Spring 2020 Candidate Questionnaire: Eau Claire County Board
District 29 Patrick Lavelle and Missy Christopherson
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 currently am the incumbent for District 29. I am running for reelection to continue my service to the community, my constituents, and Eau Claire County. My background and qualifications are listed below:
County Board Supervisor - 34 years, Local Labor Leader - 20 years, Small Business Owner - 22 years, Chair - Country Parks and Forest Committee - 30 years, Chair - County Highway Committee - 16 Years, Chair - County Local Emergency Planning Committee - 24 Years, Former Member of Chamber of Commerce - 16 Years, Veteran, and Lifelong Resident of Eau Claire County.
I was born and raised in Eau Claire. We chose to move back to Eau Claire 9 years ago to raise our family in this community that we love. I have been a leader in my industry for over 12 years. Currently, I work as an Operations Manager for two veterinary hospitals in our community. I have experience working through difficult situations with clients and staff. I know to communicate with people who have perspectives that differ from my own. I bring new ideas and new perspectives that represent our district. I believe in getting communities involved and having a transparent government.
Q2. What is the County Board’s role in promoting economic development, business maintenance and commercial growth in the county?
The Country Board’s role in promoting economic development, business maintenance, and commercial growth should focus on infrastructure, connectivity, and quality of life. Well-maintained infrastructure, particularly roads and highways, is essential for a strong economy. Maintaining the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport and its connectivity to O'Hare International Airport through United Airlines are important for the county’s commercial and business ties, both nationally and internationally. Some of Eau Claire County’s biggest assets are its parks, trails, and forests. Proper management of these outdoor spaces is important for providing recreational activities for our residents and contributing to the county’s overall quality of life. Businesses and commercial interests tend to be attracted to and invest in areas with a high quality of life.
The County is responsible for providing and maintaining the basic services the community needs. It also is responsible for our waterways, parks and transportation. If we don't have the services we need, good roads and a nice place to live businesses will not want to be here. The County's day to day decisions can affect all of our local businesses. Also, they have a role in what industries the County wants to grow and add. Making good decisions about industry can also affect local business and economy.
Q3. What should the County Board do to address the current budget issues and program demands in the Human Services area?
Currently, the Human Services Department is approximately $2.5 million over budget. The Department will need to assess where any savings can occur within its budget. The Department may have to determine which county residents are most in need of services and prioritize assistance to those populations before expanding services. To my knowledge, other comparable size counties in the state are not experiencing significant overruns in their Human Services budgets. It could be worthwhile having conversations with leaders from other counties to see what efficiencies and cost-saving measures they’ve implemented and if those could be replicated in Eau Claire County.
If it is not possible to make do with existing resources, then more revenue will be needed. The county can raise real estate taxes, but there are state limitations to this option. The county could have a referendum asking for approval from the voters to support the county’s needs. Another option would be
to increase the county’s sales tax by an additional half percent. However, none of these options would be very popular with county voters.
We need to work in conjunction with non-profit organizations and the private-sector to pool our resources and provide the best care possible. We have a growing need for services including mental health services and addressing homelessness. We need to keep looking at what resources we can get from our State government. We have a growing need for services and the State government is not supporting this growth. We can pass referendums that address our needs. These referendums should to be sent to the State government and then we need to follow up with them. Since we are the third largest County in Wisconsin, we have a voice that we need to use.
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?
Aside from the County’s ongoing budgetary issues, I think the COVID-19 pandemic and the continuing opioid and methamphetamine addiction crises will be the two biggest issues facing Eau Claire County. Both are public health issues that will almost certainly require additional assistance, financial and technical, from either the State or Federal Governments.
With regard to COVID-19 and any other future infectious disease outbreaks, the County Board will have to ensure it has capable and competent people in place (both paid staff and elected officials) to deal with these situations, ensure there are clear lines of communication and decision making processes in place, and that emergency planning and protocols are developed and revised on an ongoing basis.
Climate change and human resources. I believe local government’s role is to work with staff and knowledgeable advisors of working committees to develop sound plans that benefit our communities and environment, and are based on science. The city of Eau Claire and the County of Eau Claire are both working on a Renewable Energy Plan. A great amount of coordination and action is going to be necessary to achieve the desired goals. The city of Eau Claire has set an interim goal of 30% greenhouse gas reduction below 2015 levels. The county board needs to develop their plan in the coming year. I would like to be part of the development of that plan for clean energy.
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.