Good Government Council: Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors District Uncontested Districts 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 the uncontested races include:
- District 4: Stella Pagonis (Incumbent)
- District 6: Dane Zook (Incumbent)
- District 7: Steve Chilson (Incumbent)
- District 13: Connie Russell (Incumbent)
- District 21: Mark Beckfield (Incumbent)
- District 22: Kathleen Schneider (Incumbent)
- District 26: Tami Schraufnagel (Incumbent)
- District 28: Kimberly Cronk (Incumbent)
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.
Although these eight races are uncontested, we appreciate that six of the candidates provided us with completed questionnaires. We did not receive responses from Steve Chilson (Dist 7) or Kimberly Cronk (Dist 28)
1.) What are your background and qualifications for this position, and what value will you bring to the County Board personally?
Stella Pagonis (Dist 4): My primary qualification is my interest and attentiveness in addressing the needs of the Eau Claire community . My background as an attorney, primarily with children’s court cases, provides familiarity with many aspects of county functions. A secondary qualification is that I have participated in multiple committee and board assignments both as a supervisor and as a citizen member.
Dane Zook (Dist 6): I’m a life long resident of the area so I know it and it’s people well. I am also a retired accountant and salesman with a lot of years of business experience, a common sense practical person
Connie Russell (Dist 13): I am a life-long resident of Eau Claire County. I grew up on a farm near Fall Creek and have lived in the city of Eau Claire for 44 years. After retiring from UW-Eau Claire, I have been active in various community organizations and in 2018 was first elected to represent District 13 on the County Board. The last four years have afforded me the opportunity to learn about local government operations, governance, and the vast array of services our county provides to residents of this county. As a board supervisor, I have benefited from serving on two standing committees. The Judicial and Law Enforcement committee has expanded my knowledge of our court system, jail operations, and the array of programs in place that address the “upstream” conditions that lead to incarceration. As a member of the Human Resources committee, I gained appreciation for the work of our county employees.
Mark Beckfield (Dist 21): I’ve been on the County Board now for 8 years. I call out issues like the overspending and fiscal mismanagement of departments like DHS which is currently under investigation after funds were stolen and their budget was overspent by $8.5 million over the past few years. The current administration has been stone walling and delaying the investigation even though they tell the media they want “complete transparency”. There is something wrong and I hope it’s not as bad as the Larry Loken case, but it could be. They fail to tell you, the taxpayer, where the $8.5 million overspend went and they continue to refuse a program audit………….that says it all.
Katherine Schneider (Dist 22): I’m a retired clinical psychologist, so I have some people skills including empathy, listening and collaborating. I’ve served on many boards and committees and have served one term on the County Board, so have gotten through the steep learning curve of how things are done in county government. I’m blind from birth and have fibromyalgia and have done a lot of work on disability issues.
Tami Schraufnagel(Dist 26): I have served on the Eau Claire County Board for the past 16 years. I am a City representative specifically the Phoenix Park, Mt. Simon and Birch street areas. I have been a Downtown Eau Claire, Inc. (DECI) board member and supporter since the beginning of DECI. I also have been an active member of the North River Fronts Neighborhood assn. since moving into the area in 1998. Currently I serve on Eau Claire County’s Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) Parks & Forest and Land Conservation Commission. I actively use our outdoor spaces hiking, bicycling, canoeing and nature watching. I am an advocate for aging and disabled citizens and deliver Meals on Wheels for the ADRC several times a week.
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?
Stella Pagonis: Currently the county collaborates with several economic development programs that seek to attract new and expanded businesses. The county can dovetail with our community partners to encourage graduates of UWEC and CVTC to remain in the community by having competitive employment opportunities, reasonable options for housing, and supporting recreational activities with a vibrant parks system.
The county should consider using some of the ARPA funds for employment training and internships.
Dane Zook: To make decisions that do not limit or restrict proper growth but enhance it and continue to support education to make it possible to build a higher level of workforce
Connie Russell: The County can play a role in attracting workers to this area in a number of ways. (1) Good roads for those commuting to work and play. (2) Expanded broadband service for businesses, remote workers, telehealth, and virtual learning. (3) Excellent recreational areas in our parks and waterways.
(4) Residential development in rural areas that meets demand for housing without compromising environmental quality. (5) Internship experiences for students at UW-Eau Claire and CVTC to encourage younger people to stay in this area. (6) Collaborating with municipal and educational entities to cultivate a welcoming community for a diverse workforce.
Mark Beckfield: Imagine if we took the $8.5 million overspend in DHS and invested it in JOBS and a new industrial park. The County Board and City Council have been too laser focused on social issues. It’s time to wake up and remember the County Board and City Council are to represent ALL the people. STOP being a roadblock for growth…… Eau Claire is not known for being business friendly. THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE!
EC is a wonderful place, but try to find a starter home in EC. If you do not allow new home construction, the entry level homes will never become available or be affordable.
Katherine Schneider: Our county needs to provide a wide array of services to make Eau Claire an attractive place for people to live, work and play. We need to be a welcoming community for newcomers, be they refugees or students here for higher education.
Tami Schraufnagel: To continue collaborating with businesses that are actively involved in expanding our communities. Work with Momentum West, Economic Development, the Chamber, Schools, Cities and Townships and engaged citizens to attract new businesses who in turn create new jobs. Support existing businesses, expand and improve access by creating and maintaining new and existing roadways and water and sewer lines. Support expansion of personnel to protect and serve Eau Claire County Citizens. Maintain and create parks and trail ways where citizens can recreate.
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?
