Town Board Hopefuls Answer Questions

by Free Speech on March 16, 2009

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.


Elections for three positions on the Town of Lodi Board are less than a month away. Positions up for election this term include Board Chair, Supervisor #1 and Supervisor #2. Mary Ann Johnson and John H. Pickle,  Jr.  are vying for the Chair postion, Robert Collins will faceoff against Rick Weigle for the first Supervisor position, while Louis Siller is running against Jerry Ritchie for the Supervisor #2 spot. We posed a series of four questions to each of the candidates. To follow are their unedited responses to our questions.

Town Chair- Mary Ann Johnson vs. John H. Pickle, Jr.

Q1:  Why are you running for office ?

Johnson: “I feel this is the most important position in town government and requires someone with the knowledge of how town government works.  It takes time and availability to do this job and I am able to give of my time to this position.  With my background I think I am the best-qualified candidate.”

Pickle: “I am running for the office of Lodi Town Chair in an effort to give back to the community by serving in this capacity.  I believe that we all should do more to serve our communities and to help our citizens utilize the resources which we as citizens are blessed to have.”

Q2: What is the biggest challenge facing the Town of Lodi and how do you plan to handle it?

Pickle: ” There are two big issues:  First, is this time of economic stress, which we all face, I believe creates special problems in our community.  Not only are many of our neighbors financially stressed personally but our Town will struggle to stretch funds to ensure that the needs of the Town are met.  We also will be faced with reduced support from the state.  We as a Town Board will need to review each and every budget item to insure that we are getting the job done efficiently and satisfactorily.  We must get the job done but we also must make sure that we get both quality and financial efficiency.  Second, the roads in the town are major concerns with the rough winters we have, our roads break down rapidly.  We must continue a program for preventive maintenance to get the most from our hard surface.  Most of our roads will require hot patching efforts and applying hot tar to the cracks, as soon this spring as feasible.  There are some roads which will require patching or repaving small portions of the roadway.  There are then major concerns such as Cactus Acres and Lindsay Road.  The former which will be a problem whether it is paved or not due to the slope of the road.  I am sure that studies have or are in progress to determine the best solution for this road.  Lindsay Road is one that is of concern because of the crown on the road and the limited shoulder by the airport and the curve and slope at the junction with Hwy 60.  The county project repairing Cty V from the junction of Hwy 113 and Cty J is of concern for many in Okee because of the proposal made in the Feb 12 informational meeting.  Many opposed the roadway repair and widening and would like to limit the project to repairing the bridge.  This project will require additional discussions to attempt to get a project that is satisfactory to our Town citizens.”

Johnson: “I think there are several challenges facing the Town today.  The Smart Growth Comprehensive Plan needs to be completed as soon as possible as this affects the placement of developments in the Town.  I would continue the work that Roger Wetzel has started with the Plan Commission on completing the Comprehensive Plan.  I would also support Kris Krause in any way that I could to finish the work the Plan Commission has very competently come close to completing.  Another challenge facing the town is the changes to County Highway V from State Highway 113 to County Highway J.  There have been public hearings in regards to the changes and many of them are not popular with the people that live along Highway V.  Whatever changes are made everyone in Okee could be impacted by the construction project.  The final decisions of the project will be made by Columbia County Highway Department.”

Q3: Do you think the Town of Lodi should move forward with building a new Town Hall?

Johnson: “Yes, I think the Town of Lodi building committee should continue to look at all the options of building a Town Hall.  The cost of renting, heating and cooling the office in the current location without adequate parking does encourage the committee to look at the these options.  The money that has already been spent for the leasing of the building could be paying for a location owned by the Town.”

Pickle: “I think that this question needs to be answered by the voters.  I have no preference either way.  The Town Hall issue has been and will be an issue for four Town Chairs and is not resolved yet.  If the voters desire I would be in favor of building a town hall, but only if no tax increase is required.  The two issues other than funding and whether to build or rent are where and what.  We have a current Town Hall Advisory committee that is working very hard to find solutions for these issues.  I would be willing to submit the recommendations of this committee to the voters so that a decision can be made.  There is only one location, that I know of, which already has access to city water, sewage and hard a hard surface road and is in close proximity to other town recreation facilities.  I know that this location is one, but not the only one, being discussed by the committee.  I suggest that we let the committee do its function then review the proposal and submit the options to the voters.  Remember that we as board members are simply stewards of public property, dollars and functions of the voters of the Town of Lodi.”

Q4: What makes you uniquely qualified for the elected position you seek?

Pickle: “Since I have not previously served in any public position I must rely on the diversity of my background of job experiences which include several which required handling significant amounts of funds, supervising personnel and my work ethic.  I have a high degree of experience and talent in problem solving.  I also have the management philosophy of utilizing the talents of personnel to achieve the performance results.  I also attempt to use the strengths of people to allow them to excel in their endeavors.”

