Clintonville city council race
District 4 candidates make their case to voters
By Bert Lehman
Clintonville District 4 incumbent Mary-Beth Kuester and challengers Mike Hankins and Timothy Zilch will face off in a primary on Tuesday, Feb. 16.
The two candidates who receive the most votes will be placed on the ballot for the election on Tuesday, April 5.
To help provide voters with information about each candidate, as well as where they stand on the issues, the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette sent a series of questions to each candidate. Here are the questions as well as the responses from each candidate.
Why have you decided to run for council?
Hankins: Thirty years ago, when my wife Sarah Mack Hankins and I chose to move back here to our hometown to raise our three children, we felt we owed something back to this community.
Throughout the last 30 years I have had the opportunity to serve in leadership roles in various Clintonville organizations including the Clintonville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Clintonville Area Foundation, the United Way, Scouting, Marketplace 2001, Rotary, the Behling Home Board of Directors, the Board of Directors for Clintonville’s First Old Truck Show, and the development and design of the new Clintonville High School and School Community Rec Center. These experiences have helped me learn how to encourage people to work together to improve our community.
I loved growing up in Clintonville, and I appreciated everything the previous generation did to make it a great community. We have a unique history, home of FWD trucks, and North Central Airlines. I think more greatness is in our future. I believe in taking my turn to help keep this a great community.
Kuester: I sought election two years ago when the incumbent informed me he was looking to change the motto of the city of Clintonville from Home of the Four Wheel Drive to Home of the Old Fashioned. I spoke at a council meeting shortly after hearing that and a group of people followed me out and asked me to run for office, saying they needed someone to speak up for the citizens. The next day others called and came to my door and with continued urging I decided to run.
Now I am seeking reelection to continue the positive actions and atmosphere that is developing at city hall and throughout the community. I have several projects underway that need completion including work of the special housing committee to conduct a citywide survey and develop condominiums as well as upgrade housing.
The city is seeking a rate increase for electric utility and will be seeking one for the water utility. As the one council member with utility experience I want to see these efforts completed to the satisfaction of the voters.
I am pleased to have participated in the formation of two budgets that met state spending requirements. Again, as the only council member with finance training and experience, I want to see these efforts continue. The city also will be borrowing to finance capital expenditures in the next year. Informed questions need to be asked before going ahead with any borrowing proposal.
Zilch: I have decided to run due to the fact that I feel that some on the city council are losing focus on what’s best for Clintonville, instead of being focused on what they have done for committees or other personal matters. We need to stay focused on what’s best for the city Of Clintonville and the future.
What qualifications do you have that would help you when serving on the council?
Hankins: I have a proven 30 year track record of bringing people together to move our community forward. I think experience is important.
In addition to my work in the organizations and efforts detailed above. I served five consecutive two-year terms on the Clintonville City Council from 2004–2014. I chaired five committees at various times during those 10 years — Finance, Transit, CAWS, Park & Rec, and the “Big 150” Sesquicentennial Committees.
I was also elected council president by my fellow alderpersons my last two years on the council. In addition I served as a member of the Personnel, Ambulance, Facilities, Airport, Safety and Ordinance, and Utility Committees. I am also a current member of the City Planning Commission and currently serve as Chairman of the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Kuester: I have both education and experience in finance, utilities and marketing and insurance. I taught finance and risk management and insurance at the college level and attended the Graduate School of Banking.
As a member of the Tourism Committee, I have coordinated the billboard and advertising designs for the city. I have chaired national committees for utility industry and done marketing and advertising and public relations and training for national companies such as Aid Association for Lutherans, All State, American and Wisconsin Bankers Associations, Madison Gas and Electric and the State Bar of Wisconsin.
Zilch: My qualifications are 26 years of living here in Clintonville, going to a lot of city council meetings to watch and learn about what needs to get done.
What are the two most important issues facing the city of Clintonville?
Hankins: The need for positive cooperative and experienced leadership, and the need for good long range planning.
Kuester: Aging population, aging facilities and equipment; and condition of condemned buildings on 11th street and the condition of our dam.
Zilch: To me there’s a lot more than two issues facing Clintonville, but here are two of them. First, the dam is in need of severe repair that has been needed for some time. Second, the direction on the swimming pool.
If elected, what would you do to find solutions to those issues?
Hankins: Successful communities grow when guided by forward looking leaders that effectively represent the citizens, the small businesses, and the industrial base of the community. During my 10 years on the council we continued to develop new and expanded businesses, like Walgreens, Kwik Trip, Klein Auto, Creative Converting and many others. These types of development mean jobs, re-investment in our community and a growing tax base, which helps keep taxes lower.
These things don’t just happen; they are the result of long term planning and coordination between these valued businesses, city staff and positive council leadership. They also happen because local citizens and businesses feel confident in the long range plans and leadership at city hall. I think we need to return to that kind of leadership.
