Good Government Council: Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors District 9 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 9 include:
- Donald Mowry (Incumbent)
- Allen Myren
Who can vote: The election is open to all eligible voters who reside in District 9. 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?
Donald Mowry: I have undergraduate degrees in Business and Psychology, a Master’s in Social Work, and PhD. in Social Welfare. I was a faculty member in the Social Work Department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire from 1988 to 2016.
I have interests in organizing citizens to be more engaged in their communities and I have worked to support several community development initiatives.
In my first two terms I have served on the Beaver Creek Board, the Human Services Board, the Extension Committee. I have also volunteered to serve on the Jail Population Study, the Reentry Committee, the Stepping Up Initiative, and I am the chairperson of the Broadband Committee.
I feel like I can offer significant administrative, leadership and civic engagement skills based on my history and experiences, and with two terms of office I feel that I now have the knowledge and experience to move the county forward.
Allen Myren: I retired from the Eau Claire County sheriffs office at the end of 2014. I served 30 years with 10 years of that as a detective. I currently work part time for a Tribal Police Department and belong on a drug task force in central Wisconsin. During my 30 years at the Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office I have worked in some type of capacity with every department of the county. I bring a great understanding on how county government works. I have been on several different types of county committees over those 30 years. I have been a taxpayer in Eau Claire County for the last 35+ years.
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?
Donald Mowry: The county board plays a critical role in attracting more people to the community and ensuring that the County is an attractive place to live and work. On one hand, the board must make decisions about how to market our county to outside investments. On the other hand, the county board must balance economic growth with the protection of the environment and the health and safety of its residents.
This is not always an easy balance to maintain. However, the county can continue to examine its policies and practices and regulations to determine if some obstacles to economic development can be reduced. An example of this is the Broadband Forward ordinance that the Eau Claire County Board passed unanimously. It streamlines the process of approval for a broadband project by establishing a single point of contact with the county, establishes a timely approval process, reduces fees for permits to a reasonable limit, and does not allow for any discrimination between telecommunications providers.
Allen Myren: I could argue our economy is not that strong. Considering we have the highest inflation and gas prices in over 40 years. As far as low employment rate, I have talked to several businesses and when they try to interview potential employees, the employee prospects does not show up for the interview. Part of the problem is the unemployment benefits are going too long and no consequence to refuse to take a job offer.
To make Eau Claire County more appealing let’s make sure it is a safe place to live and work in. We need strong law and order. We need to support our law enforcement. We need to continue to promote industrial to help our county grow.
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?
Donald Mowry: The county should do everything it can to expand the supply of affordable housing and the supply of housing at all income levels. Some counties have invested directly in establishing transitional housing, such as housing for people who are being released from jail, do not have employment, and have nowhere to live in the short term. Housing at all income levels and housing types is important, but much of what is being built now or considered for the future will never be affordable for working families at lower income levels.
Allen Myren: Ensure zoning helps promote growth and affordability. Offer incentives for developers to provide a variety of housing options.
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?
Donald Mowry: The Eau Claire County Broadband Committee has discovered that it needs to go beyond an access to broadband goal to making sure that every household can afford to pay for broadband, possesses a suitable device to access broadband, and has the digital skills necessary to take advantage of programs and resources online. A Digital Equity program could accomplish these goals.
Another obvious area is the lack of affordable housing, especially for people in transition, such as reentering the community after a period of incarceration or those who have been evicted from housing and without a transitional housing option would enter the ranks of the homeless.
One last need area is the need to increase the ability of the county to engage people in treatment for drug and substance use disorders. Rather than allow our jail to serve as a mental health holding facility, we should be engaging folks in treatment while in jail and planning for a smooth handoff to community treatment upon release.
Allen Myren: With the increasing crime rate largely fueled by drugs, such as fentanyl, I would push for a combination of things. We need a combination of enforcement, incarceration, treatment, rehabilitation and job training.
I would like to see more businesses locating into Eau Claire County. We need industrial parks with incentives to bring businesses in.
I would like to see some type of incentive for our healthcare workers, first responders, truck drivers etc etc to keep them working and not being overwhelmed with all the additional hours and having job burn out they have faced during the pandemic.
Help stimulate growth in options for child care. Offer incentives for child care and child care providers. There is a shortage for child care which prevents our workforce from returning to their jobs.
Of most importance is to make sure these funds are used for what it is intended for. We need to watch for fraud and waste on the disbursement of these funds.
5.) If elected, what will be your top three priorities in your term as a County Board Member?
Donald Mowry: 1. I am a graduate of the Citizen Police Academy offered by the County Sheriff’s Office. Every unit we visited—patrol officers, jail staff, detectives, bailiffs, drug unit, SWAT team—said that the Meth Epidemic was the one thing that they would eliminate if they could. Meth and Opioid addiction also have a major impacts on our families. We need better treatment for drug addiction and the opioid settlement funds holds a promise for the future.
2. Studies have demonstrated that access and utilization of rural broadband promotes rural economic development in a variety of ways. Educational levels increase for all ages, income increases, farmers save money using GIS methods, children can do their homework from home, people can telecommute for work, and people can save time and money by receiving telehealth and mental health services in their homes. Every household in the county needs access to high-speed internet.
3. Wise and responsible investment of the one-time ARPA funds.
Allen Myren: First let’s get our Department of Human Services budget under control. We need to support and allow the Sheriff’s Office to continue its investigation into over a million missing dollars. Search warrants have already been served and a forensic audit is ongoing. Some supervisors have blocked this investigation and we need to be transparent of where our taxes are going.
I am one of many county residents who believe a budget overage such as this it’s not something to be brushed aside. It should not be allowed to happen again. That means a thorough, transparent investigation should be done with safeguards put in place afterwards to ensure it does not happen again.
Second, safety and security. We need to support our Sheriff’s Office. One way is the need to increase our number of patrol deputies.
Finally, we need to be transparent and accountable for where every tax dollar goes to and why. This last budget, the supervisors were not allowed to ask questions about departments budgets
Posted by Danya Morman, Governmental Affairs Intern