Good Government Council: Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors District 18 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:
- James Dunning (Incumbent)
- Matthew Lehner
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?
James Dunning: After 16 years of County Supervisor experience, I have the knowledge that can be beneficial to the employees and the residents of Eau Claire County. My background as an engineer, business owner, environmental engineer, adjunct professor, community service involvement, and county supervisor have given me the values needed for this position. My background in planning has been an asset in my Planning and Development Committee work related to zoning and development. Being a former business owner has given me insights for my Budget Committee assignments. My environmental engineering background provides a level of expertise to protect our groundwater, to incorporate the sustainability program that the County has committed to, and help to implement a rail transportation program that is being promoted. My engineering background also helps me as chair of the building committee that is providing a next generation highway maintenance shop. There is a need for my experience.
Matthew Lehner: I currently serve as President Towers Hall, and have had a nearly 8 year long background in leadership and activism. I served as Student Council President, and served 2 terms as Class President. I have also served as the Senior Patrol Leader of my boy scout troop, Parish Council Youth representative, and founded an anti-bullying organization at my Elementary School. My employment experience included being a congressional campaign intern for Tom Palzewicz, a cashier and retail clerk for Pick N’ Save, a UPS Package Handler, and I now currently work at Menards as a morning receiver and forklift driver. I am running for Eau Claire County Board, because it’s time for new leadership that is more active, transparent, inclusive, and leadership that delivers real results. It’s time we have leaders who are unafraid to speak out about the issues facing the people that they serve to the people causing those issues. I will bring this spirit to the county board, because District 18 deserves that.
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?
James Dunning: The County plays a supporting role in attracting people and business to Eau Claire County. It must promote and support the infrastructure that is needed for business such as high speed internet in the rural areas, transportation opportunities, and roads that are maintained all year. It can also support recruitment by providing recreational features such as parks, campgrounds, ski trails, bicycle trails and lake access. This would include maintaining our forests and assisting the existing agriculture businesses with their issues. In doing all of this it must maintain a stable financial structure while providing State required programs such as health and human service programs, law enforcement, judicial services, and services to veterans, elderly, and children. It must work to promote equity and diversity in all areas of community living. In addition to these roles, it must be a participant in working with the City, Villages, and the Towns when doing community planning and zoning.
Matthew Lehner: I firmly believe that Eau Claire County can do more to help solve this issue that we have seen not just here in the County, but also throughout our state, and across the country. The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about how the county can solve this issue, is by ensuring that everyone in Eau Claire County has a living wage. I applaud the county in setting a minimum wage ordinance. However, the State of Wisconsin overturned this effort, so this makes it additionally challenging. That is why I won’t be afraid to go to Madison to lobby for change around this issue, because I firmly believe when all workplaces have an attractive living wage and benefits package for potential new hires, this will bring all kinds of people from across the state and others to come to work in Eau Claire County.
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?
James Dunning: The County needs to take a planning role in developing a housing solution. It must sit down with the City, Villages and Towns to lay out a zoning plan that addresses more acres for housing and business development. It should include plans to require connection to community water and sewer whenever possible. It must assist with plans for roads to service the developments, coordinate any needed school expansion, provide retail development, and plan for industry to be located where it will not be a problem for residents. The plan must be fully cognizant of environmental issues such as water quantity, soils and underground rock formations if city sewer and water will not be provided and address them as needed. The County should establish sustainability features that will guide the planning. It must also be aware of how development can have unintended consequences with the health and wealth of its inhabitants or neighboring populations.
Matthew Lehner: I do feel that Eau Claire County has a role to play in solving the housing shortage that we have seen within the County. Specifically, I think the county housing authority just lobby the state for more funding around funding new public housing developments. At the end of the day, the County is simply an extension of State Government, and we implement all of the programs that the state sets forward. So when our state legislature decides to play politics with essential dollars, we all suffer as a result. That is why we must demand more of our state government when it comes to providing the County with the fiscal means to provide more housing to the people that so desperately need it.
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?
James Dunning: The current plan is to set up 3 funds of approximately equal dollars for the $10 million that has been received. One fund is for broadband in the rural areas. A second fund is for providing grants to non-profits and small businesses affected by the shutdown and the third fund is to assist the County in its recovery from reacting to the pandemic. I think the second $10 million should be given to the 3 funds as the need is determined. I am strongly in favor of assisting the non-profits and small businesses if the original dollars are not sufficient. The broadband and the County have the possibility for more access to other federal, state and private funds.
Matthew Lehner: This is an extremely important and ongoing discussion that the county is having right now that could have a profound impact on the wellbeing of citizens in Eau Claire County. That is why I believe that the county needs new leaders with fresh ideas and perspective, and who truly understand the needs of the people in this county to be apart of this conversation. To begin, I think that starting off with Broadband expansion and the helping of the business community is a great start. Next, I think that it would be beneficial for us to really make a strong downpayment on physical infrastructure needs, such as fixing roads and bridges, as well as improving water systems. Then, we as a county must begin to truly start to implement an ambitious and necessary climate change action plan for the County. These two areas I think are the most critical to our future success as a county and I think that the American Rescue plan can help us to at least make a large down payment towards achieving this.
5.) If elected, what will be your top three priorities in your term as a County Board Member?
Mental health, Sustainability, and Planning for the 21st Century. The mental health issue affects all families and children in Eau Claire County either through direct involvement or the financial after effects. Included in this concern are issues related to alcohol and drug related crime, incarceration issues and the issues affecting those released from incarceration. We must develop more partnerships with the medical community to assist with the problem. This is a big financial problem for the County.
Sustainability solutions requires the elimination of greenhouses gases, creation of pollution free energy, and protection of our waters. The County needs to convert all energy uses to a non-polluting source. Planning is needed in the construction regulations to provide houses and buildings with pollution free energy products and sources. This planning will also determine how we develop living habits, workplace changes, transportation methods, agriculture programs and water usage
Matthew Lehner: When elected, I hope to deliver my Five Strides Forward plan, which seeks to bring better leadership to District 18. This includes more active leadership, full transparency and accountability, robust communication, unapologetic advocacy, and acceptance and inclusivity. With these pillars, I hope to bring the better representation that my district so desperately needs. I also hope to deliver my alternative climate plan for Eau Claire County. This will amend the sustainability resolution passed by the county, and will set forth a goal of carbon neutrality by 2045, and will ensure that county government and services are carbon neutral by 2035, set a 50% reduction rate by 2035, establish a permanent climate change task force, and will order a more comprehensive study on how to achieve these objectives. I also then hope that I can use my platform to lobby the state to give us more funding so we can begin to solve critical issues such as Infrastructure, healthcare, and housing.
Posted by Brianna Franke, Governmental Affairs Intern