We have important decisions to make, including the selection of our next fulltime city administrator/economic development coordinator, and our next police chief. We also need to develop solutions to support our small businesses, encourage the continued growth of our industrial park. We also need to work to develop more residential options to help encourage new residents to choose to live in Clintonville. It is vital that we make good decisions.
Communities with good long range planning grow and thrive. As part of 30 years of community development work in Clintonville, I have focused on long term planning to achieve industrial, business and residential growth, now and for the next 30 years. We need to take advantage of resources at UW Extension, East Central Planning, and Waupaca County, to help continue this long range planning. We also need to keep our process open to our citizens, listening to and inform them. All of the successful projects I have been involved in have built on working cooperatively with other leaders through an open process to find the best ideas and solutions. I think I have demonstrated the patience and judgement to do this well.
Kuester: Plans are now underway for planned replacement of equipment and facilities. We are looking at ways to better serve our aging population. The Transit Committee which I chaired just moved to add Sunday taxi service to the city. The 11th Street buildings need to be razed and grants sought for funding to restore the area. The city if out of TIF money for the next two years but other programs may meet our needs. We are addressing the dam project which was reported to the city in 2012 but ignored. Again, grants are being pursued.
Zilch: First we need to find out what all is wrong with the dam to repair it, how much it will cost and where to get funds to repair it, so when this comes around it won’t be taken out of budget funds to repair. Regarding the swimming pool, we should use the insurance money from the swimming pool to pay for some or all of the survey from start to completion so there will be a plan to go forth.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding the city’s outdoor swimming pool. What do you think the city should do with the outdoor swimming pool?
Hankins: I served on the city’s Park and Recreation Committee for 13 years as a citizen volunteer, and one additional year as chairman after I joined the city council. I believe good recreation facilities make a difference in the quality of life for our citizens and in attracting potential residents to move here. That is why I also worked so hard as one of the leaders in developing the School Recreation Center, with its indoor pool, fitness center, and community gym.
The outdoor pool has been a great resource for young and old for a long time. We need to continue to study the condition of the city’s outdoor pool, and the costs associated with continuing its operation, and also what costs would be involved if we didn’t continue to operate it. We also need to remember how important positive supervised activities are for our young people.
Kuester: When I joined the council, at budget time the city Parks and Recreation director announced it would be the last year for the outdoor pool. That year extensive last minute repairs were required but the pool opened. Since then it appears there is no longer a limit on the life of the pool and last year it opened and plans are for it to open this year.
Last year getting lifeguards was an issue and pool hours were cut in order to pay lifeguards more to get enough to serve. Now the pool house suffered a fire loss. At the last council meeting the council voted to have the insurance company authorize a restoration company to go through the building and inform us as what needs to be done. Given a $5,000 deductible and the possibility that the pool itself may not be in condition to open again this year, I asked if we could get a number from the insurance company as to what they would pay if we do not restore the building but take a payout.
That money could be used to fund the needed study to tell us what should be built and how much it would cost. Then the city voters could decide if they want to spend “X” amount of money, given an amount that would be added to their taxes to pay for it.
Zilch: I think they should use the insurance money from the recent fire and put it towards a survey. With a survey the city will know which direction to go with the outdoor swimming pool.
Why should voters elect you?
Hankins: I served for 10 years on the city council. Fellow alderpersons elected me council president the last two years I served. I have chaired five city committees, served on a total of 12, and on the Park and Recreation Commission for 13 years before becoming an alderperson. I also played a major role in developing Clintonville’s Community/Senior Center on Main Street.
I served as one of three co-chairs of the C.A.R.E. Citizen’s Committee that developed the plan for Clintonville’s new high school, Recreation Center, and remodeled middle school. I was one of two co-chairs of the Design Committee for these facilities. During that school planning process, I found that a lot of the best ideas came from community residents who came to our many open planning sessions over several years. I think we need to keep listening to our citizens and we need to be accountable to them.
I have had the opportunity to work with many of our community’s leaders and volunteers over 30 years, and I have learned the importance of long range planning, and positive leadership. I would appreciate the chance to continue to use what I have learned to help my hometown, and the people who live here.
Kuester: By observing changes in the way the council and city government operates in an open environment, the innovative money saving proposals city managers have come up with, and the positive morale among city employees, I ask voters to allow me to continue my efforts. For the first time the city contract with the police union was settled without an arbitrator or outside labor counsel; rapidly increasing heath care costs for employees have been addressed with the first step taken to control costs and perhaps be eligible for coverage under the state plan (something I suggested my first year in office).
As chair of the Street Committee, the bridge repair project was completed without loss of business to Main Street according to some business people, thanks to promotional activities and good planning to keep on schedule. We have another Main Street construction coming in addition to repair of the dam.
Zilch: I think the voters know who they want on the city council and that’s me. Yes, that is a bold statement. And why not? My opponents believe in putting signs out to entice voters to vote for them. I don’t believe that. Like I said, you know who you want in and I’m glad you’re standing by me.