4/3/2020 7:25:00 AM Oneida County board election statements
Candidates for the Oneida County Board of Supervisors were asked to tell voters why they are running, why they should be elected, and to touch upon some of the priorities they would pursue if elected. Here are their statements.
Jack Sorensen (Incumbent)
I have lived in the town of Pine Lake since 1992 and the Rhinelander area since 1975. First elected to the county board in 2012. Chairperson of Forestry, Land and Recreation Comm. and First Vice Chairperson of the County Board. Also serve on the Planning and Development (Zoning) Comm, Oneida County Economic Development Corporation Board (former chair), Tourism Council and Capital Improvements Comm.
Vietnam veteran, life member VFW and Honor Flight fall 2018. Life member National Rifle Association (NRA) and Hodag Sports Club. Member, Trinity Lutheran Church, former member Rotary Club, Rhinelander Library Foundation and Governor's Council on Tourism. Chairperson, town of Pine Lake Plan Commission. Decades of community service and leadership.
I earned both a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a major in finance and minor in accounting, also a Masters of Science Degree as a School Business Manager. Both from UW-Whitewater. Owned my own business, Sorensen Appraisal Service, retiring in January of 2019.
The first session of the new county board should include education on both the Open Meetings and Open Records laws of Wisconsin. Very proud of my three "A" and one "B" ratings from local newspapers.
Need diversity on county board with more women and younger members. Will try again for late afternoon and evening meetings.
The county highway building is going to require major remodeling costs. Need to have hard numbers on remodeling costs vs. building new. Also need to review cost vs. state aids on doing state highways.
The budget process is the biggest challenge to the county board. County government is limited by cost controls which I feel is to the benefit of the taxpayer. I helped force the county to use $6 million from the general fund instead of borrowing against the future. There is still close to a million dollar balance in the general fund. In the future members of the board have to make hard decisions on cutting marginal programs. If we have to borrow in the future we should use state loans.
The state legislature has taken over much of shoreland zoning with no regard to local control. We need to enforce what rules we have left. We have to educate shoreland homeowners on the importance of protecting water quality. I built two waterfront homes and disturbed very little of the shoreland. Neither home had view corridors.
If I have only accomplished one thing in my eight years on the Oneida County board it was the purchase of over 200 acres which completely enclosed two small pristine lakes which became part of the Oneida County forest. The private property owner came to the Forestry Committee which I chair. All along the way I kept the county board informed and when the final vote was taken a super majority (75%) approved the purchase.
Finally, what I bring to this election is proven leadership and a history of commitment to the community. Thank you.
I have two reasons why I am running for the county board.
I thought the board was not listening to the people of the county and was not governing according to the will of the people. I thought I would do a good job listening to what was important to the people and providing a platform for the ideas and concerns the people brought forth.
I also believe our leaders are better when they are challenged for the offices they run for. I thought challenging the incumbent would give the people an opportunity to hear the candidates' positions and hold them accountable for actions later taken.
I am married with three sons, two daughters-in-law, and three grandchildren. I retired to Pine Lake on property that has been in the family since 1970. My experience includes serving on the Portage County Recycling Board, Stevens Point Food Co-op Board, and the Portage County Youth Soccer Board. I have coached, refereed and organized tournaments for soccer. I love the outdoors and enjoy the clean air, waterways, and lands of our county and want to protect them for future generations.
I am opposed to mining in the county, respecting the will of the people as expressed in the mining referendum last year. I don't believe the technology exists to be able to mine without damaging the environment. We need to enact strong ordinances to protect our lands and waterways in the county from long-term degradation in order to deal with any possible future mining projects.
We have a great natural beauty and clean environment that creates a tourist industry that fuels the local economy. The day may come when we need to consider mining for essential minerals and the county has to be ready with rules that will protect the environment and promote clean water.
I think it's time that the county board commission a study on the fiscal needs of the current highway department building and location. I believe we need to decide if the facility is outdated for the current and future needs, if we should continue to spend money annually to make it usable, or if we need to start over at another location and build a building to meet future needs. We may be able to sell the current location to a commercial enterprise to offset cost of a new building, which will also increase our tax base and provide a building to match our needs now and into the future.
I think shoreland restrictions need to be enhanced to ensure the clean and clear water that is so important to the people and economy of the county. I will work to ensure restrictions meet the threat of future building to protect waterways. We have a great resource in our more than 1,100 lakes in the county that increases property values, promotes tourism, and provides a great place to live and work.
Oneida County operates under a tight budget. The board has done a good job of maintaining current departments under a strict budget. I also think the board needs to look at the community's needs and has to explore additional resources to meet these needs.
I believe we need to maintain separate departments for the Aging & Disability Resource Center, Social Services, and County Extension because of the growing needs of our population. I believe we can't cut these departments any more as they provide essential services. We may have to explore options including borrowing money or increasing taxes to meet the needs of Oneida County residents.