Johnson: “In September of 1988, I began my public service in the area as dispatcher for the Lodi Area Fire and Ambulance Commissions.  I was available 24/7 and this position lasted for 6 years when the 911-dispatch center was started for Columbia County.  I was elected Town of Lodi Clerk in 1989and served until 1991. I was hired by the Town of Lodi as Deputy Clerk/Treasurer in 1997 and held that job until June 2003.  While I was Town Clerk/Treasurer and Deputy Clerk/Treasurer, I attended many seminars and learning sessions to continue improving my skills for the positions.

I became a part of the West Point Area Historical Society, in the fall of 2003 and was appointed to its Commission in June of 2004.  I was elected secretary and continue in that position today.  In March of 2005 I was elected to the Lodi Valley Historical Society Board and became Secretary/ Treasurer at that time.  I hold that position today.  I was elected to the Okee Association Board in the fall of 2007; I am currently the President of the Board.  This position puts me in a good place to hear some town citizens concerns, thoughts and suggestions.  I have also served on several Boards of Review.  I am aware of many of the mandates that are instituted by the state, that Towns must follow.  I am aware of how budgets are put together and have recently been participating in a building project for the Lodi Valley Historical Society.  I look forward to continue serving my community.  I have always considered it a joy and an honor to serve the community.  I would like to continue that service by being the Town of Lodi Chairperson.  I think my years of experience as a Town Clerk/ Treasurer as well as the many other community positions have provided me with the experience and understanding for this position.”

Supervisor #1- Robert Collins vs. Rick Weigle

Q1:  Why are you running for office ?

Collins: “As an Okee resident for thirty years I wish to contribute my experience, wisdom and knowledge for the purpose of improving Town Of Lodi fiscal health and provide transparency of budgets and actions in our Town government.”

Weigle: “My parents taught me to give back to my community.   I moved to Harmony Grove 12 years ago and love it here.  I want to give back to the community through service on the Town Board in addition to other activities I am involved in here.”

Q2: What is the biggest challenge facing the Town of Lodi and how do you plan to handle it?

Weigle: “The biggest challenge is providing the necessary services to the citizens while minimizing costs.  The economic downturn has hurt most of us to a large degree.  We know our property taxes are too high.  High property taxes have contributed to many of our Town of Lodi neighbors’ home foreclosures.  But, only about 10% of our property tax bill goes to fund the Town of Lodi.  Approximately 80% of our property taxes are used to fund schools (50%) and Columbia County (30%).

I will do my best to minimize costs for services for the Town of Lodi if elected to the Town Board.  The Town has been doing a good job of providing services at reasonable cost.  The Town Board needs to ensure that property taxes are fair to all citizens in light of the questions about the recent reassessment.”

Collins: “Present conditions of our road system which has taken a beating from this winter suggests we will have an unexpected large expense to make adequate maintenance and repairs this coming spring/summer., This also  might require  replacement of certain roads due to advanced deterioration. Where will the Town Board get the funds for this expected increase in road work?

My other concern is the proposed County improvements of County V which proposes to include curbs and gutter. This will reduce and in some cases eliminate parking in front of some homes along the lake. This is unacceptable and in most cases not desired by residences along the lake and inland.”

Q3: Do you think the Town of Lodi should move forward with building a new Town Hall?

Collins: “The residents of this Township should be the ones who determine if a Town Hall should be built. The Town Hall planning commission suggested to the Town Board that a New Town Hall be built, but the location wasn’t suggested. The Town Board should give all residents a choice of determining within reason where to build. “

Weigle: “Yes, if it makes sense financially.  The existing rental office is convenient for us but the energy costs for that building are very high.  A new energy efficient town hall would save money in the long run.  The rent for the building will increase in the future.  We need to evaluate costs over a 20 to 25 year period to determine if it makes sense financially.  If local government buildings would qualify for new federal economic stimulus funding it would make this decision easy.”

Q4: What makes you uniquely qualified for the elected position you seek?

Weigle: “My training, education and experience.  I graduated from UW-Madison with a B.S. in Natural Resources Management.  I worked for the Department of Natural Resources for 28 years in a variety of positions; waste water management, contaminated wells, recycling, motorized recreation, boat landings and public access working with local governments.  I have been a Commissioner with the Harmony Grove Sanitary District for 8 years (President for 7 years) which includes being on the Harmony Grove-Okee Sanitary District.  I have been on the Town of Lodi Solid Waste Committee for 9 years and the Chair for 7 of those years.  I have been a member of the Friends of McKenzie for 10 years most active with the Maple Syrup Education program for mostly 4th graders which has been a joy.  I served several years as a volunteer with the Harmony Grove Lake Rehabilitation District for several years taking water samples.”

