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Casey Goode, a 28-year-old La Crosse man, holds up two of the bass he caught while winning a Major League Fishing, Toyota Series, event at Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach, Mo., on March 6. Goode’s prize was a $33,500 Phoenix bass boat.


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Local small businesses feeling hopeful with incoming federal relief during Rep. Kind visit
Olivia Herken La Crosse Tribune 

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind speaks at the Pearl Street Brewery in La Crosse with owner, Tami Plourde, center, and Darren Price, left, who owns BP Smokehouse in Tomah, during a victory lap event for the American Rescue Plan Act, which passed with Kind's support.

Some local small business owners expressed optimism Wednesday during a visit with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, as they anticipate big federal relief coming in the next few weeks and months.

Kind visited Pearl Street Brewery — on National Beer Day, he noted — with owner Tami Plourde, and with owner and “pitmaster” of BP Smokehouse in Tomah, Darren Price.

The visit was used to check in with the business owners, as Kind chatted with both Plourde and Price ahead of a media event to see how their operations had been going. But it was also a victory lap of sorts for the longtime congressman and the American Rescue Plan, which recently passed with his support.

“This has been an incredibly hard year, especially for those in the service industry, whether it’s the Smokehouse or Pearl Street Brewery, they’ve been devastated from all of this,” Kind said.

“And the CARES Act last year that we passed, now the American Rescue Plan was again meant to provide some short-term assistance to the small businesses to keep their operations going until we can get this economy fully firing again,” he said.

The American Rescue Plan Act specifically includes $3.2 billion for businesses and their families, $600 million for small businesses alone.

Part of this will come by supplementing existing programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, which both Plourde and Price said they utilized in the last year, as well as launches new assistance like the $28 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Kind

“What really drives the economy is small businesses, and this American Rescue Act basically is more than a game changer, because it gets money down to the small business owners and operators like Tami and myself and others,” Price said.

He and his wife have owned BP Smokehouse since 2000, but have been in their brick and mortar shop since 2015, and said he’s seen the previous pandemic aid from the government work.

“This has been a tremendous opportunity to access the funds that will help us to maintain and to grow and to kind-of work our way through this pandemic,” Price said.

“Our staff, we were able to employ them through the pandemic, and we made some changes, we adapted to this whole process,” he said, saying they moved to delivery and online ordering.

But the additional relief coming down the ladder is adding a layer of confidence.

“There’s been some criticism, but it’s a plan. And so we have a plan now, let’s follow that, let’s see where it takes us,” Price said. “We’re not out of the woods yet, but I can tell you it looks much brighter now than it did a year ago, or even six months ago.”

Pearl Street Brewery experienced similar stress, not only from closing down its tasting room on La Crosse’s North Side, but also due to closures of local bars and restaurants it self-distributes its beer to across three states.

“I would say this last year has probably been the most challenging, as far as mentally and fiscally,” Plourde said of the brewery, celebrating its 22nd anniversary.

The brewery had to downsize its staff and was closed in March, April and part of May last year, but was able to receive two rounds of funding from the Paycheck Protection Program that Plourde said they “relied on.”

They too relied on being creative, hosting drive-in concerts and utilizing their outdoor beer garden.

Pearl Street is now looking at a 30-40% income deficit, but said that this new round of funding is the optimism they needed.

Plourde said that the group was excited to hear more about the Restaurant Revitalization Act, as well as a reduction in excise tax that impacts beer producers, and that the group would look into another round of paycheck assistance.

“That’s really wonderful because I think it’s taking a massive step into funneling funds to the hospitality industry, which I cannot say enough, has been so heavily impacted that it will take many, many years to recover,” Plourde said. “I’m optimistic. I’m really excited about what this is going to bring.

“Obviously anything and everything has been helpful, but just not knowing how long it’s going to take — it just feels good that there’s a spark.”

Officials are still waiting to hear exact guidance on how these new small business dollars and other relief can be directed and spent before any is awarded, but Kind also touted a number of other benefits included in the relief bill.

