Good Government Council: Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors District 1 Questionnaire
When: Tuesday, April 5th, 2022; polls open 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Find your voting location at myvote.wi. All absentee ballots must be requested by March 31st, 2022 and turned in no later than 8:00 p.m. on April 5th either by mail or dropped off in-person. In-Person absentee voting will start Tuesday, March 22nd and end Friday, April 1st. You can vote early Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you plan to vote by mail, voters are strongly encouraged to mail their ballots as soon as possible to ensure their ballot is received by the deadline.
What it’s about: The County Board has 29 members, with each member representing around 3,645 people. Each member represents one of the 29 districts and serves a two year term. All 29 seats are up for election this spring. The candidates for District 1 include:
- Courtney Kneifl
- Todd Meyer
Who can vote: The election is open to all eligible voters who reside in District 1. Click here to find your district.
Where you vote and who is on your ballot:
- Go to myvote.wi.gov
- Enter your voting address to learn which races are on your ballot and where you vote.
Why this questionnaire: The Good Government Council (GGC) is a committee of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce dedicated to encouraging voter participation and providing members of the business community with non-biased information about candidates’ positions on important issues. Although the Chamber is active in policy issues, it is non-partisan and does not endorse political candidates.
1.) What are your background and qualifications for this position, and what value will you bring to the County Board personally?
Courtney Kneifl: Educationally I have an AS degree in Paralegal Studies and a BS degree in Business Administration with a legal emphasis. I have spent 9 years in operational leadership that has built a strong ability to work through conflict, negotiate, and build relationships. (Amongst other things). I will bring not only my operational knowledge but a fresh perspective on county issues.
Todd Meyer: Thanks for this opportunity. I have long been an outspoken advocate for the communities of rural Eau Claire and Clark counties, since my days as a rural small businessman representing my home community of Fairchild on the board of the Eau Claire Economic Development Corporation, through my years of service as chair of the Town of Fairchild board, to my current job as an instructor at Chippewa Valley Technical College where I was originally hired to teach US Government and now teach at Neillsville Center. The communities of District 1, like small rural communities everywhere, are facing challenges and need someone on the county board who will work to turn these challenges into opportunities through local development and partnerships with county, state, and federal agencies. Wise investment is the best form of fiscal responsibility.
2.) With a strong local economy and low unemployment, many employers report difficulty in filling positions. What is the role of Eau Claire County in attracting more people to the community, and ensuring that the County is an attractive place to live and work?
Courtney Kneifl: Eau Claire County needs to focus on housing. Eau Claire County continues to grow rapidly pulling in new residents to our community. This causes housing issues amongst many working individuals and families. What’s considered to be “workforce housing” is a struggle for many to afford. I would suggest we explore ways for our county to mitigate the high cost of housing to help drive sustainability for residents.
Todd Meyer: 30 miles east of Eau Claire are internet connections so bad you’d think we were 2,000 miles north in the Yukon. This is unsustainable and a threat to the county’s future prosperity. Reliable broadband internet access is an existential issue for Eau Claire County’s rural areas, just like railroads were in the nineteenth century and highways and power lines were in the twentieth. In addition, good rural connections are crucial to preserving the charming blend of urban amenities, rural living, and easy access to beautiful wild spaces that makes Eau Claire County so attractive to a growing number of professionals who could choose to live anywhere as their livelihoods continue to become increasingly detached from any specific location. Vigorously supporting affordable broadband access for EVERY rural home and business location in Eau Claire County will enhance the competitive appeal of the entire Chippewa Valley region and should be a top priority for the Eau Claire County Board.
3.) The Chippewa Valley Housing Task Force found that the community is experiencing housing supply challenges at all income levels and housing types. What should the County’s role be in expanding housing supply within areas of its jurisdiction?
Courtney Kneifl: The housing challenges are tied to, in my opinion, a few different things. From a county perspective, I would again say the county needs to explore ways in which we can mitigate the high cost of housing not just in owning but rental properties. I also firmly believe that before expanding any part of our county takes place, there should be a strategic plan on growth. Schools can only house so many children before new schools need to be built which in turn, could lead to referendums and more unexpected tax dollars.
Todd Meyer: Despite the potential appeal of our rural areas, our county’s small towns are becoming smaller, and the average age of rural residents has climbed everywhere in rural eastern Eau Claire County except within our Amish communities. The population makeup is shifting as the closer towns to Eau Claire transition into bedroom communities and the more distant, like once-booming Fairchild, dwindle as local agriculture and logging labor demand decreases. Taken together, these trends suggest to me a need for a renewed commitment to rural investment and retooled infrastructure development if our county is at all interested in sustaining our balance of urban and small town living into the next century. At a minimum, we should act to preserve our small towns’ existing residential capacity for future workers and professionals as the Eau Claire metro region expands outward.
4.) The County is in the process of determining how to spend over $20 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Over $4 million has already been committed to broadband and to assistance for non-profits and small businesses. What are your thoughts on the priorities for the deployment of the remaining $15 million of funds?
Courtney Kneifl: I would love to see a portion of funding going to improve city and county recreational areas. However, in order to answer this question, I would also need to know what’s currently considered the most urgent in our county.
Todd Meyer: I would like to see a substantial portion of these funds directed towards improving the residential and business development appeal of rural Eau Claire County, thereby preserving our county’s rural charm while expanding its potential for future growth. In particular, I would like to see some sort of investment to aid our rural areas in energy transition since the pillars of our rural economy – ag, logging, trucking, motorized recreation, home heating, commuting – are all heavily fossil fuel dependent. It will take a combination of significant private and governmental investment to shift rural resistance to climate change mitigation into enthusiastic support, but the potential payoffs are also large. I feel this is an area where we can choose to embrace the future and gain competitive advantage, or we can resist it to our inevitable detriment.
5.) If elected, what will be your top three priorities in your term as a County Board Member?
Courtney Kneifl: Review of current financial checks and balances
Todd Meyer: 1) It is essential for my district that the ISP accepting federal money be made to keep its promise to the FCC to provide high-quality, affordable fiber optic broadband connections to ALL the businesses and residents in the RDOF areas of rural Eau Claire County, including our county’s more remote communities like Fairchild and Bridge Creek and Wilson – this is the main reason I am running for county board. 2) Our retiring District 1 representative, Gary Gibson, has been a strong supporter of sensible, environmentally responsible management to maintain the huge recreational and residential appeal of our waterways through intergovernmental partnerships; as climate shifts bring more frequent extreme weather events, I think it might be time for the county to consider extending such partnerships into a more comprehensive watershed management system for the region. 3) We are facing both a childcare and an eldercare crisis in the county – first steps are being taken and must be continued.
Posted by Danya Morman, Governmental Affairs Intern