to Norwalk as an option, but after having a couple of kids, the appeal of moving closer to family changed my mind. 

My wife, Jesica, and I now have four kids — the older two don’t remember anything before Norwalk, and the younger two have lived here their entire lives. My day job is working customer service for a local organic dairy cooperative. I am currently the president of the Norwalk Lions Club and a member since 2010. In the early 2010s, Jesica and I hosted an open gym in cooperation with Scenic Bluffs over a few years during the winter. 

INCUMBENT CHAD MARTI

1) What prompted your decision to seek a board position? As an incumbent there are a couple of things that prompted me to run for another term: a) First was a desire to help the village with the upcoming sewer plant updates and some of the hard decisions that are bound to come with this. b) Second was fellow citizens of Norwalk asking me to run for another term.

2) What do you see as the role and duties of a board member? My main role as a board member is to be fair and impartial, while attempting to see both sides on opposing topics and render an impartial vote when the time comes. My duty is to be a good steward of my fellow taxpayers’ money.

3) What do you see as your village’s/school district’s strengths? What are its weaknesses? Strengths — a) Close community that always pulls together when the need arises. b) Our cultural diversity and the many opportunities that this brings for the residents of Norwalk.

4) What strengths do you bring to the board? I believe my main strength is being a Servant Leader.

5) Biographical information — A) Married to Audrey and have three children. B) Have served our veterans as a captain on the Tomah VA Fire Department for almost 18 years. C) Volunteer fireman on the Norwalk Area Fire District since 1994. D) Finally, my dear wife and I are building a new home in Ridgeville and will be moving sometime in the future. For now, we will maintain our current properties in Norwalk.

Village of Ontario

Three incumbents — Jamie DeWitt, John Hansen and Mike Parr — will run unopposed for three positions on the Ontario Village Board, plus incumbent Mark Smith is the sole candidate for president.

The County Line received questionnaire responses from Parr and Hansen.

INCUMBENT JOHN HANSEN

1) What prompted your decision to seek a village board position? I was approached by Tammy Smith two terms ago. I am active in the community and wanted to see improvements.

2) What do you see as the role and duties of a village board member? My duty is to make decisions that are the best for the residents of the village.

3) What do you see as Ontario’s strengths? What are its weaknesses? Strengths: People get along in Ontario and seem to respect each other. People are willing to help each other. Weaknesses: Ontario has a lack of jobs and businesses. With the new addition of the Taylor property, we hope to attract new business.

4) What strengths do you bring to the board?  I am patient and listen to concerns of others before making decisions.

5) Biographical information — I am in my 18th year of teaching high school science, with the last 14 years at Brookwood. I am married to Karin and have three daughters and a son. I bought a house in 2004 in Ontario, remodeled it, and moved in there in 2005.

INCUMBENT MIKE PARR

1) What prompted your decision to seek a village board position?  A few years ago, a former board member moved out of town, and I was approached and asked if I’d like to have my name on the ballot in the spring. Having worked for the village before and living here my whole life, I thought “why not?” I thought it would be a good way to see how decisions are made since it is often times more involved than just what you hear or read about.

2) What do you see as the role and duties of a village board member?  I think the role of a board member is to make the decisions for the town to basically continue to exist. Some decisions are no-brainers, while others take considerable thought and discussion. When making a decision, I like to compare it to my own life and if I would do it for myself and family, I probably would do the same for the village.

3) What do you see as Ontario’s strengths? What are its weaknesses?  A strength I see the village having is being a small town, pretty much everyone is connected to one another in some way. We may not know each other personally, but more than likely someone knows someone who knows someone else, and that gives us a bond like many small communities have. Also, from a business side, while we don’t have a lot of businesses, the ones we do have are great. The owners of them do a real good job of running and managing them so they are able to stay in operation. One weakness of the village is having to count on Madison to decide mostly how much our budget for the year is. This limits us with many projects that need to be done and forces us to either borrow money or look for outside sources of funds such as grants to do larger projects. I think another weakness is our location does not allow much room for future expansion. We pretty much have what we have as far as land to work with, so we have to make the best of that.

4) What strengths do you bring to the board? I believe that if common sense is used, most of the time the right choice is made. Every situation is unique, and I believe each decision could be equally as unique. There is no one size fits all cause not every problem is the same.

5) Biographical information — I have lived in Ontario my whole life. I went to Ontario Grade School until I was in sixth grade and it moved to Brookwood. I graduated high school in 2001, and while in high school, I worked for the village in the summers as the summer help. In 2007, I joined the fire department, and I’m now the secretary and treasurer. I have worked for the Wallerman family in Norwalk since 2006 on a dairy farm that currently milks 400 cows. My wife Katlyn and I were married in 2016. We built a house in town in 2017, and our first daughter was born in 2019, and we will soon have another in April.

