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BizAdvocacy

How to make your point with our elected officials:

If you want to get things done on a political level, sometimes voting isn't enough. You have to make your case directly to the people at or near the top. But what's the best way to do that? Most people who want to reach out to their elected representatives come up short for anything beyond writing the occasional letter to their congressional representative or senator, and many of them are at a loss for how to do even that. Getting your point across to powerful people is one of the ways we can boost our civic power, so it's definitely a skill worth learning. Here are some approaches that tend to work.

Going Through Official Channels

There's a reason everybody who represents you, from the city council to the President of the United States, has a publicly available email address; it's perhaps the easiest way to reach them with your concerns. While the President probably has staff read his email for him, city and county officials can often be directly reached via email. If you're able to compose a persuasive letter putting your concerns across, you might be in contact with the right person just minutes after hitting send.

Many officials also have some kind of contact form for the public on their government website. These can save a lot of effort, since they usually provide you with a standardized template for getting your point across, rather than making you come up with something completely novel for your email

Less-Formal Approaches

If you've tried going through channels and you're still waiting for results, or if you're concerned your communication will get lost in the shuffle if you leave it at that, you might consider taking a less-formal approach to making your point with an elected official.

One way is to personally lobby for an issue. Many civically engaged citizens take the time to visit city council and county board of supervisors' meetings, where they can be added to the meeting schedule and get some allotment of time to speak on an issue. Failing that, you can often schedule a personal meeting with your representative in their office for a meeting that could run anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour. This usually works well, if you can get a slice of their time, since face-to-face conversations can go a long way toward convincing your rep of your conviction and the importance of your issue. You might also consider joining a civic organization, such as your friendly local chamber of commerce, which has the ability to schedule events your representatives might attend.

Make Your Point With Elected Officials

However you go about contacting your elected representatives, remember that they meet all sorts of people, and you're far more likely to get what you want if you're polite, reasonable and can make a logical case. Before your meeting, or before you send your email, try going over what you want to say with a skeptical eye. Address any weaknesses in your argument before bringing it to your elected official; it's bound to make your argument much stronger and more persuasive.

Meet the candidates for Wausau City Council:

The individuals below are running for Wausau City Council. The spring election will be held on Tuesday, April 5.

Each candidate was sent a list of questions. Below are their answers:

District 1: Carol Lukens

Do you think our downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?
We have a number of businesses and amenities that are considered gems of this community! At the same time, there are areas in need of definite revitalization and to reflect the diversity of 21st century populations, we need spaces that are welcoming and appealing to all ages and lifestyles.
In my work with middle and high school students, I have heard repeatedly from them that they wish there were more amenities for their ages. I’m not sure how to solve that as the problem may exist in most communities, but one way would be to involve them in discussions along with adult constituents.
Overall, to best ensure our downtown is healthy and successful, we need to ensure input from all in the planning process.

How do you plan to involve businesses in the decision making process in our town?
Businesses have a vital interest in this community since they are key to attracting and retaining a workforce and to the local economy. I believe it’s important to involve business input in strategic planning processes.

Engaging with businesses and community members is something I’m quite familiar and comfortable with from my experience in both the public and private sectors. Both businesses and residents are welcome to attend council meetings, public hearings, and contact alders and city departments with questions, concerns or ideas. I would like to use a variety of methods to engage both businesses and residents including surveys/questionnaires, personal contact, email, phone, and would like to hold regular monthly meetings to gather input, answer questions, and help educate about issues. Businesses and residents alike would be welcome. I would also love to tour businesses to learn more about what we have to offer. Since I work with students who are preparing for college and/or career, that would be extremely helpful!

If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our city (road, bridge, etc.), how would you evaluate whether or not that project was worth implementing?
There would be a number of considerations in order to evaluate whether such a project would be worth developing: How does it fit into the city’s strategic plan and budget? What is its purpose? Who does it serve? Would it benefit all residents and is it affordable to all? Are there grant funds that would help offset the expense? Does it make wise use of our natural resources?

It would be important for the council to collaborate in a cost-benefit analysis with stakeholders, residents, and planning experts before making a final decision. Another important part of the evaluation for me would be the environmental impact and sustainability of the project. That needs to be a priority in planning any project.

If elected, what three steps would you take to allow our city to attract and retain 21st century workforce?