This includes ramping up vaccine production and distribution, what he said was “the name of the game,” helping to open schools, additional resources for health care and frontline workers, support for training programs to get people back to work, childcare and more.

One big piece for Kind, though, was an expansion of the child tax credit, which he said was “long overdue.”

“By doing that, over a two-year period we’re going to be able to lift at least half the children currently living in poverty out of poverty,” Kind said.

At Wednesday’s event, which was hosted by Opportunity Wisconsin and Main Street Alliance, Kind also mentioned the election of a new La Crosse mayor just the night before.

Standing in the same spot that Vicki Markussen was watching results roll in Tuesday night, Kind said that Mayor-elect Mitch Reynolds was a “team player” that will do his “homework,” and that he had already called him earlier that day to discuss the PFAS crisis on French Island, where Kind lives.

IN PHOTOS: Local community members wear face masks (copy)

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La Crosse County sees slightly lower, 24% voter turnout Tuesday

Tuesday’s election featured several local races around the La Crosse area, but brought a slightly lower number of voters to the polls this year.

According to the La Crosse County Clerk’s unofficial report, there was a 24% voter turnout in the county Tuesday with 19,104 total ballots cast, down from the 32% turnout in 2019.

It was up, however, compared to the 2013 spring election, the last time there was a contested race for La Crosse mayor, which only saw a 21% turnout.

The city of La Crosse saw turnouts anywhere between 4-47% Tuesday among its 35 voting wards, with slightly higher turnout in the wards electing council members.

Turnout in the town of Campbell more than doubled from 2019, with 33% of registered voters heading to the booths this year to elect a number of new town board positions, including chair, amid the PFAS crisis.

The city of Onalaska saw between a 14-17% turnout, Holmen saw a 20% turnout, and West Salem and the village of Bangor saw 22% and 28%, respectively.

In the one statewide race for La Crosse County on Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly voted for winner Jill Underly. She received 67% of the vote, 12,192 tallies total to opponen Deb Kerr’s 5,976.

Here is a list of results from other La Crosse County races:

City of Onalaska

Three candidates ran unopposed for three open seats on the Onalaska Common Council, easily clinching wins with 98% or higher of the vote.

Tom Smith received 542 votes for District 1, Dan Stevens received 408 votes for District 2, and Steven Nott received 482 votes for District 3.

Village presidents

Village presidents in Bangor, Holmen, Rockland and West Salem were also on the ballot Tuesday, all featuring unopposed candidates.

Three incumbents — Gary Althoff of Banger, Patrick Barlow of Holmen and Jon Hohlfeld of Rockland — earned re-elections, while West Salem voted in Scott Schumacher as its new president.

Each unopposed candidate earned 96% of the vote or higher.

The same four villages also elected three new trustees.

In Bangor, Todd Brownell received the most votes at 37%, with Michael Pfaff close behind with 36%. The third candidate, John McCue, received 27%, and all will fill the three open spots.

In Holmen, a close race chose three candidates out of four running for its trustee positions.

Douglas Jorstad and Rich Anderson each received 26%, while Dawn Kulcinski just edged out Sand Turner by a fraction of a percent to win the third spot.

In Rockland, Rand Rowell, Robert Rueckheim and Corey Wilson won their races for trustee, beating out one other candidate.

And in West Salem, three candidates easily won the three open spots, with Kevin Hennessey receiving the most votes, and Leroy Brown and Tom Curtis close behind.

Town of Bangor

Candidate Votes Percentage

Chair

Don Numsen 84 100%

Supervisor 1

Mark Spears 82 100%

Supervisor 2

Justin J. Peterson 84 100%

Clerk

Louisa M. Peterson 83 100%

Treasurer

Patsy Manke 82 100%


Town of Barre

Candidate Votes Percentage

Chair

Ron Reed 127 99%

Supervisor 1

Robert C. Miller 125 99%

Supervisor 2

Roger Wolter 127 99%

Clerk

Ann Schlimgen 130 100%

Treasurer

Write-in 5 100%

Dino Stelloh received two write-in votes for Barre treasurer, winning with the most total votes, per the La Crosse County Clerk.


