In the city of Viroqua, three people are running to fill Steve Bekkedal’s Ward 1 seat on the City Council. Candidates on the primary ballot Feb. 19 are David Tryggestad, Jess Johnson and Paul Woodward. Bekkedal filed non-candidacy papers.
The two candidates with the most votes will appear on the spring ballot April 2 with incumbents Terry Noble, Ward 3; Mike Koppa, Ward 5; John Thompson, Ward 7; and Jeff Gholke, Ward 9. The incumbents are unopposed.
Editor’s note: The Vernon County Broadcaster publishes the questionnaires from the candidates as we receive them and in their entirety. Candidates are invited to submit a photograph to be published with their profile.
Name: David Tryggestad
Occupation: Semi retired
Office: Alderperson Ward 1 city of Viroqua
Previously elected offices: Alderperson Ward 1 Viroqua
Community and group affiliations: Member Fraternal Order of Eagles
Why are you running for office?: I felt privileged to represent Ward 1 for eight years previously and would be honored to do so again.
What do you think are some of the more important issues facing the Viroqua City Council?: Spending the taxpayers’ money wisely. “Where” the tax dollars spent and “how much” is spent are key issues to me.
Are there any issues currently being handled that you would handle differently?: Keeping spending costs down but not sacrificing the quality of services to the public.
What should people know about you as a candidate and potential representative? Feel free to talk about your family or about subjects related to the place you call home.: Before retiring my family and I owned and operated for over 40 years, the Viking Inn Restaurant. I feel that experience has instilled in me a very service-oriented outlook. I would at times go door to door to receive feedback on issues and encourage Ward 1 constituents to call me with questions or comments about their city concerns. The resident of Ward 1, and the city as a whole would always be my first priority on matters brought before the council.
Name: Jess Johnson
Occupation: United States Navy Retired
Office: Alderperson of Ward 1
Other previously elected offices: None
Community and group affiliations: La Belle Lodge #84, American Legion
Why are you running for office?: We moved back to the area when I retired from the Navy. We chose to live in Viroqua for many of the same reasons people stay here. The city is growing. There’s opportunity here you won’t find in any other area and we are close to where I grew up and my family.
I have sat back and watched some of the issues that have come up over the last few years and I think I can help bring the sides of these challenges together and help resolve whatever conflicts have kept our residents divided. I learned through hard earned experience that even someone you argue with can be a good person who just wants what they believe is best for them and their family.
I want to encourage growth. But I want to do it responsibly. Our growth needs to be checked by what we can afford and what the investment will realistically deliver to the city. We can’t spend without a reasonable expectation of a return. While all of us will never agree completely on every issue we do need to agree on fiscal responsibility. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. If an investment doesn’t work you have to be willing to sacrifice it to ensure the rest of the programs and services will survive.
I don’t want to turn our city into a metropolis where no one knows their neighbors. I want to help the council maintain consistent, sustained growth we can all accept and in doing so increase our tax base to keep our taxes manageable for those among us who are on a fixed income.
What do you think are some of the more important issues facing the Viroqua City Council?: Funding, growth and infrastructure are issues facing just about every community. Everything the city does costs money. The more things our residents need and want the more our city will have to invest in services, programs and facilities. That money has to come from somewhere. We need to grow our population and business tax base in order to keep our taxes fair and equitable with surrounding communities. We need to improve the inventory of available homes by encouraging development and ensuring there are still quality, entry level homes available to young families and those who are relocating for better opportunities for their families. The last thing I want to do is to drive anyone away from Viroqua because the taxes on the home they want to buy are too high for them to live here.
Are there any issues currently being handled that you would handle differently?: I honestly can’t say I would have done anything differently than the current or previous boards because I wasn’t there. I do know I have a knack for finding solutions to problems that have been languishing for too long. We need to take the concerns of our residents and break them down into their essential components and go about fixing them one piece at a time.
There’s no reason to kick the can down the road just because the solution isn’t popular.
What should people know about you as a candidate and potential representative? Feel free to talk about your family or about subjects related to the place you call home.: Most folks in town know me as “Jack’s Dad.” That’s a really great way for people to know me. I love my family and would walk into traffic for them willingly.
I have dedicated the majority of my adult life to the service of our country by serving in the Navy for 20 years. I am proud to have served and hope to continue my service by becoming a part of both the Viroqua City Council and the Viroqua Area Schools Board of Education.
I don’t like having to toot my own horn. I don’t like having to convince others I’m a better choice than anyone else, because I’m not “better” than anyone. I’m simply a different choice. My fellow candidates all have their own qualities they could bring to the table. I just know I’m not the kind of person who will be backed into a corner and coerced to go along with the loudest voices.
I don’t need to be on the school board or city council. I want to be on them because believe I will be a good and fair representative for those I would be elected to represent.
Name: Paul Woodward
Occupation: Professional Services Manager, Vernon Communications Cooperative
Office: Alderman, Ward 1
Other previously elected offices?: None
Community and group affiliations: I’m a member of the Stewardship and Finance Committee and Personnel committee at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Viroqua. Until recently, I was also the Vice President of the church council. I am the Vice President of the Borgen’s Business Breakfast Club, a board member of the Viroqua Community Theatre, and a past board member of the Viroqua Athletic Booster Club.
Why are you running for office?: We have a socially diverse community, and I believe that I have a good understanding of the challenges our community faces. I have experience working on committees and am familiar with the process of making a decision that meets the needs of a larger group. Having operated two successful small businesses in the past, I have the financial experience to understand how budgeting decisions will affect our city in both the short-term and in the future.
What do you think are some of the more important issues facing the Viroqua City Council?: Budgets are always an issue in any local government. How we live has changed drastically over the last few decades, and pressure is placed on local governments to provide more services to residents. The challenge for the Viroqua City Council is to provide a balance between offering more services without raising taxes.
Are there any issues currently being handled that you would handle differently?: I would like to see more emphasis placed on strategic planning. In the past, the city council gone through the process of strategic planning but has not been able to execute the plans fully. I think it’s imperative to create a strategic plan for the next 5 years and to have firm objectives that need to be met along the way to keep the plan on course.
What should people know about you as a candidate and potential representative? Feel free to talk about your family or about subjects related to the place you call home.: My wife and I moved to Viroqua in 2006 from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., where I had spent most of my life. In Viroqua, we found a flourishing, close-knit community that was incredibly welcoming from the moment we arrived. We can think of no better place to raise our children and to call home. Viroqua has given us so many opportunities and I look forward to the prospect of serving our city in return.