  1. As an educator working with young people, I am fortunate to hear their perspectives on various issues and believe many embody wisdom and a tolerance that is an asset to building community. To attract and retain talent, it’s important not only for organizations to provide a sense of belonging and purpose, but it’s just as important for a community to impart the same. We live in a much more diverse community than what existed when I graduated from high school. That diversity has helped me grow as an individual and broadened my world view. If we want to attract and retain a 21st century workforce, we’ve got to embrace that workforce by offering a vibrant and welcoming community.
  2. Employees need to know and feel they are valued and that also needs to show in both wages and benefits. The Economic Policy Institute revealed earlier this year that income disparity in this community is worse than in many metro areas throughout the U.S. and worse than overall income disparity in the state. Working to lessen this income gap by instituting equitable wages is an important step in achieving employee retention and tackling the employee shortage. Child care is another barrier for many working parents and we have a crucial shortage there as well. I would like to see a collaborative effort involving the city, employers, agencies, and educational programs (at both the secondary and post-secondary levels) to strategize child care solutions.
  3. We are fortunate to have two quality colleges here in Wausau. If we want to attract and retain a 21st century workforce, community support of these schools and their programs is important. The public school I work at is fortunate to be partnered with a national nonprofit program, Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG), that supports secondary students toward and after graduation. An expansion of programs such as JAG and Wausau’s Youth Apprenticeship Program would benefit both young adults and employers, and raising awareness of trades or other careers that offer internships and apprenticeships could help attract adults to careers where they could learn while making a living and provide opportunities for growth
District 1: John Kroll

Do you think our downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?
I believe downtown Wausau is an active and charming destination that my family and I enjoy. We take advantage of the local shopping businesses, library, restaurants, and the 400 block. However, there is always opportunity for improvement. I’m excited to see not only what the mall redevelopment area will bring to the downtown area in the form of commercial, residential, and retail space, but also how the buildings and street infrastructure will promote more walking, biking, and green space while keeping spaces flexible for future changes.

How do you plan to involve businesses in the decision making process in our town?
Like citizens, businesses should have an opportunity to give feedback on policies the city would potentially adopt. The standard public input sessions at city council meetings are always something business owners can participate in. One aspect of my campaign I’ve been very proud of is given the residents of my district the opportunity to meet and talk with me face to face. I’ve hosted three local meet and greets in my district where constituents can come chat and ask questions. I would also have these local meet and greet opportunities for businesses to give feedback about a project or policy decision.

If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our city (road, bridge, etc.), how would you evaluate whether or not that project was worth implementing?
Getting a project from start to finish can be quite the undertaking. It all starts with current city staff and I would get their input and feedback on what they think of any project. From there, there’s a laundry list of steps that would need to be considered which include: collect local business input on the project, assess the monetary cost vs the city need and the project will increase the tax base, assess the project’s environmental impact, evaluate if the project fits the city’s strategic and comprehensive plans, and also collect public feedback on what the citizen’s think of the project.

If elected, what three steps would you take to allow our city to attract and retain 21st century workforce?
My wife and I chose to move to Wausau with our two young daughters for very specific reasons. Coincidentally, we’ve had multiple conversations with other parents while at local parks and events with a similar mindset who have moved here from major metropolitan areas in pursuit of a city like Wausau. I believe it would be wise to focus on the elements that Wausau is inherently good at and strengthen those assets.
1. Promote a “small town values with big city amenities” description for Wausau. In my discussions with other parents that have moved to Wausau, a smaller city with less crime and traffic, excellent outdoor recreation opportunities, and much lower cost of living (especially housing prices) is a very appealing situation to raise a family. I’ve met multiple families that have moved here from the Twin Cities and Milwaukee areas due to these traits.
2. Advocate for flexibility. The modern work force needs to be mobile, fast, and adaptable. A city and its policy needs to be the same. This is why I’ll support the demands of the current workforce that include: transportation improvements in the greater Wausau area to accommodate the needs of all transportation modes, work from home options are increasingly becoming desirable, and Increased child care options that will allow parents to work flexible schedules.
3. Champion a sustainable city. In a recent presentation I attended with a major local business, the presenter commented on how their sustainability efforts are attracting employees to their business. A city can benefit from this mindset as well. A major topic of my campaign is for Wausau to create a comprehensive sustainability plan that can affect in many different categories such as: affordable housing, new forms of employment, environmental protections, transportation, etc. When this is done in a fiscally responsible manner, all residents benefit and it creates a positive feedback loop where current citizens want to stay in the area while also attracting new families.