Collins: “My experience as Okee Sanitary Commissioner for the last six years and my previous experience working as a steward and Business manager for  the Machinist Union in Chicago for 20 years . These positions gave me the opportunity to develop leadership and management skills.

My experience in Lodi and in my career before I moved here has given me strong “people skills.”  These  are needed on the town board.”

Supervisor #2- Jerry Ritchie vs. Louis Siller

Q1:  Why are you running for office ?

Ritchie: “As an Okee resident of ten years I want to employ my experience and successes in my work career, service organizations and non partisan public offices to serve this community. My successes there illustrates that I have the qualities to make a successful Town Board Supervisor. I will bring integrity, honesty, energy, transparency and inquisitiveness to the Supervisor Seat position. “

Siller: “I enjoy the experience of serving in local government.  As member of our town board, I feel that I have made and can continue to make positive contributions to our township.  My longtime experience certainly helps in this position, yet, I feel I keep a fresh prospective in working out solutions for township issues.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the 12 years that I have been privileged to serve on the Lodi Town Board and I hope that the township electors see fit to allow me to serve another term.”

Q2: What is the biggest challenge facing the Town of Lodi and how do you plan to handle it?

Siller: “I will continue to focus on the issues that are of critical interest to me and are of primary importance to most of the citizens in our community.  Those are; the safety of our citizens, families and visitors; maintaining a prosperous community that benefits our families and family values; sound fiscal management of township resources; preservation of our rural environment, lake and wildlife; and providing quality education for our children.”

Ritchie: “The biggest risk facing our township is the specter of declining revenues resulting from future delinquent payments of property tax bills. This will be a direct result from our county’s worsening financial crises causing foreclosures and late payments. As president of the Okee Sanitary Commission, I observed the dramatic increase in delinquent Sewage usage charges last year which had to be put on the  annual property tax bills as liens for collection by the County. This situation has also been true of the Harmony Grove Sanitation Commission.

Eventually, in some cases it will take years, the Town will receive the property taxes, but in the interim our Town will have a revenue shortfall which may require cut backs in services, borrowing or both.

One of the best ways for the Town Board to prepare for this coming crisis is to freeze and if possible reduce all budgets and expenditures. Absolute belt tightening is mandatory. Let me be the first to say that I hope to be totally wrong on these predictions, but developing negative economic circumstances suggest otherwise.”

Q3: Do you think the Town of Lodi should move forward with building a new Town Hall?

Ritchie: “I would like to see a Town Hall built in the near future, but the indecision and different attitudes of electors regarding location has been an obstacle to location and initiating construction plans.

Presently the Town rents its offices for $1,600.00 per month excluding utilities. This rent totals $19,200.00 per year plus utility penalty for older construction with antiquated insulation and architecture.

Presently the Town Hall building fund of $200,000.00 earns about $6,000.00 interest per year .When you consider that the Town owns land at two paid- for locations, building would save the Town about $13,200.00 in rent plus reduced utilities as a direct benefit of modern insulation and construction.”

Siller: “I am in favor of proving town office space in the most economical and most effective manner.   At this time, leasing is by far the best method to provide both office and meeting space, in a convenient location for all town residents.  If at some point economically suitable leasing options no longer exist, then, I would favor construction of a town hall.”

Q4: What makes you uniquely qualified for the elected position you seek?

Siller: “My 12 years of successful experience on the Lodi Town Board and the 6 years that I have spent on Lodi Planning Commission are excellent qualifications for this position.  More importantly, it is my vision and hopes for our township that is my most important qualification.  As an elected member of our town board I have always worked diligently, through sometimes difficult times, to preserve the key elements of the wonderful lifestyle that we enjoy in the Town of Lodi.  These key elements are; a small town atmosphere; rural farm land and farm value based location; preservation and enhancement of our local environment and our resident wildlife populations.  If elected, I promise to continue with this most important task of defending and maintaining our lifestyle.”

Ritchie: “Before my retirement, I was employed as a construction project manager in the electrical utility and building construction industry for 45 years. Six of those years I was sole owner of my own company. This experience gave  me expertise in #1 Leadership, #2 prioritizing needs,  #3 budgeting ,#4 scheduling, and #5 cost/profit accountability. Since then I have been President of the Okee Sanitary commission for two years, Chairman of Harmony Grove –Okee Joint Sanitary Commission, President of Grade Boat Club and President of the Lake Wisconsin Home Owners Association.

These attributes, experiences, knowledge and skills are directly applicable to Township Government.”

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