I think sometimes the board conducts county business without the community being aware of what is happening. I think meetings conducted during the day makes it hard for the community to find out what's going on. I would advocate to have evening meetings. If we couldn't move them I would look to have informational meetings held in the evening two days before the board meets so the public could find out what business is to be conducted and give them a chance to provide input and voice their concerns. If I am elected I will listen to my constituents and vote according to their concerns.
Jim Winkler (Incumbent)
My name is Jim Winkler, and I am seeking my third term for Oneida County supervisor, District 10, Newbold, and my first term for Newbold town board. My wife Kathy and I have been married for 50 years and we have two children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
I was born in St. Louis, MO, and attended the University of Missouri-Columbia. There I completed my Master of Science in Outdoor Recreation/Tourism and Bachelor of Science in Recreation/Park Administration with a minor in Forestry.
I was the Oneida County 4-H Youth Development Educator from 2004-12 when I retired as Associate Professor Emeritus from the University of WI-Extension. I worked 34+ years as a county 4-H Youth Development Educator in WI (23 years) and MN (11 years).
County committees I currently serve on include: Conservation & UW Extension, Oneida County Fair, ADRC, Health, Veteran/Social Services, Area Tourism & Economic Advisory.
Issues The Lakeland Times asked me to address:
Mining: Mining needed to be addressed when the state of Wisconsin updated their mining laws which caused counties to address this issue. Although I am not opposed to mining in general, I am opposed to metallic mining in our water-rich Oneida County. We have an abundance of surface water in our lakes, rivers and streams that must be protected as they are a treasured resource of our county.
Highway Facility: Although I do not serve on that committee, this department is one of our top three fiscal spending departments in the county. As I understand, the size and number of trucks along with the 50+ year old facility no longer match. This should be addressed.
Shoreland Restrictions: As part of the Conservation Committee, I don't think our zoning regulations adequately addressed this issue. The research should be reviewed more thoroughly with decisions made to protect our shorelines and wetlands from development.
Transparency: I am sure our county can improve, but I think the county board is doing a pretty good job.
2021 budget: After passing the 2020 budget, it was projected that 2021 would be tight. There are many factors that determine the budget - salaries, health care, projected capital improvements, to name a few. The only way to find new money is to raise taxes, find new revenue through grants or reduce government. Most departments operate efficiently, but I have heard from some county members and citizens that a few departments may have some waste. I would like our county to ask each department to reduce by some percentage of tax levy dollars (not grants/other) to begin to address this issue.
I am concerned about the size of our government and spending in general. I submitted a resolution to set an example and reduce our county board from 21 to 15 in March, 2020, which failed. I felt it could have been a cost savings while allowing the board to operate more efficiently. If re-elected I will continue to look at ways to address our size of government.
An emerging issue is our drinking water. Clean drinking water is necessary for survival. The affected city wells in our area have opened an area of concern that the county must address and be proactive to prevent further contamination.
For our Northwoods to survive, we need a stronger economic base. We must work with our county and local partners to find ways to bring more sustainable jobs to the Northwoods. I am unsure that we can get help or rely on the state.
The Lakeland Times tried but failed to reach Mr. Metropulos for this survey. Both his contact information on the county website, as well as on his campaign registration statement, were either disconnected or email was returned undelivered.
Robb Jensen (Incumbent)
All too often people get elected waving a single banner rather than taking the time to understand the issues and challenges associated with county government. I got elected in 2014 not as a rally-cry for a single issue but to learn the nuances of county government.
I was confident my knowledge of the town of Crescent along with my administrative experience would be well received by other county board supervisors and department heads.
I have been chosen by my peers to serve as county board second vice-chair and as a member and chair of the Public Works Committee. The county board chair has appointed me to serve on the Capital Improvement Program, Funding Opportunities, Efficiency Study and Highway Facility subcommittees.
I have and will continue to dedicate the time necessary to prepare for county board and committee meetings, conduct the research necessary to understand the issues, and ask the tough questions prior to voting on resolutions.
The number 1 challenge facing Oneida County government is COVID-19. The 2020 county budget was developed with a "business as usual" perspective. That perspective no longer exists and the county is moving into uncharted waters.
The county's savings account or the general fund was reduced to a dangerously low level. Any further reductions will impact the county's ability to borrow. Projected revenues more than likely will not meet expectations. The services we provide will need to be adjusted to meet the needs of our citizens.
County Governance: "Who is in charge of Oneida County?" The county doesn't have a county administrator and has an administrative coordinator on paper only. Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, our county board chair has assumed many of the administrative duties typically the responsibility of a county administrator.
