Good Government Council: Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors District 11 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 11 include:
- Tara Balts
- Nathan Otto (Incumbent)
Who can vote: The election is open to all eligible voters who reside in District 11. 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?
Tara Balts: Have lived in Eau Claire County for 45 years. Background in retail for 45 years. Many of those years in management. From those years have acquired the skills of team building, creative problem solving, organization, and listening. Have a servants heart and years of volunteer experience. I will show up and take my position seriously.
Nathan Otto: I am a small business owner and long-time resident of Altoona. I have a have a master’s degree in public policy from the Minnesota Humphrey Institute, teach computer programming for CVTC and have held leadership positions in community organizations. These include my church, the Lions club and Cub Scouts.
As a leader, I value performance outcomes. We live in a world of data, and new initiatives should have specific goals with meaningful measures. I also value Assumption of Positive Intent. Debate between opposing sides can get intense, so it is important that we remind ourselves that everybody in county government wants Eau Claire County to be safe, healthy and prosperous.
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?
Tara Balts: Affordable housing, better commuting possibilities to get workers to jobs such as group car pooling vans or shuttles.
We could market the attractions of our county better as we have a university, tech school, three hospitals, parks and lakes! River Prairie is an awesome addition/ attraction and Altoona is growing quickly. We need to spread this growth to the whole county.
Nathan Otto: I think about why I moved back to the Chippewa Valley in 2010. I had lived in the Twin Cities, commuting two hours a day, worrying about crime, and paying more for, well, everything. Then my wife found a job in Eau Claire. We made the best decision of our lives and moved here over a decade ago. Why didn't we move back sooner? We assumed Eau Claire had no employment.
Telecommuting changes that situation. Today more people maintain office careers without living near the office. Eau Claire County, while having room for improvement, is already an attractive place to live and work. County government can make it more. We can protect our parks and waterways. We can address housing affordability. We can also work with local organizations to remind markets in larger communities that Eau Claire exists. People say the Chippewa Valley is Wisconsin's best kept secret. Let's get the word out!
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?
Tara Balts: The county needs to work to help keep housing affordable. Work hand in hand with city to accomplish this. Perhaps also to encourage house or apartment sharing for single individuals or and elderly who would rather not live alone.
Nathan Otto: Effective zoning is key. Effective zoning relies on strong cooperation between cities, the county and the private sector; communities are more than our legal and political borders.
The idea situation I see is where Eau Claire, Altoona, Fall Creek, Augusta and Fairchild work with the townships to create mutually-agreed on, cross-boundary development zones. In these we strive for density, mixed income and mixed use. We work closely with the private sector to asses their needs. We would be mindful that this housing price spike could change quickly, and community we build together is built with long-term goals in mind.
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?
Tara Balts: Funds should be allocated to help spruce up our parks and especially our lakes such as Altoona lake needs a filtration system and the sand dealt with on a maintenance level. It is a big draw to our county. A committee could be formed to work with the lake committees to get this done. Would like to see us purchase snow plows that lift up at driveways preventing residents need to come out and reshovel their driveways after the plow goes through which is also one good way to help senior and handicapped.
Nathan Otto: The Chippewa Valley’s best resource is our people. Our funding needs to go to where our key resources are most in need. Let's place a good amount of the allocation into agencies like the Comprehensive Community Services Program (CCS), Coordinated Services Team (CST) and the Children's Long Term Support Program (CLTS).
To make the most long-term gain from this short-term windfall we should also put resources into staff retention among agencies that include law enforcement, environmental protection, human services and highways. Retaining quality staff is an investment in the future of Eau Claire County.
5.) If elected, what will be your top three priorities in your term as a County Board Member?
1. Get acquainted with the board members by listening and working to become a valuable member of the board.
2. Be accessible and Listen to residents concerns with an open mind.
3. Show up and work hard on what the board as a team irons out what our top priorities are.
Nathan Otto: To protect our parks and wetlands: Eau Claire County wetlands and wilderness areas are vital to our long-term quality of life. Lake Altoona and the Eau Claire River are among the county’s best assets. I prioritize conservation of our natural resources.
To help maintain quality roadways: In 2001 I survived a 72mph rollover. In 2022 our roadways face changing seasons, changing climates, and changing technology. Road safety means looking beyond the asphalt. It means smart urban design, driver awareness and support for law enforcement.
To be a voice for Altoona: Altoona is the fastest growing community in Eau Claire County and a major contributor to the local economy. We Altoona residents must ensure our voice is heard in the County. We can best do this by strengthening connections with government, nonprofit and private community partners.
Posted by Danya Morman, Governmental Affairs Intern