Nancy VanderMeer was born in suburban Chicago but moved with her family to rural Wisconsin as a teenager.
As a result, rural development “is a very personal issue for me,” she said.
VanderMeer, a Tomah Republican, chaired the Rural Development Committee in the last session of the state Legislature and hopes to continue her work by winning re-election to the 70th Assembly District. She was narrowly defeated in her first run for Assembly in 2012 but defeated incumbent Democrat Amy Sue Vruwink in 2014 and easily won re-election in 2016.
“I was ecstatic to ... have been chosen to chair this committee because the 70th is a rural district − north to south, west to east,” VanderMeer said.
She said her work on the committee allows her to push for “continued progress in expanding broadband, making sure our rural schools have the resources they need, and accessible and affordable healthcare options in our communities.”
She said by fulfilling those priorities, “we can move rural Wisconsin forward.”
VanderMeer said an important issue for rural areas is health care. She touted her legislation to create a nurse licensure compact, which she said “made it easier for nurses to work across state lines while still preserving our state’s rigorous standards of care. This piece of legislation had almost 100 bipartisan cosponsors, something virtually unheard of in the legislature.”
Other issues VanderMeer addressed:
Education: VanderMeer voted for a 2017-18 state budget last year that increased per-pupil spending by $200 and $204 over consecutive years. She said any changes in the school funding formula will be influenced by a Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding that’s not expected to make its recommendations until after the election.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues and the results of the commission to craft an education plan that continues the strong investments we made last session,” VanderMeer said.
Roads: VanderMeer is open to raising additional revenue to address the backlog of road maintenance in the state.
“We must put all of these options on the table when finding a long-term solution to our infrastructure needs that properly funds projects not just in southeast Wisconsin but also in the rural communities we have throughout the 70th District,” she said.
Foxconn: VanderMeer said she is “cautiously optimistic” that the $10 billion Foxconn project in Racine County, which was lured by $4.7 billion in state and local subsidies, will work out in the state’s best interests. She said Foxconn will receive the subsidies on a “pay as they go model.”
“Tax incentives have been a vital part of economic development for as long as I can remember,” she said. “This particular project is extremely unique because of its size and scope. Part of my cautious optimism is the transformative effect the project will have on the state bringing in a new industry.”
Conservation: VanderMeer said the state has struck the right balance between protecting the environment and creating jobs since she entered the legislature. She said it’s important that lawmakers are “listening to and being accessible to a wide variety of individuals, groups and resources that exist throughout our district to develop solutions and make decisions.”
She said farmers are in the forefront of conservation.
“I think that our farmers are one of, if not the best, stewards of our natural resources,” VanderMeer said. “Their livelihood depends on quality land, air and water, and we are so lucky to have such a diverse group of agriculture producers throughout the district to draw from.”
Drug addiction: VanderMeer said state lawmakers recently crafted a “HOPE agenda” that seeks to link addicts with treatment options.
“We have helped law enforcement crack down on drug dealers, reduced the number of opioid prescriptions and provided additional treatment and diversion programs to help people receive treatment and not just be locked up,” she said.
VanderMeer said her experience as a business owner is valuable in the state Legislature. Her parents opened an auto dealership in Tomah, and she ran it for nearly 20 years after her father died. She sold the business two years after being elected to the legislature.
“Being the owner of a small business, I learned about setting a budget, making sure my employees and their families were taken care of and working to make sure my business had a positive impact on the community,” she said. “I also got to meet so many friends and neighbors from Tomah and Sparta as customers, and many of these relationships I still value to this day.”
Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at email@example.com.