Mayoral candidates field questions ahead of primary
By Mike Warren
MARSHFIELD – A capacity crowd filled the Drendel Room at the 2nd Street Community Center, and many more were part of a live television and online audience, to hear from the three people running for Marshfield mayor.
During the Feb. 2 event, Ken Bargender, Bob McManus and Lois TeStrake spent nearly two hours fielding prepared questions, while also taking questions from a few audience members.
Each of the candidates talked about why they are seeking the Mayor’s office.
“I love this town,” TeStrake said when asked why she was running. “I want to bring a fresh, honest perspective to the office of the mayor. I want to lead our city with positive outlooks in our community. Continued support and involvement are what I seek for all of you.”
McManus said it was the “overwhelming public support” he has received since being removed from the mayor’s office in March of 2021 that prompted him to seek the position again.
“The outpouring of public support has been amazing”, McManus told the audience. “I’m able to look forward, and I want to continue to work on some unfinished business.”
When asked what prompted him to seek the office, Bargender weighed in with, “After former Mayor Bob McManus was removed from office by the city council for wrongdoing, I felt that the citizens of Marshfield deserve to have a Mayor that is 100 percent honest, 100 percent trustworthy, 100 percent transparent 100 percent of the time.”
The mayor’s office has sat empty since last March, when the common council voted 8-2 to remove McManus from the post, over allegations of misconduct. A majority of the 10 aldermen agreed at the time McManus deleted text messages he should not have, and misled city officials and the public about it. The issue was at the center of most of the questions coming from audience members.
One citizen asked McManus point blank, “How do you justify running again?”
“I was not removed by a realistic jury”, McManus responded. “I was removed by a group of eight. Had I had a real jury, I don’t think it would’ve happened.”
In her opportunity to address the issue, TeStrake said, “Deleting hundreds of text messages? Great for you, Bob, that you have all of these extra ones that you brought back in, or that you had (pointing to a stack of printed messages.) But I’m concerned about the ones that you did delete. By doing this, he committed malfeasance, which is an unlawful act. You can’t bury a crime with time.”
“It happened,”said Bargender, who at the time was one of eight council members to vote in favor of removing McManus from office. “There is no doubt about it. He was guilty. He got removed from office. End of story. The evidence was clear. Nobody made up anything. Nobody was conspiring against him. He just keeps telling you that. It should have been 10 to nothing, not 8-to-2.”
In his closing statement, McManus thanked his supporters while also apologizing. “For all of you that came here to support me, I am very, very thankful to you. And I’m also very sorry. I make mistakes. I’m not perfect. But there was nothing intentional. But there were mistakes. But are they removable? Oh my gosh, no. Not even close. I spoke up. I spoke out. I did what was right.”
In her closing statement, TeStrake said, “I am real. And this is why I’m running for mayor. I’m not here to sell a bill of goods. I am here to learn. I encourage everyone to vote. I represent honesty, integrity and character.”
In his closing statement, Bargender said, “I’ve served the city for 14 years. I have done it honestly. We have to be united to make Marshfield better. I only want what’s best for the city.”
Bargender is a Marshfield native, and is a longtime area business owner. He has also served the city the past 14 years on various committees, boards and commissions.
TeStrake is a Stratford graduate, and is the longtime owner of a Marshfield beauty salon. She also spent 17 years on the Main Street Marshfield Board of Directors, and is a Leadership Marshfield graduate and ongoing community volunteer.
McManus is a native of California. He is a former paramedic and business owner. He and his family relocated to Marshfield in 2012. He is a longtime real estate and mortgage lender who was elected to the office of Marshfield mayor in 2018 and reelected in 2020.
Primary election day is Feb. 15. The field of three candidates will be narrowed to two for the spring election April 5.