District 2: Michael J. Martens

Do you think our downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?

I still believe the downtown district is healthy and successful. Pre-pandemic occupancy rates for downtown retail and commercial space was at a historic high. Even two years later, the downtown area is still nearly full. Opening up the vacated mall space has created a great opportunity so I believe the city needs to work with developers to provide the infrastructure needs that will take our downtown to the next level.

How do you plan to involve businesses in the decision making process in our town?

Input from local businesses and partners is very important. Their ground level view of what's happening adds to the overall picture and aids in the decision making process. Currently the city offers public comment, hearings, and listening sessions where anyone: citizens, businesses, and community partners can add their feedback on issues. In creating public policy, it becomes a delicate balance in weighing all that input for the great good of the city. Often I feel we need more community engagement and will work towards creating more opportunities for a diverse audience to make their voices heard.

If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our city (road, bridge, etc.), how would you evaluate whether or not that project was worth implementing?

In the business world, the most common question asked of a new development is 'what is the return on investment.' With projects that involve public funding we need to ask 'what is the return to the citizenry.' How will this project benefit all? Cities have unique funding tools and mechanisms that can help projects get off the ground- especially in situations where environmental issues are found. But I believe the city participation needs to be infrastructure based and not used to pad the bottom line of the developer. That means proposals with a realistic budget and a limited financial participation that puts our investment to good use to bring forth projects that would not happen any other way.

If elected, what three steps would you take to allow our city to attract and retain 21st century workforce?

Attracting a 21st century workforce is a challenging proposition and Wausau is an aging city. As a parent with two children in that demographic, I don't see them returning to the city any time soon. The reason is clear: lack of technology focused jobs, limited housing opportunities, and an insular attitude. We need to address these shortcomings to bring more younger professionals.

1. Lack of technology focused jobs. As Wausau shifts from a manufacturing community it has done a poor job at retaining growing and retaining technology careers. One method to overcome this is to embrace the new emphasis in remote working. Providing necessary infrastructure such as better broadband services and co-working solutions will enhance the community's appeal to those with a technology career looking for a better quality of life.

2. Limited Housing. Our housing stocks are aging. Even with new construction in market rate units, we are still at a shortage of good housing. The city needs to commit to continue to attract developers and modify our zoning to create more market rate units while also backfilling the need for affordable housing. These two forces can work together to create a mix of housing that benefits all.

3. Insular attitudes. The biggest issue that is hurting our ability to attract and retain a younger workforce is our lack of diversity. Wausau and surrounding Marathon County needs to commit to be a community for all. The city's Community for All resolution is a good first step but until inclusiveness, openness, and diversity are celebrated and embraced; these words will only stand hollow.

