Contested race in Hortonville
Six run for three seats on village board
By John Faucher
Hortonville voters will choose between six candidates running for three open village board seats in the April 5 election.
Incumbent board members Al Habeck and Dawn Vollbrecht are both running for re-election.
Jeanne Bellile, Nick Knuth, Jack Kuhnke, and Julie VandenHeuvel are also running for village board.
To help provide voters with information about each candidate, the Press Star sent questions to each candidate. Here are the questions as well as the responses from each candidate.
What are the three most important issues facing the village of Hortonville?
Bellile: Three most important issues facing the Village of Hortonville are: Bringing in more residential and retail development. Keeping our budget usable and reasonable. Regulating water/sewer rates to make them affordable to all residents.
Habeck: The number one issue for the Village is growth. The issues that will be brought by other candidates will be property taxes and water and sewer rates. No one on the present board wanted to raise either one of those, however the state regulations left us with few options. Without growth to the Village of Hortonville both taxes and water rates will continue to climb. During the past two years the Village has had some new business and some businesses expand. We have also had 10 new homes built with more expected this year. The new homes are good news as the five years before this there were zero homes built.
The number two issue is the highway 15 bypass. Although the bypass will both hurt and help the Village, the board needs to find ways to lessen the negative impact of the bypass and increase the positive.
Number three would be the street and water and sewer improvements that will be needed in the next five years. We need to find ways to pay for these without taking out another loan and also not raising rates any higher than the State has already told we needed to.
Knuth: Community growth , Financial stability, Stabilizing Water and Sewer Rates.
Kuhnke: Honesty, Money, Direction.
VandenHeuvel: 1. Getting Hortonville on the map as a retail, food/drink, and recreational destination before, during, and after the highway 15 bypass goes through. 2. Increasing resident engagement to enhance our small town charm. 3. Creating a larger tax base by bringing in more business and new residential homes to the village.
If elected, what would you do to find solutions to those issues?
Bellile: We need to work with administration and all Village Board members to bring in more developers and development.
We need more lots to build on. Make the public aware of what a great community the Village of Hortonville is to live, work and own a business in. Work closely with administration, supervisors, and employees of the Village to stay informed on all department’s needs and issues to keep the budget a working budget.
By bringing in more business and residential customers to help keep our water/sewer rates where they can be affordable to all customers.
Habeck: As the impact of a single board member is limited to the board as a whole, I would do as I have been, that is working with the department heads and the Village board to reach the best possible solution for the greatest number of residents.
Knuth: Create positive marketing strategies to bring more business to the community and enhance what is presently here.
Establish incentives that make Hortonville more attractive to businesses and residential growth which in turn will help eliminate tax burden on the present citizens of Hortonville. Review present procedures of community government and try to establish more of a LEAN approach. Research why the waste/water treatment plant isn’t self-sufficient which the original selling point was when it was built in 2009. Establish protocol that will reduce the burden of the waste water treatment plant on the community.
Kuhnke: 1. Honesty—Being honest with the taxpayers not hiding anything from them, telling them the truth not what you think they want to hear. The future of the Village and Community depends on the truth. 2. Money—I need to find out where the Village is financially, and then where and how much goes into each area. Then I can address those areas individually. 3. Direction—I need to get this once great Village of Hortonville back moving forward and to keep it moving forward for years to come.
VandenHeuvel: I would work with area businesses and residents to create a foot-traffic friendly community. The highway 15 bypass is going to enable our community to grow in a unique way. With safer foot-traffic throughout our village, we can attract and retain diverse businesses; something for all ages, tastes and interests. I believe we must look back on what made our community flourish in the past, in order to flourish in the future. Enhancing and promoting our small town charm is the key to retaining and attracting new residents and businesses. I would encourage partnerships with local youth, civic groups, and our amazing school district. Students in school learn beyond the textbook; I envision service work and mentoring for students to create a diverse, sustainable community. As a 4-H mom and former Lioness member, I’ve witnessed the pride people take when they’re invested in their community. A sense of belonging is the foundation our village was built on. If there is a project that the village would normally do (planting flowers, painting, library programing, etc.), a local civic or youth group may be able to partner with the village to keep costs down, while creating a sense of community. It’s a win-win situation!
In order to create a larger tax base, we need increased business and residential growth. I would like to see our village reach out and collaborate with neighboring municipalities. The Fox West region has seen a tremendous amount of growth over the last few decades. Hortonville would benefit by working with neighboring municipalities to identify opportunities and partnerships beyond municipal boundaries. Working as a regional team, would attract business growth and also make Hortonville a desirable residential community.
What, if any ideas do you have for managing the village’s limited financial resources?
Bellile: As a village trustee I would make sure with the help of the rest of the Village Board that projects our money is spent on are necessary and beneficial to all residents. We must make sure our money is used in the most thoughtful way.