Town of Burns

Candidate Votes Percentage

Chair

Steve Nuttleman 146 99%

Supervisor

Todd Caulum 104 47%

Matt Hoth 117 53%

Both candidates for supervisor advance to two open seats.


Town of Farmington

Candidate Votes Percentage

Chair

Mike Hesse 183 98%

East Supervisor

Paul Lash 183 99%

West Supervisor

Greg Kastenschmidt 173 99%

Clerk

Crystal Sbraggia 190 100%

Treasurer

Jodi Anderson 193 100%


Town of Greenfield

Candidate Votes Percentage

Chair

Tom Jacobs 254 97%

Supervisor 1

Andrew John Neubauer 250 99%

Supervisor 2

Kevin M. Timm 253 99%


Town of Hamilton

Candidate Votes Percentage

Chair

Blaine Lee 331 99%

Supervisor 1

Paul H. Degenhardt 317 99%

Supervisor 2

Kevin Hoyer 326 98%


Town of Holland

Candidate Votes Percentage

Chair

Bob Stupi 502 60%

Ben Filter 334 40%

Supervisor 1

Chad M. Kosin 262 38%

Kathy Warzynski* 424 61%

Supervisor 2

Jeffrey Herlitzke 569 99%


Town of Medary

Candidate Votes Percentage

Chair

Linda J. Seidel* 211 55%

Guy Valiquette 170 45%

Supervisor 1

Steve Elsen 302 100%

Supervisor 2

Dean Taylor 293 100%


Town of Onalaska

Candidates Votes Percentage

Chair

Stanley Hauser 542 98%

Supervisor 1

Lucas Marcou 287 49%

Jerry Monti* 301 51%

Supervisor 2

Sandy Thompson 530 99%


Town of Shelby

Candidate Votes Percentage

Chair

Timothy Candahl 662 99%

Supervisor

Timothy Padesky 572 50%

Renee Knutson 576 50%

Both candidates for supervisor advance to two open seats.


Town of Washington

Candidate Votes Percentage

Chair

Daniel Korn 75 95%

Supervisor 1

Jerome L. De Florian 78 99%

Supervisor 2

Don Hundt 78 99%

Clerk

Barb Muenzenberger 79 100%

Treasurer

Cheryl Urbanek 79 100%


Bangor School Board

Candidate Votes Percentage

Village of Bangor

Seth Hemmersbach 214 32%

Lori Horstman* 447 68%

Village of Rockland

Tina Mathison 522 98%

At large

Lisa Horstman 542 98%


Cashton School Board

Candidate Votes Percentage

David G. Brueggen 22 100%


Holmen School Board

Candidate Votes Percentage

Chris Lau* 1,738 32%

Amber Hackman 984 18%

Jennifer Dieck* 1,497 27%

Jennifer C. Westlie 1,218 22%


Melrose-Mindoro School Board

Candidate Votes Percentage

Becky Whalen 144 99%


Onalaska School Board

Candidate Votes Percentage

Tesia Marshik 1,301 35%

Mark Cassellius 1,218 33%

Aaron McDonald 1,121 30%

All three candidates win to fill three seats.


West Salem School Board

Candidate Votes Percentage

Kyle D. Boland 652 24%

Robin Fitzgerald* 816 30%

Tom Helgeson 509 19%

Chris Peterson* 718 27%


Westby School Board

Candidate Votes Percentage

Seat 3

Craig E. Johnson 16 100%

Seat 5

Andrew Lipski 15 100%


Town of Holland referendum question on fire protection

Votes Percentage

Yes* 515 62%

No 319 38%


Bangor School District referendum question on funding

Votes Percentage

Yes* 446 66%

No 226 34%

IN PHOTOS: Voting Day in La Crosse

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Reynolds to become La Crosse’s next mayor; 'This moment feels awesome'
  • Updated
Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune 

Mitch Reynolds and his wife Anna Krause celebrate with supporters at their home Tuesday after results in the La Crosse mayoral election turned in his favor. Reynolds edged out Vicki Markussen by 205 votes in the unofficial tally.