District 3: Tom Killian
Do you think our downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?
Local small businesses have been an important constant in the vitality of Wausau’s downtown over decades, despite other profound changes or developments that have come, and sometimes come and gone. In terms of municipal Economic Development policy, my stance has been, and continues to be – for the downtown and elsewhere – that much more emphasis should be placed on supporting our existing local small businesses and business owners, rather than simply subsidizing the new endeavors of an influential select few in town. There appears to be a fixation at City Hall on acquisition strategies, and a conspicuous void of effective retention efforts (this applies as much to residents and our local population count as it does to our local businesses). I have fielded substantial input from local small business owners indicating that they feel that the City has paid insufficient attention to supporting and retaining existing local businesses, and I agree. Additionally, it is important that future downtown development is actually based on identifying and satisfying the needs of our local residents and consumers, and that should be supported by solid research, rather than “backfilling” a pre-determined course of action with convenient research, as it appears we have seen in the past. A mix and synergy of housing and retail downtown is necessary, and these elements cross-pollinate, but the affordability factor in current plans is missing, and this poses a risk and vulnerability for those plans, from my perspective.
I have a strong marketing background and, in general, in the downtown and throughout Wausau, I am and I have been strongly supportive of private development and business that have actually been planned and funded by the private sector. Local small business owners know very well the cost of doing business, and pay it. And that is one reason that it is inconsistent and imprudent to allow some larger outfits to use our public dollars as a never-ending ATM for private ventures -- ironically, they sometimes do so at the very same time that they are touting the virtues of the private sector and the free market.
How do you plan to involve businesses in the decision making process in our town?
Over nearly the last two years, District 3 has established the most robust stance and policies on public participation of any district in the entire city. From listening sessions, to resolutions bolstering meaningful public engagement, to advocating for more notice and participation for citizens in zoning decisions – as simply a few examples – it has been an honor and pleasure for me to lead these efforts. Wausonians understand that healthy policy outcomes cannot exist without a healthy democracy. Therefore, I will press forward on spearheading measures to increase public participation and input in City decisions – this assures that constituents’ needs and desires truly drive policy. This expanded involvement that I have fostered involves and benefits all, including businesses. For instance, after one listening session I held during my tenure, the developer at hand said that he wished that the City would have had such a session before I took office because it would have much better informed his proposal and development designs, and would have likely led to greater success.
If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our city (road, bridge, etc.), how would you evaluate whether or not that project was worth implementing?
It is a rarity that a private entity comes to the City with the intention of building a road or bridge. If the question relates to building infrastructure to support new development or redevelopment, which would likely be the case with the examples provided, it is critically important to examine whether the stated purpose and background of such infrastructure is accurate and fact-based, that the primary purpose – if public dollars are involved – is actually the public good (and not simply supporting the margins of a private entity through the use of public dollars) and, finally, that the funding source is appropriate. For example, the grant application recently rejected by the State of Wisconsin for $10.5 million in COVID-relief funds for the WOZ pedestrian bridge was inappropriate, in my opinion, and claims related to the application about the speed of the mall’s closure being intimately related to COVID defied credibility. If the purpose of providing certain public services or offerings is mainly to increase the profitability of a specific massive private development, Wausau could look at Developer Impact Fees for particular anticipated capital costs, when appropriate, and these impact fees would help relieve the financial burden on our local taxpayers and, indirectly and importantly, reduce the burden on our local small business owners who, through property taxes, often end up paying a tremendous amount to ultimately subsidize large local development schemes that have no relevance to their own strategic or financial success.
If elected, what three steps would you take to allow our city to attract and retain 21st century workforce?
Attracting and retaining a 21st century workforce is a lot more about steak than sizzle, meaning that it essentially hinges on hitting fundamentals that the City should have been focusing on for years, which I list in the three steps below.
1. Support good paying jobs
2. Advocate for the retention and generation of affordable housing units
3. Facilitate a more robust public transit system, better connected on a metro-area level
These fundamentals are more simple than sexy, but provide the foundation for achievable success. As studies have shown for some time, and continue to show, affordability is at the heart of attracting and retaining a workforce, particularly with younger segments. Furthermore, during and post-COVID and the pandemic, the ability to be employed and work remotely has only made affordability and cost of living more important to those who can work from a distance and are looking to do so. Had Wausau focused more on the three steps above when those trends became clear years ago, we would have been strongly positioned as a municipality to capitalize on these factors that have become the central driving forces in the consideration set of where a workforce goes and stays during and post COVID. Related items that would support this opportunity and strategy include strong, nearly ubiquitous connectivity (e.g.,
broadband, Wi-Fi, 5G) and accessible, cost-effective healthcare options, both things Wausau is in a great position to offer if it were to capitalize on existing local resources.
Additionally, if Wausau is to attract and retain a 21st century workforce, strong civic values of inclusivity and being a welcoming community are absolutely essential.

District 3: Jo Ann Egelkrout

Do you think our downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?
The city of Wausau has a lot to offer thanks to the amenities in and around the town such as, The Grand Theatre, the county library, Granite Peak, lots of nice restaurants; plenty of places to play, work and worship. We also have good public safety. But, there are things that can hold the city back:

  • Taxes or regulations on business that put us at a disadvantage to surrounding communities like Rib Mountain and Weston. Example: I know of a local franchise owner who has two identical businesses – one in Wausau and one in Rothschild. He pays almost exactly double in taxes for the Wausau shop.
  • Overly aggressive attitude toward “environmental justice” and punishment of manufacturers who are being characterized as poor corporate citizens. We need common-sense policy with regard to protection of the natural environment without penalizing our business owners who could pull up stakes and leave if the cost of business makes Wausau unfriendly.
  • Lack of housing. I believe the regulatory and tax attitude in the city makes Wausau less attractive for residential development compared to some of our nearby neighbors.
  • Lack of attention to the homeless situation. While there are not very many homeless in our community, I know of a large business in the city that is relocating because homeless individuals have taken up residence in the parking structures and are using the stairwell as their personal bathroom. Complaints from the business owner have fallen on deaf ears.

