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Candidates share their vision

Steve Kettenhoven and James Supanich

Mayor’s race in Clintonville

By Bert Lehman

Two candidates are running for mayor of the city of Clintonville in the April 2 spring election.

The Clintonville Tribune-Gazette recently sent f questions to the two candidates – incumbent Steve Kettenhoven and challenger James Supanich – so they could share their vision for the city with voters.

This is the first part in a two-part series.

Why did you decide to run for mayor of Clintonville?

Kettenhoven: After spending a number of years on city council, I know how important it is to have good leadership, and someone to instruct and work with our council, city administration, department heads, and employees to make our community a better place to live.

Supanich: I am concerned about the financial situation in the city and I feel that I can offer guidance in that regard. The city seems to be looking at short term fixes vs long term planning. I feel that is a problem.

What are your qualifications to serve as mayor?

Supanich: Having a degree in physics, 50+ years of purchasing in the forging industry, 21 years of which was here in Clintonville doing purchasing for Walker Forge. My responsibilities included budgeting and capital expenditure programs of which are qualities that are used in the city. On city council for five years, and 17 years of experience with the Badger Power Marketing Authority, which purchases all the electrical needs for the city.

Kettenhoven: I spent 15 years on city council, and I have chaired, or served on, nearly every committee in our local government structure. Those years of experience have helped me understand the logistics and financials of operating a city, and that experience has also been an important part of navigating the last two years as mayor.

What do you feel is the biggest issue facing the city of Clintonville, and how would you try to fix it?

Kettenhoven: I don’t like the word “issue.” I think every community, including Clintonville, faces challenges. As someone with a disability, I have faced challenges my whole life, but I like to treat challenges as opportunities.
Opportunities to grow. Not just as an individual, but as an entire community. Opportunities that range from increased citizen participation to better housing. I believe our opportunities are endless and if we continue to work as a team, we can accomplish anything.

Supanich: I feel that the biggest issue facing Clintonville is going to be financing. There is no easy solution to this problem. We must prioritize our spending on the most needed items. We need to continue to aggressively pursue granting opportunities. We need to keep a tight handle on the capital program to ensure the purchase of the most needed equipment and review other items on the capital program to see the real need and timeframe when those items need to be purchased. We need to limit, to the largest extent possible, the use of consulting firms.

We need to utilize to our best advantage the funds in the city’s unassigned account. This account is where the unspent funds for each operating year is assigned. This money cannot be used to balance the budget, but part of it could be used to purchase equipment and other things for the city. As of December 31, 2022, this account had over $1.7 million dollars. The auditors have advised that we need approximately one million dollars for emergencies.

The city has been trying to reduce its debt. Do you feel the city is making progress in reducing its debt? Explain why or why not?

Supanich: In regard to debt reduction, the council passed a resolution that instructed the city administrator to work on debt reduction. Initially, we looked at moving all the operational items out of the capital plan and put those back into the annual city budget. We then went ahead and reduced the timeframe on the funds being borrowed by a year to save interest.

Since that time, the city seems to be reverting. It appears that the city is lengthening the time on the funds borrowed and seems to be satisfied with a high rate of funds being borrowed.

As for example, the debt service principal payments for 2021 – $854,022, 2022 – $856,572, 2023 – $892,000, and 2024 – $930,749. So, at this point, I do not feel the city is moving ahead with debt reduction.

Kettenhoven: I believe there is misinformation centered around city debt. Debt allows the city services to function while creating generational equality. In other words, today’s taxpayers should feel comfort knowing that tomorrow’s taxpayers will help carry the financial burden to keep those services functioning properly.
A new financial tactic we implemented this last borrowing cycle will focus on debt centered around asset life. This creates more capacity for future large capital projects, such as a new fire station.

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