The county has operated on an annual planning model. We balance the annual budget, take a breath, and go with the status quo. Creating a culture of ongoing improvement requires strategic planning and transformational leadership. The county needs someone to lead the journey.
2021 Budget and Programs: The Administration Committee understood, even prior to the COVID-19 economic challenges, the 2021 budget process would either require cutting services or seeking additional revenue through a referendum or wheel tax.
I am not opposed to cutting programs. However, prior to making these cuts the county must validate its current expenses. Seeking potential private-public partnerships; reducing overtime, comp-time and PTO payouts; and analyzing financing options for unfunded liabilities must be on the table. Maintaining 2020 services without any program cuts will most likely require an operating or capital improvement referendum.
Capital Improvement Project Funding: The county has been fortunate to fund previous capital improvement projects with general fund dollars rather than borrow. It is highly unlikely general fund dollars will be available to fund unforeseen projects in 2020 as well as in 2021 and beyond. Financing long-term capital improvements by cutting programs and services is not the answer. Thus, the county will need to consider borrowing options.
Highway Facility: Moving to a new site or staying at the current site is not the issue. Rather, does our current facility enhance and support daily operations, increase worker output and worker safety, and maintain and preserve the life of vehicles and equipment? I believe the overwhelming conclusion is the current highway facility does not provide for these functions.
Property Rights, Water Quality and Environmental Protections: When it comes to balancing these issues, no one-size-fits-all solution exists. More often than not a person's position ultimately depends on one's perspective and personal experience. With all things considered when deciding on an issue, I support property rights.
Mining & Shoreland Zoning: The guiding principal is for government to "follow the law." County board authority comes from the Wisconsin Constitution and state statutes. The county's Shoreland Zoning Ordinance was written to align with the state statutes. Our non-ferrous metallic mining ordinance was developed to not create a defacto moratorium on mining. I have taken the position to support ordinance resolutions that align to Wisconsin statutes.
Open Government: COVID-19 has and may continue to impact the county's ability to hold meetings and provide the public reasonable access. I, along with all county board supervisors, want to conduct business in an open manner. How we do this via a remote environment remains to be seen.
Robert (Bob) Thome
Citizens should vote for me because I'll listen to voters, base my actions on constituents' interests, and fight for local control. Our supervisors have become disconnected from voters and I want to change that. I'm also running because I'm committed to our Northwoods economic success, which is based on our pristine lakes, rivers, and lands.
Based upon the 2019 Economic Value of Lakes & Rivers in Oneida County, our residential waterfront properties were assessed at $4.2 billion. This represented 73 percent of total assessed value and generated $85.5 million of combined tax revenue, with visitors spending $229 million. Maintaining healthy lakes and rivers is crucial to property values, tax revenues, recreation, tourism and fish/wildlife habitats. It is critical to protect our exceptional water resources. This should be our number one priority.
I have spent the last three years attending county Planning & Development meetings. I have witnessed our county accepting a watered down shoreland protection ordinance, a weak mining ordinance and a delay of over a year in addressing a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (feed lot) ordinance. I believe we should be applying best practices, supported by objective data and science, to manage our land, air and water resources. I will advocate for stronger shoreline protection ordinances, No metallic mining and adoption of a CAFO ordinance.
The impending 2020 to 2022 budget crises are as important as protecting water resources. The negative general fund projections for 2021 and 2022 are troublesome. The impact of the coronavirus on our tourism industry this summer is potentially devastating. The county just completed an exhaustive effort to cut programs and staffing to balance our 2020 budget and we are as efficient as possible.
In the future, additional revenues will be necessary to maintain the services our residents use and value. Some non-budgeted, large capital improvement projects, like the highway facility renovation/relocation, need to be re-evaluated, all options investigated, vetted and postponed until after 2023.
From 2013-2019, the average annual expenditure for Health and Human Services was $16 million. The current budget is $11.5 million, which is $4.5 million less than average. Budgetary support for these crucial services is essential. We have to address costs related to addiction and the impact on families, including how to support foster care for children of incarcerated or addicted parents, maintaining services for elderly people and examining the availability of low-income housing. We can't help our vulnerable populations without retaining, recruiting, and paying competitive wages to those who work with them.
The county board, moving forward, must make wise fiscal decisions. My training and experience as a CPA and a business owner will facilitate these. I do not support increasing property taxes, however the county needs to find creative ways to generate additional revenue in all departments, for example raising the Health & Human Services Tourist Rooming House Inspection & Licensing fees from $400 to $600, generating an additional $200,000 for every 1,000 permits. There are about 2,500 VRBO/AIRBNB properties in Oneida County. How many of these have gone through the inspection and licensing process and the WI sales tax licensing process? This creative fee example could also be applied to the Planning & Zoning's Administrative Review Permit process for Tourist Rooming Houses, with similar revenue generated.