How do you plan to involve businesses in the decision-making process in our town?
• Invite public listening sessions. Include local business owners in the decision-making process when it comes to tax policy, regulatory policy, new infrastructure development. Communication is essential. I believe the mayors office and the council have been less attentive than they could be.

If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our city (road, bridge, etc.), how would you evaluate whether or not that project was worth implementing?

Infrastructure is crucial to economic development. It is one of the things that local government does vs. private business that can greatly benefit business – or hurt it. Again, when a major public infrastructure is being considered, there should be ample opportunity for business owners to provide input. Private engineering firms could also be very valuable in providing solutions.

If elected, what three steps would you take to allow our city to attract and retain 21st century workforce?

  1. Keep taxes as low as possible. This can be done, for instance, by privatizing many of the services now provided by government. Why not put all snow plowing out for bid? Why not look for more private contractors to provide maintenance services for all of our parks? Not only might the cost be lower but, we would be supporting job growth and tax revenue from businesses that provide the service.
  2. Keep the council out of the “social engineering” business. We don’t need the city council dictating to the public what makes us a “community for all” by passing resolutions. Wausau is a community for all when it has a fair tax base, good infrastructure, effective public safety, lots of amenities, quality parks, etc. The council should stick to its real task; balancing the budget and being as efficient as possible.
  3. Provide as much opportunity for quality education at the primary, secondary and higher level. That means providing the municipal services to these institutions that makes them efficient. It may mean finding ways to help UWSP-Wausau grow and attract more students to the downtown campus. It could include creative incentives for local business to provide on-the-job training of their employees to help them learn a skill and decide to stay in Wausau.

District 4: Doug Diny

Do you think our downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?
By and large, yes. But the empty mall area is affecting walk traffic at many businesses. Places like the Cobblery, Sweet Lola’s, Campbell and Haines for example, could benefit from more foot traffic that the mall area once brought.

I wrote this a few years ago in a letter to the editor:

“Peter Wasson’s Daily Herald article of Dec 28th citing work by Nora Hertel offers good analysis of the nuts and bolts of mall evolution. Successful malls are either high-end specialty attractions, or they are transitioning to 21st Century hybrid malls of the future…

I propose we shoot for a trending campus style, all the essentials, within living and walking distance in the way we are looking at the River Front development plan; connectedness, not only in walk systems, but usage centers. Direct a marketing plan to attract businesses that bring true differentiation and professional millennials home to Wausau…

The mall area needs to connect to other areas of downtown. Open it up with street level windows and entrances. Foot traffic is what we need; let’s expand the options for working, living, recreating, dining and shopping downtown. Big picture vision can tie it all together…

It's nut-cutting time… re-purpose along the lines of existing ideas: turning it “inside out”, recruit new work centers, corporate headquarters, education centers, and convention capacity, condo living. Re-purpose the vacant portion of the mall now by expanding and connecting it to better fit our future millennial oriented 21st Century downtown vision.”

How do you plan to involve businesses in the decision making process in our town?
The city’s job is to get out of the way of business and help facilitate infrastructure to support businesses.

I want to see more emphasis on local developers! Several of our past failures can be linked to “Big Hat, No Cattle” out of town developers that do not have historical investment in Wausau.

City Council has been under-powered in terms of Tax Incremental Financing, business knowledge, and negotiating skills. They don’t work closely enough with Economic Development staff to fully understand what they are voting on and agreeing to on behalf of the city. I’ve called for a vetting team on large projects that would include bankers, business leaders and individuals that would give gravitas to Wausau and our entire Economic Development team.

If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our city (road, bridge, etc.), how would you evaluate whether or not that project was worth implementing?
Does it compliment the city’s mission? Does it advance the strategic plan?
Is there payback for the investment in terms of increased tax base, jobs, or housing? The ROI time can be a little longer for city investments, but the city should not be satisfied with 30-year ROI. Is the Pro Forma analysis realistic?
Does it potentially act as a catalyst for other growth? Does it enhance quality of life? Does it attract more workforce?

If elected, what three steps would you take to allow our city to attract and retain 21st century workforce?
1. I will seek a seat on the Economic Development Committee to ensure:
a. We adopt a vision and a marketing approach that positions us as much more than just the tag line in a Wausau Insurance ad campaign. We should be known internationally as a great place to locate for business! The 400 Block and RiverLife are examples of magnet theory. Attracting people for the fun of it and purpose will follow. Bringing our brand image into the 21st Century backs up the story line of the greatness our city founders envisioned.
b. Large portions of today’s workforce can work from virtually anywhere. Why not Wausau? Many millennials who left Wausau are maturing in careers that are now reaching mid-level corporate positions and working in knowledge-based jobs that today’s technology no longer holds them to physical locations. We have the natural beauty, resources, proximity to services, proximity to air travel and modern superhighway corridors to anywhere in the Midwest your big city desires might lead you...