Village of Wilton

Incumbents Eli Yoder and Sid Thayer, along with challengers Jamie Evans, Eric Hahn and Tim Welch, will vie for three open spots on the Wilton Village Board. Newcomer Becky Hahn will run unopposed for the president’s position, as incumbent Tim Welch did not seek another term as president, but instead chose to run as a board member.

The County Line received questionnaire responses from Becky Hahn, Welch and Yoder.

BECKY HAHN, UNOPPOSED CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT

1) What prompted your decision to seek a village board position? I have had an interest in local government for a few years, and when asked if I’d be interested in running I agreed.

2) What do you see as the role and duties of a village board member?  I believe their primary duty is to represent their fellow village members, to hear complaints/issues brought forward, and to hear ideas on growth and development of the community.

3) What do you see as Wilton’s strengths? What are its weaknesses? Wilton’s strengths are a solid combination of small-town friendliness and its unique geographical location that provides numerous outdoor activities and beautiful scenery to enjoy.

4) What strengths do you bring to the board? Prior management experience, continuing learning in the area of conflict resolution, and an eagerness to bring forward movement to our little town.

5) Biographical information  — I have been a resident of this area for the better part of 19 years. I feel I have built solid relationships with my fellow village members. I previously managed a supper club/banquet facility, and in my most recent job, I built a successful business providing care to our littlest residents.

CHALLENGER TIM WELCH

1) What prompted your decision to seek a village board position?  I am not running again for village president, but wanted the opportunity to stay on the board to follow through on the things the village has going.

2) What do you see as the role and duties of a village board member?  A board member should keep informed on issues affecting the village and bring his/her own unique knowledge and perspective to the table to address those issues.

3) What do you see as Wilton’s strengths? What are its weaknesses? Our strengths include a strong tax base, our businesses both big and small, easy access to recreation and shopping, both in the village and close by, recent upgrades to our streets and infrastructure, but most of all, good people who are willing to pitch in and give of their time and talents to improve our community. Our biggest weakness is probably rising utility costs that we don’t have a lot of control over.

4) What strengths do you bring to the board?  I have been on the board off and on for many years, so I am familiar with how things work and the challenges we face now and are likely to face down the road. I would not have to “catch up” on things. It helps a lot, as well, to know who to go to and what resources are available when we need help.

5) Biographical information — I was born in Wilton and have lived here most of my life. I am married with two daughters and six grandkids. I ran two businesses in town, but most of my work history was at Handishop Industries and the Toro Company, both in Tomah. I have been retired since 2012. I am or have been an EMT, a fireman, a member of my parish council, Lions Club, and Sportsmen’s Club, on the Wood Turtle Board, Fire District Board, Library Board, and County Board of Canvassers.

INCUMBENT ELI YODER

1) What prompted your decision to seek a village board position? My initial reason for running for a village board position was in response to being asked to run by members of the village. I am seeking continued participation for the same reason.

2) What do you see as the role and duties of a village board member?  I believe that the most important duties of the village board are centered around keeping the village safe and updating facilities/policies.

3) What do you see as Wilton’s strengths? What are its weaknesses?  I think Wilton’s strengths and weaknesses mirror that of most of small towns in Wisconsin. Our strengths exist in picturesque countryside, a strong sense of community, and a small enough population to know nearly everyone in town. Our weaknesses lie in issues with outdated physical and digital infrastructure, as well as DNR compliance at our wastewater treatment facility.

4) What strengths do you bring to the board? My primary contributions to the board will usually be in the areas of science, public health, and willingness to do required reading.

5) Biographical information — I am a local who was born and raised here, although I did have to leave for a few years to get my education. I have been a practicing local veterinarian for 10 years here with no plan of leaving.

Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District

Two incumbents, Justin Arndt and Kevin Bauman, will run unopposed for two seats on the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School Board. The County Line did not receive questionnaire responses from Bauman or Arndt.

Royall School District

Two incumbents, Raye Walz and Doug Waterman, and two challengers, Kristine Howe and Marie Vitcenda, will vie for four spots on the Royall School Board. The County Line received questionnaire responses from Howe, Vitcenda and Walz.

CHALLENGER KRISTINE HOWE

1) What prompted your decision to seek a school-board position? Over the summer I started attending the meetings as a way to see what was going to happen with in person classes for my sons who attend the school. What I saw was not what I expected. It seemed very much like a divided board, and I didn’t feel that what they were doing/saying really represented what I thought was the best interest of the school.