During the recent 2020 budgeting of essential expenditures, the board discussed a $6.3 million capital improvement issue. The board approved $4 million. They had to choose to fund the $2.3 million shortfall with a loan from the state, draw down the general fund, or reject the request and send it back to committee for further study. They chose to draw down the general fund. By definition, essential expenditures take priority. If they exceed the budget, then the initial budgeting process was flawed and should have triggered a more detailed evaluation. Borrowing for capital improvement projects does have its place but must be done with fiscal responsibility. I favor taking a closer look at our revenues, fees and grant programs to lessen the impacts to all county departments. There is no easy solution to this complex problem.
Our government is never transparent enough. Our representatives must be held accountable for their decisions, but this will not happen until we have more contested elections.
I grew up in District 18 and had the pleasure of roaming our great area in my youth as well as my adult life. I am honored to again have the opportunity to represent you.
After graduating from UW-Madison with a degree in political science, my sales career took me on many ventures around the Midwest. Whenever possible, I would venture back to Minocqua and relax in the town that I loved.
In my mid-30s, I decided to move home to Minocqua and began my community service in the Lakeland area. I applied to be a member of the Minocqua Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, of which I am still an active member. A question was asked during my interview to be a member: "Why do you want to be a fireman?" My response was "because I am healthy and capable." My thought was, I am a healthy young man with the ability to help our local department and area, and years later I still feel this way.
I have been on the board of numerous local organizations and am a current board member of the Minocqua Kawaguesaga Lakes Protection Association. It is in the heart of District 18. The Minocqua Chain of Lakes is a key part of our local economy. It is a year-round playground for locals as well as out-of-town guests.
The state of Wisconsin has taken over a majority of our decisions as far as shoreland zoning regulations. Oneida County has over 1,100 named and unnamed water bodies. As Oneida County residents, it is imperative that we have a stronger voice in the state to control our lake development. I believe in property rights, but I also believe developing personal property can be done in a respectful way that does not decrease the value, pleasure, and marketability of an adjoining property.
Other concerns of mine affecting Oneida County are the highway department, mining, and budget. The Oneida County Highway Department continues to grow and has outgrown its current building. The trucks are now longer and stronger, requiring more space for storage and repair.
It is time to relocate and sell the current location to be used for a better purpose. A new facility would greatly increase the safety of our employees, reduce the cost of heat, and increase the longevity of our county equipment needed to maintain Oneida County.
Mining in Oneida County is also a hot topic whenever it is discussed. As long as we continue to grow and manufacture new products, mining will continue to be an issue. We must support the growth of mining in Oneida County but under strict control and by researching all avenues of production. It is in all our interests to improve and/or maintain our lifestyle in Oneida County.
In order to do this, we may have to increase the budget in the future. In the past few years I have been impressed with how our Oneida County employees have accepted the role of controlled spending and meeting their budgets. Oneida County is transparent and open to all who have a question with spending or future needs.
I would appreciate your writing in Lance Krolczyk for District 18 Oneida County supervisor.
Candy Sorensen (Registered Write-In Candidate)
My lifelong interest in government, working for candidates of both political parties, plus frustration with the current rancor of partisan politics has led me to run again for the Oneida County Board of Supervisors.
I have lived in Oneida County for 45 years. My teaching career spanned four decades in both the Rhinelander and Lac du Flambeau Public Schools. I am a past member of the Newbold Volunteer Fire Department and a volunteer at Pastime Adult Daycare, Minocqua Public Library, and Campanile Center for the Arts. I am a member of the League of Conservation Voters.
As a former member of the county board, I served on the Commission on Aging, Board of Health, Housing Authority, Social Services, and Family Care committees.
I am committed to:
Striving for the return of local control to our counties, townships, and schools.
Advocating for clean water by saying no to sulfide mining, maintaining the health of our lakes and rivers as the base of our tourism and protecting our wetlands.
Supporting tourism for fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, skiing, biking, hiking, birding, photography, and artistry.
Maintaining services like the Aging and Disabilities Resource Center that keep our aging population thriving and independent.
Encouraging economic development with small businesses and sustainable forest land management to keep our tax levy down.
I am committed to listening and working with residents, county and town board members, and employees. Oneida County depends on good employees to give us the highest quality of government.
Our counties, towns, and schools are under very tight fiscal limits. For a number of years, they have done an excellent job controlling spending but maintaining essential services. However, each year this becomes more difficult.
If a tax levy increase becomes necessary, I would consider some level of borrowing because, currently, funds are available at very low rates to counties. It is imperative that our reserve fund be maintained. I am especially concerned about maintaining our deteriorating roads, highways, and bridges.
Finally, I will work hard for the people of Oneida County. I pledge to put my best efforts into finding commonsense, non-partisan solutions to the issues confronting county government.
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