2. The downtown area is the most logical place to continue to develop and transform to the 21st Century way of living. Rich in culture, educational values, and healthy lifestyle, we can create an environment for non-traditional workers. With the repurposing of the mall and expansion of modern city developments with an eye toward the future, we can map a path to a great vision.
3. Ideally, I want the city out of the real estate business. We’ve catered for years to the bar and restaurant business. I want to recruit manufacturing, distribution and professional businesses that create high paying jobs that fuel everything that ails us. Bars and restaurants will follow the money.

District 4: Jesse Kearns

District 5: Gary Gisselman

District 5: Jim Wadinski

District 6: Becky McElhaney

District 7: Lisa Rasmussen

Do you think our downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?

Our downtown is healthy, successful and a great place to be. However, we need to continue to develop and grow businesses and attract residents to that area to support them. Continuing to re develop the former mall site and the south riverfront will be key components of the future of our area. Wausau will need to partner with the private sector to get the best projects moving and at the same time continue to develop public spaces and infrastructure to pair with new residential and commercial endeavors.

How do you plan to involve businesses in the decision making process in our town?

The Mayor’s office used to have a business roundtable, or advisory committee that engaged local business leaders in an exchange of ideas and strategies. If that effort is languishing, it should be re launched, but she will have to coordinate that. Also, the council needs to encourage business leaders to continue to attend committee and council meetings to stay involved and offer feedback as to the outcomes they want to see. I think is it especially important for the business sector to remind council members that business owners are constituents too and that they pay taxes on buildings and personal property. Too often alders are dismissive of the business sector, failing to recognize that the economic engine of this city depends on them, not only as tax payers, but as employers.

If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our city (road, bridge, etc.), how would you evaluate whether or not that project was worth implementing?

I’d look at the costs and estimate the return on the investment and the fund sources involved. If the project is expected to grow tax base, create jobs, address blight or retain talent without an extreme need for new debt or revenue loss, I would likely support it.

If elected, what three steps would you take to allow our city to attract and retain 21st century workforce?

1. Continue to partner with the private sector to create jobs that people want. The current council has a horrible track record on development and job creation that cannot only be blamed on the pandemic. Their focus has been too much on social issues and not on making an economic comeback from the pandemic. Previously, between 2016 and 2020, Wausau, partnering with businesses helped create over $200,000,000 in new property value growth and they were winning awards for it. Today...nothing of the sort is happening. This HAS to be partially leadership related.

2. Request that Wausau’s Economic Development Manager and Director continue to build productive relationships with the Chamber, Main Street, Central Wausau Progress, WEDC, all school systems and other stakeholders to be sure that we are doing our part to have the tools, educational offerings and community appeal to draw and retain workers as we are competing now with every city and state for them. Remote work is allowing people to do many jobs from anywhere. We need to figure out how that place can be Wausau.

3. End the social policy fights over national issues that local government cannot solve which has highlighted divisions and caused damage to the city’s reputation. Also continue to advocate for council to focus on the work it should be doing locally, which is essentially non-partisan and request they move away from creating unenforceable, symbolic policy resolutions that create negative headlines which create ongoing damage to our ability to market Wausau as a place where people want to live, work and own a business. As an example: should we be focused on passing a resolution about our feelings on greenhouse gasses or working on marketing this city and seeking more development than the low hanging fruit that just happens to call us or walk in the door? Answer: Focus on big new things: manufacturing expansion, attracting industries that support manufacturers we already have, focus on our thriving medical sector and create a hub for technology based businesses that can go anywhere. These things were happening under previous administrations and we need to get back to it. If Wausau is not growing, it is dying. We cannot allow that. Understandably, government cannot solve these things alone, but we cannot be completely tuned out to the fact that there is a place for local and county government units to assist the private sector when possible to push initiatives forward.

District 8: Sarah Watson

Do you think our downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?