Stella Pagonis: As noted, one of the biggest problems attracting and keeping people in the area is the lack of housing at all economic levels. The county can encourage additional housing developments within the county by rezoning parcels in the towns, when asked, to allow additional housing to be built. Secondly, the county can support building and renovating affordable housing by encouraging municipalities to extend their tax incremental districts for an additional year to allow the funds to be used for affordable housing as permitted by statute.
Dane Zook: We should apply a policy of best use of an area to help develop marginal acreage while preserving high value agriculture locations. Projects need through pro and con discussion to insure good outcome
Connie Russell: The County has a role in determining the proper zoning of land in the county, according to the Comprehensive Plans developed by the township boards. Those plans need to be reviewed on a regular basis to address current and future trends and needs, including expanded residential demands.
Given the rising costs of labor and materials, there may be some need to have public-private partnerships to increase housing availability. Also, there needs to be some exploration of housing in “out-county” areas. Businesses are more likely to site their operations in smaller towns if there is housing available for the needed workforce.
Mark Beckfield: Let’s read the ECLT newspaper! Some elected people continue to illegally block growth. The proposed housing development in the Town of Washinton is a fantastic example for us all to see. The town has a comprehensive plan that was approved unanimously by their Town Board but SOME on the County Board members are holding it up with items that are not in the scope of their elected authority. This is just wrong.
Katherine Schneider: Through its Planning and Development Department staff, committee and ultimately the County Board, the county has to balance more housing with environmental and density issues. We are fortunate to have a strong Planning and Development team.
Tami Schraufnagel: Eau Claire County needs to have “Smart Growth” at the core of recognizing the need for – and expanding our housing stock. Recognize “Affordable Housing” as 30% of gross household income.
Eau Claire County needs to:
– Provide clear and concise regulations to guide builders, developers, citizens, existing communities to be able to build their desired projects.
– Support new and existing developments by having safe and maintained roadways and trails to allow safe passage to and from these properties.
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?
Stella Pagonis: We need to keep in mind that these are one-time funds and should be directed to projects and programs where the use of the funds will have a prolonged and sustained difference. As stated above, funds could be used to expand employment training or to support internships. Grants could be offered for neighborhood revitalization projects and improving existing housing stock. It may sound cliché but there is a direct correlation between economic growth and a healthy roadway system.
Dane Zook: I fully support the rescue part of the plan. Those who show losses need to be made whole if possible
Connie Russell: This is one-time money, so it’s important to give priority to projects that will have a long-term benefit without on-going costs in future budgets. I think some projects might include water quality testing of lakes and rivers, investments in county operations to increase efficiencies, and addressing the additional mental health needs brought on by the pandemic.
Mark Beckfield: These monies need to go outside the City of EC. First, the County needs broad band but $4 million will not get it done. If the pandemic showed us one thing, it’s that the internet is the life blood to education and business communications. The City of Eau Claire has its own ARPA. The County Board has 4 other cities and multiple townships within the County. The current County Board sometimes forgets it represents all of the county, but they don’t forget them when we collect 1 million dollars in timber sales or property taxes. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to improve the infrastructure and support businesses throughout Eau Claire County that were truly affected by the pandemic.
Katherine Schneider: Helping small businesses and individuals adversely affected by the pandemic recover and get back to “normal” are top priorities. This might include grants to small businesses, nonprofits and some infrastructure projects, possibly including more broadband, necessary for all nowadays.
Tami Schraufnagel: – I strongly support the investment of $4 million dollars in broadband and would like to see more money spent to provide access to all of Eau Claire County.
– I will advocate for better air circulation systems in all new and existing county buildings to help reduce the transfer and spread of germs.
– I would like to see considerable investment in arts and entertainment since so many were put on hold for more than 24 months.
– I would like to see ARPA money invested in citizens in need – be it mental health, job training, affordable housing, independent living.
– Eau Claire County should also continue the acquisition of land and water as properties become available to add to our forest land and expand our protections of county waterways.
5.) If elected, what will be your top three priorities in your term as a County Board Member?
Stella Pagonis: 1. Debt policy 2. Competitive wages and benefits 3. Review extensive turnover of personnel in certain departments.
Dane Zook: I value a “everything in moderation” philosophy
There are many needs and limited resources
I would like to see a Cost Benefit Analysis of all programs and services, thorough and unbiased to insure we are doing the right thing with our taxpayer funding. They are our most valued asset.
Connie Russell: For the next two years, my first priority would be to contribute to the work of the ARPA committee in distribution of the federal funds. Second, I hope to continue focusing on public safety through work on the Judicial and Law Enforcement Committee and the Criminal Justice Collaborating Council. Third, I would like to increase communication with the county residents, both in getting information out to people about the work of the county and the resources it offers, but also to find better ways to gather input from residents to shape planning and budgeting.
1. Pass policy to require a deep program audit of each department on a regular rotating basis (every 3 to 5 years) to ensure there is real transparency and accountability. We have not learned from our past treasurer theft. We need to get this done NOW!
2. Invest in business and industry like a new first class industrial park in Eau Claire County (not within the City) ready to accept investment
3. Move our County Veterans Service department out of the courthouse and give it the attention it and our Veterans deserve.
Katherine Schneider: Providing social services to those most in need; creating a community attractive to workers; making sure the government remains ethical, transparent, responsive and open to citizen input.
Tami Schraufnagel: – Continue Advocating for Aging and Disabled population in Eau Claire County.
– To work with Land Conservation and the Recycling and Sustainability staff and advocates to help Eau Claire County become Carbon Neutral.
– To ensure smart growth as our City and County expand.
Posted by Brianna Franke, Governmental Affairs Intern