Political experience: La Crosse County Board Supervisor 2009-2020; 1st vice chair; chair, Health & Human Services; 94th AD legislative coordinator, Wisconsin Education Association.
Why are you running for office?: I enjoy serving on the County Board and I believe I am an effective advocate for the interests of the people of District 15, as well as the rest of the county. I take pride in the accomplishments of this board while I've been in office, such as the physical and economic transformation of the downtown area and the substantial growth of the tax base, the financial strength of the county and its Aa1 bond rating, the fact we are sixth lowest in tax levy per capita in Wisconsin while providing exemplary services, our vibrant downtown neighborhoods thanks to our Neighborhood Revitalization programs. The list of successes is long, and my desire to continue to build on them is strong. I consider myself fortunate to be able to live in this beautiful area, and I want to keep it that way for our children and grandchildren.
The county maintains 282 miles of roads and 69 bridges and has a backlog of roads that require millions of dollars in repair. Should the county raise more money to expedite those repairs – and how?: During the most recent budget deliberations, the County decided that it would be irresponsible to wait any longer for the state to step up and increase highway funding. Instead, we are taking responsibility and have adopted a multi-year highway improvement plan that will use short-term borrowing of $5 million a year for the years 2020-2023 to tackle several long-overdue, significant projects. While catching up on the backlog, this plan is structured to allow the County to pay off more debt principal each year than it incurs in new borrowing. Of course, it would be great if the state would finally do the right thing and provide the counties adequate funding to restore our transportation infrastructure, rather than shifting that cost to local taxpayers!
Should La Crosse County help fund collaborative efforts with other municipalities in the county?: La Crosse County has a long tradition of partnering with other municipalities and other counties to provide the best in service at the lowest possible cost. I am a strong proponent of collaboration, and look for every opportunity to share expertise, expenses and people power. The Lakeview Business Park, which provides 200 jobs and is worth $16.5 million, is a collaboration between the County and West Salem. The Alliance to HEAL is a countywide effort involving the County, Onalaska, Gundersen, Mayo and the La Crosse Foundation to put an end to the opioid crisis. The County is collaborating with Couleecap and other municipalities in the Coalition to End Homelessness to provide housing to all. We're working on a joint venture with West Salem, the Neshonoc Dredge and Phosphorus Credit Agreement, to save that municipality $2.8 million while improving lake water quality and enhancing conservation measures. We play well with others.
Is the county doing enough to provide assistance to those struggling with drug abuse?: I have been a member of the Heroin Task Force since its inception. I have seen this group go through a number of transformations, first to expand focus beyond heroin to other addictive drugs, now to include a large number of community agencies in the Alliance to HEAL. The goal has always been to bring all our community resources to bear in combatting the deadly scourge of drug abuse. By including many community partners, we have been able to tap into their various expertise, raise more funds, provide more effective response to support those in crisis and save more lives. The combination of drug addiction and mental illness presents a more difficult, more intractable challenge that will require sustained collaboration between the medical, behavioral science and law enforcement communities. We need facilities, other than our jail, to treat those affected and provide ongoing support services to keep them sober.
What success and challenges do you see in the county’s jail and court system?: As a member of the County's Criminal Justice Management Council, I get a front-row seat, and a voice, in the implementation of innovative programming in our courts, our jails and our juvenile correctional facility. La Crosse County is a leader in piloting successful new programs, such as evidence-based decision making, which uses research-supported principles in making arrest, incarceration and release decisions; Treatment Alternative and Diversions, a pilot that's earned our county substantial grants from the state to provide effective treatment programming to keep people with addiction and mental health issues out of the jail. Our CORE facility for juvenile offenders is a prototype for the next generation of juvenile facilities after the disbanding of Lincoln Hills. An ongoing challenge is the overcrowding of our jail, as it serves as a holding facility for people with pervasive mental illness and substance abuse issues. We will do better.
Political experience: None listed.
Why are you running for office?: I believe we need folks involved who question everything, and do their own research and think creatively and with common sense. We have to work together for the common good.
The county maintains 282 miles of roads and 69 bridges and has a backlog of roads that require millions of dollars in repair. Should the county raise more money to expedite those repairs – and how?: I don't think the County should raise more money because most people I know are strapped as is, let alone what financial hardships folks will be experiencing because of the coronavirus. If anything, we need to prioritize the budget money we do have differently. Safe roads and bridges should be at the top of the list. Having such poor roads is actually a hazard for drivers and their vehicles, not to mention motorcyclists. I've been to other countries in Europe and I have never seen roads as bad as ours there. Our roads are quite frankly embarrassing. Can we not build better, more durable roads? Why are our roads and bridges in such a continual state of disrepair?
Should La Crosse County help fund collaborative efforts with other municipalities in the county?: Collaboration is a wonderful thing if both parties feel the deal is a win-win. If there are hard feelings and an agreement cannot be made, then it is better to wait. Hard feelings can create such negative resentments that can take a long time to repair. Collaboration is important and often allows us to achieve bigger goals, but it has to be mutually beneficial and negotiated carefully, so that taxpayers do not feel taken advantage of.
Is the county doing enough to provide assistance to those struggling with drug abuse?: I'd have to ask the current committee experts their opinion on this, and find out about our county stats. Is the trend getting better or worse? I'd also like to know how our county's stats compares with others of similar size. There are so many factors that contribute to drug abuse. The key to drug abuse is really looking long term. Children who experience trauma are much more likely to abuse drugs and struggle addiction when adults. Can we as a community somehow protect our children from trauma? Or can we provide mentorship and counseling to mitigate the effects of trauma. How might we provide children with resiliency tools? How can the community help break the negative cycles. That's a tough question, but we've seen places that have had positive results. I've seen research indicating that feeling a part of a positive community can be the antidote to addiction.
What success and challenges do you see in the county’s jail and court system?: I think the problems are oftentimes repeat offenders. How can we stop the cycles, and I think I go back to my answer in the previous question. We need to come together, look at communities that are having success and see if those programs would work here as well.
In this Series
- 11 updates
Get Government & Politics updates in your inbox!
Stay up-to-date on the latest in local and national government and political topics with our newsletter.