Election primer: What we are watching
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — On April 5 Wisconsinites will select a state Supreme Court justice and their presidential preference, but locally voters will choose their preferred candidates for Marshfield mayor, common council, and school board. In addition, Stratford voters face two questions regarding whether or not to fund some or all of a $24 million referendum.
Mayor Chris Meyer and alderpersons Mike Feirer (district one), Chris Jockheck (three), Ed Wagner (five), and Tom Buttke (nine) are all running unopposed and thus should expect to retain their seats barring an unforeseen write-in campaign.
District seven will produce newcomer to council
Alderman Gary Cummings will not seek re-election to the Marshfield Common Council in district seven, and vying to replace him are two would-be newcomers, Ed Korlesky and Jason Zaleski.
In his interview with Hub City Times, Korlesky was critical of the current common council, saying, “Do you recall what the Marshfield City Council has done in the past few years? The only thing I recall is an attempt to subsidize housing construction costs in Marshfield that would have cost every home owner upwards to $10,000 in lost home value. It is time to return sensibility to the city council.” Korlesky’s statement was in response to the idea of a city-owned subdivision, which had been discussed by the common council but ultimately lost momentum when an adequate location could not be found.
Korlesky also at the time of the interview advocated that the city become more involved in “the war that is currently underway between Marshfield (Clinic) Health System and Ministry Ascension Hospitals. “
Korlesky had been the manager of the media department for Marshfield Clinic for nearly four decades until his retirement last year. He also formerly chaired the city’s cable committee and has a bachelor’s degree in communication from UW-Stevens Point and a master’s degree in business administration from Cardinal Stritch University. He is married and has twin sons.
Zaleski works as general manager for PREL investments and is married with two children. He has been a Marshfield resident for 30 years and said he is running because he wishes to “begin giving back to my community and can start by representing my neighbors and friends as alderperson.”
“My biggest priority of being a council member is to represent the will of the people in my district. In talking to my neighbors for the last two months, I found we have many things in common, including we want safe neighborhoods to raise our families in, quality jobs with premium pay to ensure a high quality of living, and road conditions that will not shake the muffler off your car,” Zaleski said.
Four candidates vie for two spots on Marshfield School Board
Mark Critelli, Amber Leifheit, Dan Wald, and Dale Yakaites will compete for two spots on the Marshfield School Board. Leifheit is an incumbent aiming to defend her seat, while the other opening is vacant as board member Pete Mancl will not seek re-election.
Critelli has previous experience on the Marshfield School Board, where he served for six years prior to losing his re-election bid in 2015. He cited that experience when asked why citizens should vote for him.
“Becoming an effective school board member requires intentional effort and considerable time and experience. I learned a great deal in the six years (2009-2015) I was privileged to serve as a Marshfield School Board member, faithfully working on nearly every committee. Because of those experiences and accomplishments, I will be able to more quickly contribute in a productive way,” Critelli said.
Leifheit is the current board vice president, and she spoke about her experience on the board and as executive director of the Marshfield Area Community Foundation as factors in her understanding of the district and community.
“I know the schools, programs, and budget, and I have a few ideas for change. The school board will need to make some difficult decisions as they tackle the challenges ahead. I take the job the voters would entrust me with very seriously. I will continue to weigh the long-range impact of each vote, the tax consequences to tax payers versus the benefits for students. I will advocate on behalf of all students,” she said.
Wald said his experience as chair of the Wood County Republican Party as well as on the Uniform Dwelling Code Council would serve him well as a school board member, where he aims to “be a voice for taxpayers, parents, and students.” He also said his wife’s experience as a teacher gives him an understanding of educators’ duties and challenges.
“My wife is a teacher and has taught in the Marshfield School District for 15 years, so I appreciate what our teachers do in the classroom and the challenges they face. I believe in the Marshfield School District and am a lifetime member of the Marshfield Tiger Booster Club,” Wald said.
Yakaites held several roles throughout his career in the Marshfield School District, including teaching positions, administrative roles, and time spent as an athletics coach. He emphasized that he will listen to the concerns of residents and that the safety of schools is critically important.
“Continued vigilance in terms of school safety should be a top priority. School finance will always provide major challenges for all school districts. Balancing the ability to maintain quality academic programs and co-curricular opportunities for all students — while building a fiscally responsible budget that considers the concerns of taxpayers — is a never-ending challenge,” he said.
Stratford’s $24 million question
The Stratford School District will have two referendum questions for voters to consider on the April 5 ballot.
One question will ask voters for about $16 million, which would fund the addition of five new classrooms to the middle/high school, allow for renovations to the middle/high school, and HVAC upgrades to the middle/high school and elementary school. Though five classrooms will be built, there will only be a net gain of three, because one existing classroom will become a restroom, and the two current science labs will be merged into one large agricultural classroom with some office space.
The other referendum question asks voters for nearly $8 million and would largely focus on adding a new gymnasium, lobby, restrooms, and 550-seat auditorium to the middle/high school.
The district hoped to avoid an “all-or-nothing choice,” according to Stratford School Board Vice President Chris Dickinson, and thus split the $24 million referendum into two separate questions. However, in a statement, Dickinson wrote, “I want to make a point that the board believes both questions address needs, not wants.”
Where to vote on April 5
For those unaware of their polling location, visit myvote.wi.gov. Information about what is on the ballot can also be found at this website. Remember that photo identification is required to vote.