The Tomah City Council District 8 seat is on the April 2 spring election ballot.
The seat will be for a one-year term to fill the remaining term of former council member Larry Siekert, who resigned in September 2018.
In November, candidate and current incumbent Remy Gomez was appointed to the seat. Gomez is being challenged by Sue Holme.
Gomez is a native of Tomah, graduating from Tomah High School in 2000. Following high school he moved to La Crosse for two years, where he attended college. He moved back to Tomah after his mother died.
He works in special education at La Grange Elementary School and does property management for Penkert Properties.
In the community, Gomez coaches the THS junior varsity girls basketball team.
He lives with his son Chanse and his girlfriend, Kayla Giraud, and her two children.
Gomez said he decided to run because he’s on the council now and wants to stay. In 2016 Gomez ran for mayor, and in 2018 he ran for the District 8 seat against Siekert.
“I think we’ve got some good things going on as is, then I just want to help make a difference going into the future,” he said. “I think more young people should be involved in it because we’re going to theoretically be here for the future.”
If elected Gomez said he doesn’t have any goals in particular; he has no agenda.
“I just want to try to make today a little bit better than yesterday going forward,” he said.
Holme is a native of Sparta and graduated from Sparta High School. After high school she attended the University of Wisconsin and the Madison Business College. She majored in business with a focus on the medical field.
After college Holme worked as a clinical manager in Madison, managed the customer service area for a Younkers department store in Madison and worked for a veterinary clinic.
Holme currently runs a home business making animal bedding and is the executive director and founded of the non-profit organization The Ferret Underground.
Five years ago Holme and her husband of 35 years, Ron, moved to Tomah. They have four adult children.
Holme said she decided to run for city council because she believes there is a lack of transparency. She attended council meetings, was confused about what some of the items of the budget were and began asking questions and sometimes got answers.
“I was like ‘I can sit here and whine about it, or I can do something about it,’” she said. “I just feel like there should be something that is said, something that is done.”
If elected, Holme hopes to be accessible to her constituents, to be able to answer their questions and hear their concerns.
“I don’t care if somebody wants to come pound on my door if they’ve got concerns ... I want to be accessible,” she said.
Issues addressed by the candidates included:
Gomez feels TIDs are an effective tool.
“TIDs have been around for a while ... but it also depends on having a good Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “They look to expand Tomah, look to brand us differently outside of the community, which wants businesses to come in.
He cited Mill Haven, Toro and the new Tomah Health complex as a examples of the benefits of TID funding.
Holme said the TIDs could be a cause for concern in small towns.
“In essence the city’s taking on a loan, they’re helping a business, they’re refurbishing an area or trying to help refurbish an area, but that’s a horrible risk,” she said. “It can be done, but it has to be done very cautiously.”
Holme said there is a need to have dual ambulance buildings because of the railroad tracks — a train can sit in the crossing for a long time.
“I realize there’s a need for opportunities to go one way or another ... or making sure there’s some way around the train,” she said. “I think we just have to do it logically ... what we really need vs. what we really want. We need it, but do we have to have all the bells and whistles and can we get by with what we really just need?”
Gomez said he’s on board with a new facility.
“It’s just a matter of the logistics and where we can put it that best serves both north and south, or is there a centralized place that we can go?” he said.
Gomez said the roads in Tomah are like any other roads in Wisconsin. He said they need work but that the Public Works Department is doing its best.
“I get to see their monthly progress and those guys work their butts off to keep it as it is,” Gomez said.
Holme agreed. She said city streets are as good as they can be for winter in Wisconsin.
“I honestly think they’ve done very well to ... keep them up,” she said. “I think there are going to be some issues ... refurbishing the roads this spring, getting those back after tearing them up. I think there are going to be some projects there that need to get done; otherwise, I think they’ve done great.”
Holme said property taxes are a big concern for her. She described them as “high.” In talking to neighbors − the elderly and those just past retirement − she has heard their worries about possibly having to move if taxes get too much higher. Holme worries that she and her husband might have that concern once he retires.
“When the city’s looking at spending x amount of dollars for this and x amount of dollars for that, I’m like ‘Where are we going to get the money to pay for this? When is it going to hit the tax payers?’” she said. “So it’s a concern, definitely.”
Gomez agrees that the taxes are high.
“I think they’re a little higher than most communities around us, but I also think it is what you get,” he said. “You’re paying taxes to have a community that is safe, school support, you have Wisconsin roads that are always going to need to be redone. There are a lot of things that are covered when you say taxes.”
Gomez said he has yet to form an opinion and ATV routes in the city. He said he can’t make an informed opinion because he hasn’t seen enough research and he doesn’t use ATVs
Holme is against routes in the city. Her cousin died in an ATV accident on private property. ATVs are difficult to see from vehicles such as trucks and semis, and in a city the size of Tomah, it’s not safe to have them on city streets since people could easily get into accidents, she said.
“If we could put it outside the city, if there’s a way around, fine, I have no problem with it, not at all,” she said. “If the city would work with the trail people to utilize snowmobile trails or whatever, if they could work deals out with the farmers, perfect, fine, I have no problem with that, I would support it in a heartbeat. But after our family was just devastated losing my cousin that way and just after reading those DNR reports, I cannot say they would be a good thing for Tomah.”
Future of Recreation Park
Holme said Tomah Recreation Park a excellent resource for the community and would like to see it expanded.
“It’s definitely needed. We need to have it expanded or improved and worked on, definitely,” she said.
Gomez would like to see improvements made because it’s frequently used.
“I personally think there are definitely things that could be done down there to better utilize some spots or make it a little easier,” he said. “There has probably been improvement consistently for the last 15 years, but there’s some need there.”