Habeck: As to managing the Villages financial resources, our department heads have been doing a very good job of limiting their budgets to only necessities and finding grants and other resources to cover their needs. If I find any resources that will help them I will present it to them.
Knuth: Create more of a collaborative relationship between Hortonville agencies and outside agencies to share resources such as equipment instead of purchasing items that get used once a year. Projects such as the dam construction and bridge construction should have been a collaborative effort between Outagamie County and Hortonville and done at the same time. Now the citizens and businesses of Hortonville will have to take on the burden of S. Nash St. being closed down twice for an extended period of time.
Review government and make sure they are operating efficiently and is all staff being utilized to its fullest. Eliminate wasteful spending.
Make sure that all purchases have to be approved by the Board during budget time and any purchases outside of budget has to be approved by the department heads and Board before the purchase can be made.
Utilize the HWY 15 bypass to its fullest and make sure Hortonville businesses’ continue to prosper.
Kuhnke: Again, I need to find out where the Village stands financially. Once I do that, I can look at all possible resources available, and then address the issues in each area.
VandenHeuvel: I believe it’s time for fresh ideas and input on our Village Board. Something that may have worked for the Village Board 15 years ago, may not always be the right answer for a current financial situation. I recently attended the question and answer session regarding the water/sewer rate increase and was impressed with the financial knowledge from the general public. In small towns, residents are always the most valuable resource. As a Village Board member, I would welcome ideas, suggestions, and knowledge shared from community members. Communities with limited financial resources cannot afford to exclude anyone from planning or development efforts. People (as opposed to money or other resources) are the one absolutely necessary ingredient to financial growth.
Is there anything in your personal or professional background that will help you if elected to public office?
Bellile: I have worked closely with the residents of the community through owning and managing a restaurant in the village for (14) fourteen years and working in the Village of Hortonville Administration office for (16) sixteen years. My experience will guide me in making wise decisions that will be in the best interest of all of our residents.
Habeck: My 20 years in public office have given me the experience and knowledge of who to address to receive the greatest good for the Village of Hortonville.
Knuth: I have lived in this community for the past 12 years and volunteered as first responder and firefighter. Started my own business in 2007 and managed it successfully to this date. I worked for the village in the past and seen areas of wasteful spending that can easily be eliminated. There are many citizens in this community which live on a limited budget that are struggling because of things such as a 43% raise in water and sewer rates over a one year period.
Kuhnke: I have a combination of 28 years of volunteering back to the community of Hortonville. I understand how important it is for the community to work together.
I also have been a shop manager for a local business in town for the past 20 years. They employ 50 people in their shop. I understand how important it is for everyone to be working together for a common goal. I also understand what local businesses bring and do for a small community like ours.
VandenHeuvel: I grew up in the heart of downtown Hortonville. My parents, Mike & Dorothy Arendt, owned and operated Arendt’s Meat Market for 35 years. I live in the house where I grew up (most people know it as Dr. Towne’s house). My parents, along with the community members from my childhood, were amazing mentors! They taught me that hard work pays-off and genuine relationships make a difference. My childhood was spent learning how to work with different types of people, being respectful, being a good listener and most importantly…always keeping a sense of humor!
I work at one of the elementary schools in the Hortonville School District. At school, being respectful, caring, honest, and responsible are daily expectations of our school family. Using these simple principles in my daily life and on the Village Board, I believe I’d be an asset on the Village Board.
Why should voters elect you?
Bellile: Our residents opinions matter and need to be heard. I will have an open ear and will share your ideas and concerns with the rest of our Village Board. My goal is to keep our residents informed.
I would appreciate your vote and the opportunity to represent each and every one of our residents. I will be your voice in keeping the Village of Hortonville a wonderful place to live.
Habeck: People say change is good, but that is not always true. I will continue to do what I have been doing and that is to try to do what is best for the greatest number of residents as possible. I have never had an agenda to get something done that was not in the best interest of the Village of Hortonville as a whole. So anyone that is interested in what is best for Hortonville should give me their vote.
Knuth: I am here for the community members as a voice and to enforce the hard decisions that have to be made. People should be held accountable for their actions and we need to take steps to lower the tax burden on community members.
Kuhnke: I am not a politician; I am an honest straightforward person that will do whatever it takes to get this Village moving forward. You will always get an honest and truthful answer, maybe not always the one you want to hear but it will be the truth. Like everything else I do, I will give my very best everyday all the time with the best interests of the tax payers and the Village of Hortonville in mind. The future of this community depends on it.
VandenHeuvel: I believe the Village Board is elected by its constituents to act on their behalf. If a community member has a concern or idea, I am here to listen and bring those concerns and ideas back to the Board. Any decision I make, will be made with the best interest of the village as a whole, not my own personal agenda.
I take an enormous amount of pride in the Village of Hortonville. I have a vested interest in this community and want to keep it a great place to raise a family, run a business, or simply visit to enjoy our amazing resources.