Spring 2020 Candidate Questionnaire: Eau Claire County Board
District 10: Nancy Coffey and John Folstad
Note: These questions were drafted and candidate responses requested before concerns about COVID-19 escalated to their current level.
Q1. What are your background and qualifications for this position, and why are you a candidate?
I have been an active District 10 resident with my husband for 34 years; we've raised three children here. I volunteer for 4-H and area non-profits, including Feed My People Food Bank, Market Match and Family Literacy. I have a bachelor’s of science degree from UW-Stout. Prior to my retirement, I worked for Eau Claire County (ECC) Extension for 26 years in community development. Before that, I was a public school teacher.
In my first term as Supervisor, I served on the ECC Planning and Development Committee and the Groundwater Committee to protect our environment. Working with community residents, we passed a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) moratorium. This resolution brought updates and greater local control of agricultural performance standards to protect our lakes, streams and groundwater. I actively support 100% carbon neutrality by 2050.
My career gave me valuable experience with county government operations, including the 'know-how' to move policies forward within a limited budget, and strong team collaboration skills. As an incumbent, I can hit the ground running. I want to give back to the community I love.
I have a Master of Science Degree in Nursing from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. I was employed at Sacred Heart Hospital for 38 years. During this time, I worked as a direct care provider, department director and executive. I was the Vice President of Strategy, Development and Implementation when I retired in 2018.
I worked as a Deputy Medical Examiner in Eau Claire County for 24 years.
I was a member of the Life Link Helicopter Board of Directors for 10 years and served as Chairman of the Board for three years.
I previously served on the Eau Claire County Emergency Medical Services Committee, the Regional Trauma Advisory Council and the State of Wisconsin Trauma Advisory Committee.
I am currently a member of the Project Search Advisory Council and I was previously a member of the Regis Foundation Board and the Regis Catholic School System Education Committee.
I decided to run for office because I believe many of the skills that I have previously developed and utilized can benefit the County when addressing strategic, budgetary and health related issues.
Q2. What is the County Board’s role in promoting economic development, business maintenance and commercial growth in the county?
ECC’s support of business, entrepreneurs, and public/private partnerships will facilitate economic growth. Of the 581 respondents who completed the ECC 2020 Budget Survey, over half indicated county support to continue funding to the Innovation Center, Momentum West, and the Economic Development Corporation as important, essential or critical. Quality public services, cultural opportunities and a well-maintained infrastructure will also attract new businesses.
ECC needs to continue to pursue shared and coordinated city, county and regional partnerships to decrease duplication and strengthen and showcase community efforts. The innovative city-County Health Department merger and coordination between the City Police and County Sheriff Departments are great partnering models. Work with the West Central WI Regional Planning Commission has assisted ECC to coordinate the Chippewa-Eau Claire Municipal Planning Organization, a watershed plan and groundwater report, as well as the Chippewa, Dunn and Eau Claire bicycle and pedestrian transportation plan.
Improving ECC rural broadband is also vital as more and more residents are working from home. Eau Claire County is currently surveying residents concerning their broadband access. Recently, the ECC Board passed an ordinance approving county broadband network projects.
I believe the County Board assists with economic development and business maintenance by providing good infrastructure, reasonable tax levies and quality of life amenities, such as nice parks and a safe place to live and raise a family.
Q3. What should the County Board do to address the current budget issues and program demands in the Human Services area?
The biggest challenges we face in ECC are the ramifications brought on by the meth epidemic, mental health issues and poverty. The key areas of continued risk, and costs, in the Dept. of Human Services (DHS) are alternative care. These include, care for children and adults who are abused, neglected or suffer from cognitive and behavioral issues. For example, one individual participating in residential care can cost ECC half a million dollars a year. Over the last couple of years, DHS is seeing significant improvements through its efforts. In ECC from 2018 to 2019, there was a 53% reduction in residential care placements and a 21% reduction in out of home placements. Due to jail programs, such as treatment courts and mental health initiatives, the 2019 daily average jail population was 281 inmates, a 6.24% reduction from 2018. We need to stay the course in the most cost effective and efficient means possible. We are making progress helping our most vulnerable residents.
I strongly support programs that address the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse. I believe early intervention is imperative. I also support creating transition programs for people with mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse problems, so when they are released from jail or a mental health facility they do not go directly back into the environment that likely promoted or caused the problem.
Q4. What are the two biggest issues you expect Eau Claire County to face during your term, and how do you think the County Board should address them?
Due to these constraints, ECC has needed to use debt to cover capital expenses. As a result, ECC's 2020 debt service will be about 30% of our total tax levy. If debt reliance increases further, it may result in lowered bond ratings an higher issuance costs.
Possible alternatives to address these budget limits include:
• Reduce, realign and coordinate county/city services;
• Maximize revenue from non-property tax sources where possible;
• Continue to adopt technological and innovative practices to solve long-term shortages, while leveraging funding sources;
• Continue to focus on process automation and investment in information services systems to optimize efficiencies;
• Continue evidence-based programs to address risk areas, such as treatment courts and the Stepping Up mental health program;
• Encourage the state to increase and provide timely funding of mandated services; and/or
Convince residents to pass a referendum to increase our county tax levy. Since the county tax levy was frozen, ECC continues to be in the lowest quartile for property tax collections in the state at $331, 30% below the state median of $474.
We will need community input to decide which alternatives to implement.
One issue is an increase in budget expenditures and a decrease in general reserve funds. I believe this needs to be addressed by supporting private sector business development and making certain County departments operate within their assigned budgets. I do not support borrowing money for recurring budget expenditures.
Another issue is addressing alcohol and drug abuse problems and mental health issues. This issue needs to be addressed in collaboration with the health care institutions in the area. The County needs to develop creative cost-effective approaches to address these problems. This issue may require the County to bring some additional services inhouse, so the quality and the cost of the services can be more closely monitored.
Eau Claire Chamber
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