Good Government Council: Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors District 15 Questioinnaire
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 15 include:
- Joshua Naponielle
- Nick Smiar (Incumbent)
Who can vote: The election is open to all eligible voters who reside in District 15. 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.
Unfortunately, we received no response from Joshua Naponielle.
1.) What are your background and qualifications for this position, and what value will you bring to the County Board personally?
Nick Smiar: I am finishing my fifth term as Supervisor for District 15 and my second term as Chairperson. I serve on all county standing committees as an ex officio member and serve on a number of task forces and community organizations. I have experience as a board member (more than ten boards), executive director, clinical director, and therapist. My PhD is in social welfare policy. I taught social work at UW-EC for twenty-two years and am now a Professor Emeritus. I have owned a private consulting/training business doing business nationally and internationally, and I work in Europe and South Africa on a regular basis. My primary values are honesty, integrity, transparency, and equity.
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?
Nick Smiar: We attract residents with affordable housing, quality employment, opportunities for growth and enhancement, and a high quality environment for living and working. Through coordinated and effective community planning we can bring affordable housing to our cities and county so that employers can attract and retain employees. Quality employment comes through economic development in the county, supported by the EC Economic Development Corporation and the EC Chamber of Commerce (both are supported by the County Board). Opportunities for growth and enhancement come through our many educational institutions and training opportunities. Our quality of life is enhanced by our fine natural environment, many recreational opportunities, and lively arts scene.
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?
Nick Smiar: Through its Planning Development Department, the county supports reasonable and responsible expansion of the housing supply, with attention paid to water quality, healthy physical environment, and preservation and conservation of the natural environment. Our responses to housing need are somewhat fragmented. ALL of the players must come to the table, pool resources, and implement a coordinated, integrated plan for housing (homeless shelters, transitional housing, low-income and subsidized housing, housing for the elderly, etc.).
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?
Nick Smiar: The county has already received $10.15 million in ARP funding. Of that amount, one portion (approximately $4 million) goes toward county functions affected by the pandemic. A second portion (approximately $3 million) goes to the development of rural broadband, in collaboration with the towns. A third portion (approximately $3 million) goes for small businesses and non-profits affected by the pandemic. The second half of the total amount (another $10.15 million) will be disbursed in the next calendar year. The apportionment of funds is done through county administration and coordinated with the Broadband Committee and the ARP Committee, with community input.
5.) If elected, what will be your top three priorities in your term as a County Board Member?
Nick Smiar: 1. Reduce borrowing/bonding through debt management and efficient operations, to decrease expenditures on debt service and increase funding in other areas.
2. Monitor, develop, and maintain the infrastructure of the county (roads, bridges, facilities, forests, etc.) through responsible and responsive management.
3. Ensure the quality of life for our residents through social supports, especially for our most vulnerable and needy citizens, e.g., health services, mental health services, veterans services, ADRC, Senior Center, etc.
Posted by Danya Morman, Governmental Affairs Intern