The city of La Crosse has elected Mitch Reynolds to lead as mayor for the next four years.

Reynolds, a former local radio talk show host, narrowly beat opponent Vicki Markussen Tuesday night after a tight back-and-forth most of the night.

Contributed 

Mitch Reynolds, former WIZM radio talk show host, is one of the finalists running for mayor of La Crosse.

Reynolds claimed 51% of the vote, 4,655 votes total, and Markussen, who outraised and outspent Reynolds during the campaign by nearly double, received 49% of the vote and 4,450 votes total.

While celebrating with friends, family and campaign team members Tuesday night in his backyard, Mitch told the Tribune that the win felt “validating.”

“I’m just, I’m thrilled, and mostly I’m just thrilled that we have people in the city of La Crosse that are really interested in achieving the things that I’ve talked about from the very beginning of this race and that is really helping the people that are the most vulnerable and marginalized within our city, but also making greater achievements within our neighborhoods,” Reynolds said.

“That is very fulfilling and it feels very validating, honestly,” he said. “This moment feels awesome.”

The two competed in a sometimes fiery campaign for the city’s top job, but Reynolds emerged as the progressive candidate, with backing from local Democratic groups and activists in the area, and landing on the left side of a lot of divisive topics throughout the race, such as police reform.

Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune 

La Crosse mayoral candidate Vicki Markussen watches voting results come in Tuesday during an election night party with supporters at Pearl Street Brewery. Markussen suffered a loss to Mitch Reynolds in a close contest.

“At the end of the day, both Vicki and I both were very interested in helping the city of La Crosse, we just had different ideas about how to do it,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said he does not necessarily “believe” in 100-day plans, and that he doesn’t have one drafted, but he identified a number of top priorities along the campaign trail.

Those include addressing homelessness, standing out as the candidate that supported Housing First policies during the primaries, and equity throughout the city. He’s proposed hiring a project manager at city hall to tackle housing issues, as well as a sustainability coordinator to keep the city on track with its environmental goals.

Reynolds will inherit an environmental crisis, soon taking over the city’s management of the PFAS contamination on French Island, which has now affected nearly 200 private wells and at least three city wells.

During the campaign, Reynolds only raised $20,138 to Markussen $36,108, according to the last campaign finance reports filed before Tuesday’s election.

Reynolds will fill the shoes of two-term Mayor Tim Kabat, a fellow Democrat, and will serve as a sort-of extension of the progressive work Kabat already completed during his tenure.

On Wednesday Reynolds began meeting with department heads and officials, including Kabat, to prepare to take office.

Reynolds will be joined six newly elected council members as new faces at city hall, and said that he thinks the group is fully capable of embracing what’s to come.

“I think that we have to rely on the incredibly professional staff that we have in the city of La Crosse to help make sure that we have a smooth transition. There’s going to be some bumps in the road, it’s not going to be smooth, there’s going to be some mistakes that we make,” he said.

“But these are all smart people. These are all people that I believe can make adjustments and we’ll be able to do really good things.”

Mayor-elect Reynolds and a new set of council members will be sworn in April 20.

WATCH NOW: Photos and video -- Rotary Lights: 2020 edition

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Voters select new class of South Side city council members in Tuesday's election

A nearly entirely new group of La Crosse Common Council members was elected Tuesday night to represent districts on the city’s South Side, ushering in a new era of representation.

Among the winners included incumbent Doug Happel, the only council member among seven to seek re-election.

But big winners on Tuesday were women — who are now in the majority on the council, for likely the first time in city history.