2) What do you see as the role and duties of a school board member? I think it is the job of the school board to supervise from the top. If the board doesn’t like something that is going on at the school, they should investigate the why and the who involved and have a discussion with the superintendent and figure out how to make changes. I don’t think the board always needs to agree with the superintendent, but they do need to work hand in hand to make the best environment in the district for all staff and students.

3) What do you see as the school district’s strengths? What are its weaknesses? I think that the school district has made great strides in fixing the fund balance. The cost-saving measures and creative ideas for spending allowed for growth that has made it possible for us to be in a positive position for the coming referendum. I think that as someone who wasn’t raised in Elroy but in another small Wisconsin town, we need to find ways to draw staff to our area. I think that staff make the school atmosphere and keep students enrolled in our district. If we can’t draw top-notch staff, we can’t continue to offer a curriculum that will help our students meet their long-term goals after graduation.

4) What strengths do you bring to the board? I think that I am fair and open minded. I will listen to all sides and make an informed decision. I have a very detail-oriented job that requires me to deal with people in a fast-paced, high-stress environment. I believe this will help me on the board, as I am used to dealing with different personalities while staying within corporate guidelines and following the law.

5) Biographical information — I was raised in Stratford, Wis., about 75 miles north of here, but ended up in Elroy by way of Milwaukee. My ex-husband is in the military, and we moved here for his job almost 19 years ago. I have lived in the same home here in town since. I have children who attended the school district. My oldest has graduated, my youngest is a sophomore, and my stepson is a senior. I am a Senior Certified Immunizing Pharmacy Technician with Walgreens in Mauston and have been working as a pharmacy technician for almost 27 years. I was the Cub Scout leader in Elroy for several years before my boys moved into Boy Scouts. Now that my boys are older, I have more time to devote to other interests in the community, so I recently joined the Elroy Lions club and hope to spend more time volunteering in the community through their activities.

CHALLENGER MARIE VITCENDA

1) What prompted your decision to seek a school-board position? I chose to run for Royall’s School Board at this time because of the need to keep our facilities, programs, and curriculum in sync with a dramatically changing world.  It is my hope that the Elroy and Kendall communities of adults can work together to give each of our students the future they need.

2) What do you see as the role and duties of a school board member?  I believe that school board members should be visionaries and each decision must be weighed against its impact 10 years into the future.  In my opinion, increasing test scores, decreasing students choosing to leave our district, and connecting both communities within our school district is necessary to support our students.

3) What do you see as the school district’s strengths? What are its weaknesses? Royall has a stable fund balance and beautiful facilities.  There are increasing high school options through virtual offerings and classes that are dual certified with the university systems.  Increasing state test scores is always an ongoing area of concern.  In addition, students choosing to leave our district through school choice is a major problem.  Finally, uniting adults to support our school system is an immediate concern.

4) What strengths do you bring to the board? I believe my expertise in the areas of special education law, professional learning communities, and standardized testing would benefit the Royall School District and its students.  

5) Biographical information — My roots in the Royall School District go back almost 50 years.  My two children graduated from Royall and went on to college.  My husband retired as a Royall High School teacher and continues to coach the Royall baseball team.

I started out in research and development with Merrick Foods and eventually went back to graduate school and became a school psychologist.  I have retired from the New Lisbon School District but continue to work part time for the Wonewoc-Center School District as their school psychologist.

INCUMBENT RAYE WALZ

1) What prompted your decision to seek a school-board position? Community members approached me about running for school board, and it is an opportunity to continue to serve the communities in which I live.

2) What do you see as the role and duties of a school board member? This is best described on the Royall website https://www.royall.k12.wi.us/, “Royall School Board” tab, “School Board Responsibilities.”

3) What do you see as the school district’s strengths? Community involvement and excellent teaching and support staff committed to the education of all the students of the district.  What are its weaknesses? Declining enrollment, and there is a need for a more balanced approach to sports and academics.

4) What strengths do you bring to the board? My varied background, experiences and my commitment to serve my communities.

5) Biographical information — Raised on a farm, worked in construction, factory setting and aircraft refueling.  Retired from the U.S. Army as a Master Sergeant after 22 years of service, I have been Chairman for the Town of Glendale for the past 10 years and I am up for reelection this year. I am an American Legion member, a past Kendall Lions Club president and member, currently and for the past five years served as Elroy Area Fire and Ambulance Association President and Elroy Area Ambulance member (EMR). I purchased property in the Town of Glendale in 1994 (my wife’s family farm) and have lived here full time since 2002.

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