Our downtown is currently a wonderful place to eat, be entertained and shop. It isn’t at peak performance yet, but once the mall redevelopment begins, it will be much more successful. The mixed use plan in place of the mall will introduce a lot of great housing stock options and open up areas for our creative local entrepreneurs to flourish. If the vision goes as planned, I think that the downtown business district will become even more of a regional destination.

How do you plan to involve businesses in the decision making process in our town?

I feel the city does a great job of listening to business owners in the city on issues that impact them. For example, during the pandemic closures, we loosened several different requirements to allow for a modified restaurant and beverage service at downtown businesses. Local business owners should feel comfortable attending meetings and speaking on matters that are important to them and I will continue to advocate for all city meetings to be on WebEx to enhance public participation.

If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our city (road, bridge, etc.), how would you evaluate whether or not that project was worth implementing?

If it was part of the comprehensive plan of the City and benefited the community, I would be in favor of the collaboration. In the agreements that we have with developers, the City does the necessary infrastructure investments when needed. The investment would need to be appropriate and be value-added to all residents.

If elected, what three steps would you take to allow our city to attract and retain 21st century workforce?

Addressing the affordable housing stock shortage is a main issue. As chair of the Affordable Housing Task Force, I am excited to continue that journey working with local non-profit organizations to find gaps and create strategies on how to better address this issue in our community. Also, creating a sense of belonging in Wausau is critical to attracting the next generation of workers. If young workers feel like they have a place in the community, they will stay. Partnering with local educational institutions is critical as well. Once our colleges and universities train our young workers, we want them to stay here. Working with neighboring communities to market all of the wonderful activities and recreation that our region has to offer will also draw those workers here.

District 8: Tony Brown

District 9: Dawn Herbst

District 10: Lou Larson

District 11: Debra Ryan

District 11: Chad Henke

Do you think our downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?

We do have a healthy, successful downtown - business vacancy rates are low. The city has to successfully execute the mall redesign project. This will increase the number of people living in the downtown area and boost the businesses that are already there.

How do you plan to involve businesses in the decision making process in our town?

We have to reach out to business owners and talk to them about hurdles they are facing. I would rely on owners and employees to help come up with solutions since they are facing the issues every day. Then when the city has the ability to help eliminate any of these hurdles we need to make sure these people know that these issues are on the agenda, and invite them to make comments.

If someone came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure in our city (road, bridge, etc.), how would you evaluate whether or not that project was worth implementing?

I have been doing project management since I graduated. First, I would get input from project stakeholders to see if the project is of a high enough priority. Then I would do background checks on the people bringing forth the proposal. Do your research on them, ask for references, ask people who have experience with similar projects about the person. Any red flags should be discussed and the project's priority should be re-evaluated.

If elected, what three steps would you take to allow our city to attract and retain 21st century workforce?

As a young person in the 21st century workforce, my thoughts on attracting and retaining people come from first hand experience. I am also talking with my friends everyday about work: how their job is going, what they like, what could be improved, what benefits are important to them, etc. Finally, I would represent Wausau in a courteous and professional way, so that is not an issue causing a distraction.

2022 Business Advocacy Survey

Our Chamber is continually reviewing and developing priorities to meet the needs of our membership and the community at large. One of those ways is through business advocacy. To help us determine our priorities, we ask you to take a few minutes to complete this brief survey on the importance of issues facing your business, community and state.

Business Advocacy Program Ideas?

Do you have an idea for a future business advocacy program that can help inform and/or educate members about business-related governmental issues?
Contact the Chamber at programs@wausauchamber.com or call 715-845-6231 to share your ideas!

​If you have any questions about the Chamber's Business Advocacy efforts, contact President and CEO of the Chamber Dave Eckmann at deckmann@wausauchamber.com or by calling 715-848-5946.

Directory & Almanac

WisPolitics.com’s annual Directory & Almanac has gone digital for 2021. Click here or the image below to visit the site for detailed information on members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation, Gov. Tony Evers’ administration, the state Legislature and more.

DISCLAIMER - Although the Greater Wausau Chamber of Commerce is an accredited member of the United States Chamber of Commerce (USCC) and a long-time member of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), it does not automatically support or oppose any legislative or elections-related positions set forth by these associations. The Greater Wausau Chamber of Commerce independently assesses each issue based upon the impact it will have on our Chamber members and the Wausau region as a whole before deciding upon the position deemed most appropriate for our Chamber. As such, no portion of our members' dues goes towards any actions taken by these outside organizations, including political ads, marketing campaigns or other related governmental activities.