The new council members will be sworn-in with newly elected Mayor Mitch Reynolds on April 20.

Final tallies

District 7

Candidate for La Crosse Common Council District 7, Mac Kiel.

Mac Kiel won with 60% of the vote over Victoria McVey, with 39.61%. Kiel will replace longtime council member Gary Padesky.

“We did it. I am beyond grateful you have elected me to represent District 7 on the city council in La Crosse. The first woman’s majority council in the history of La Crosse,” Keil wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday night.

“I am excited to get to work for all of the people in La Crosse and fight for everyone’s voice to be heard,” she said.

District 8

Mackenzie Mindel won with 72% of the vote over Samuel Deetz, who had 28%. Mindel will fill the shoes of council member Jessica Olson, who instead made a bid for mayor this spring, but lost in the primaries.

Candidate for La Crosse Common Council District 8, Mackenzie Mindel.

“I can’t say enough to express how much of an honor it has been to have (Deetz) as an opponent, someone who shares many similar values and cares deeply about our community. He is truly a good person,” Mindel wrote on her campaign Facebook page Tuesday night.

“I can’t wait to collaborate with him,” she said, noting that “more gratitude” would come later.

District 9

Chris Woodard, the only council candidate running officially unopposed this spring, won with 84% of the vote. One registered write-in candidate, K.C. Cayo, added a layer of competition for the seat, but they only received a total of 58 votes Tuesday.

Contributed 

Chris Woodard, candidate for La Crosse Common Council, District 9.

Woodard will replace council member Phil Ostrem.

District 10

Rebecca Schwarz won with 58% of the vote Tuesday over Richard Becker, who was previously the longest-serving member of the Common Council, serving more than 20 years, before losing in re-election in 2017.

Candidate for La Crosse Common Council District 10, Rebecca Schwarz.

Schwarz will fill a vacant seat after Paul Medinger stepped down at the end of last year.

“We did it,” she wrote on her campaign Facebook page Tuesday night, saying she was “honored” and “humbled.”

District 11

Jennifer Trost won with 60% of the vote over Richard Korish, who received 40%. Trost will replace council president Martin Gaul, another member who tried his hand at the mayor’s seat without success.

Candidate for La Crosse Common Council District 10, Jennifer Trost.

“I will try to represent you on La Crosse Common Council to the best of my abilities,” Trost wrote on her campaign Facebook page, commenting later that she has “lots of hard work ahead” but was “enjoying this moment.”

District 12

Incumbent Doug Happel is the only familiar face heading back to city hall among this group, earning 63% of the vote Tuesday. He beat Keonte Turner, formerly of the La Crosse School Board, who earned 36%.

Happel’s win of a fourth term comes just days after the loss of his wife, Nadine, who he said convinced him to run again.

“I’m pleased obviously. I would have been more pleased if we weren’t dealing with what we’re dealing with at the moment, but I’m pleased for that. I found it was almost a coincidence that I was the only incumbent running,” as the other council members bowed out for one reason or another, Happel said.

La Crosse Common Council member and candidate for District 12, Doug Happel.

“I actually came close to not running back whenever we filled out that stuff in November, Nadine’s the one who told me I should run,” he said.

Happel and the six other council members who didn’t face re-election will now help the new members acclimate to the council.

“It never hurts to have fresh views on things, and what it will be with many of the new members on there, it’s a learning experience. Even though I’ve been on there 10 years I’m still learning things. Probably the greatest key for any council member is obviously you’ve got to take care of your constituents, and realize that you can’t micromanage,” Happel said.

District 13

Mark Neumann won with 63% of the vote, beating Chauncy Turner, current chair of the Human Rights commission, who claimed 36%.

Neumann

While this is Neumann’s first political win, it was not his first campaign, after he unsuccessfully ran against longtime U.S. Rep. Ron Kind in the Democratic primary last August. He will replace council member Roger Christians.

This story was updated Wednesday morning to include reaction from candidates.

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