Questionnaire Answers For La Crosse County Board
To better inform La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce members and voters, we are asked candidates running for contested county board seats to complete this questionnaire on topics important to our business community.
The Chamber does not endorse candidates.
1. Please include your name and the district in which you are a candidate. What is your background and why are you running? If an incumbent, how long have you been on the Board?
Dan Ferries:La Crosse County District 16; I am self employed – property rental business. I have served on the County board from 2010 to present (4 terms). I remain committed to being fiscally responsible with County taxpayers hard earned money while providing valuable services to all residents. We as County Supervisors need to do what’s best for all county residents but also proceed with caution so we can continue with the best bond rating for the taxpayers and county as a whole.
Kevin Hoyer :24th District; Farmer, Agronomy manager/sales at Melrose Farm Service ; 9yrs on the American Soybean Association Board, 3 on governing committee, Town of Hamilton supervisor. Served on Senator Ron Johnson’s Agriculture advisory committee. I am running because our current infrastructure needs addressing, along with our county budget priorities seem out of touch with our needs. Our rural residents deserve representation on the county board that looks out for them and the rural economy. I am confident that my background in business, agriculture and serving in roles of leadership and policy, that I would be the perfect choice to be the voice and representative of the people who live, work and play in the 24th district of La Crosse County. My promise is to be the voice of the people to the county and to have the best interest of the rural community at heart.
District 15; I’m a retired public school teacher, and currently work in the School of Education at UW-L, supervising student teachers.
I am running for re-election because I enjoy working collaboratively addressing community issues. I’m committed to giving back to the community that has been my home for many years. La Crosse County has been a great place to raise my family, and I want to keep it that way for future generations. I have served on the County Board for 9 years, and have chaired the Health and Human Services Committee for the past six years.
I am a challenger for the La Crosse County Board of Supervisors District 25. I have worked most of my career (20+ years) as a carpenter/foreman in the commercial construction industry. I am currently a Business Representative for the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters (2.5 years). I am in my second term as Trustee for the Village of West Salem. Local and county governments provide valuable services that make daily life possible for all of us and work with industry to shape the growth of the community. I have always been interested in local government, and feel that it is important to give back to the community in which you live. A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to start serving on the Village Board in West Salem. I definitely enjoy working through the various challenges that we face. I feel that serving on the County Board would be a valuable use of my time.
I am running for the La Crosse County Board of Supervisors, District 16. I am 20 years old and a full time student at UW-La Crosse. I’ve was born and raised in Onalaska. I am running to bring fresh eyes and ears to our community. I also am hoping to give back to a community that has given me so much.
La Crosse County Board Dist 18; I worked in county human service systems for 28 years; 16 in La Crosse County as Economic Support Specialist Caseworker determining eligibility benefits low income families, individuals and elderly. (foodstamps, medicaid, energy assistance, child care, General Relief-single individuals (rent and emergency medical/prescriptions, hygiene products) 8 in Moroe County (Sparta) 3 in Economic Support and 5 in Child Protection Services as an Intake worker. 8 in Dunn County, Menomonie WI; Economic Support. Worked with diverse populations in need of financial support; also gave referrals needed for work related support, food pantries, domestic abuse programs locally, emergency shelter. I’m familiar with how a large budget of Human Services works. (2nd largest budget) Also was elected President of all 3 local unions in all counties. Experience in union contract negotiations, grievance arbitration, contract administration.
2.What, if any, changes would you make to the Board’s procedures or policies regarding oversight of appointed and elected officials?
I believe Supervisors should be elected by the people they represent. Unfortunately, there have been very qualified candidates that have come forward and not selected by the Executive Board. The supervisors should also be provided with candidates resume of qualifications and be allowed to vote on any person appointed. Only in rare occasions should someone be appointed
Kevin Hoyer :
I honestly cannot say that I know of any changes to procedures or policies at this point. I certainly am one to try to find better and more sustainable policies and procedures when changes are needed. When presented with opportunities or challenges, I look to find ways to improve the situation.
I believe that there is always room for improvement and that we should always be on the lookout for opportunities to streamline the flow of government. However, at this time I would not come into office and plan on changing anything. Once I’ve served on the board for awhile, I may have a different perspective.
The only change I would see done is having County Supervisors no longer be appointed to vacancies. Candidates should participate in an election rather than have a Board pick whom they want. It should be up to the people to vote on who they want representing them. The oversight of appointed officials is something that doesn’t really need to be changed in my opinion as there is only 1 person that is appointed by the Board. As of now I have not seen any procedures or policies that need to be change.
Review the number of board of supervisors – currently there are 29; research the need. Assure constituents are receiving their voice on the Board. The constituents need to tell us!
3. Are you satisfied with the way the county budget is currently allocated, or would you propose increasing certain categories of spending while decreasing others? Please explain.
The County budget is quite large and there are more items coming our way from the state level. (Juvenile detention center, ect.). There have been items that have come forward at the 11th hour and have not been given due consideration prior to the budget passing. Items need to be addressed prior to the budget so discussion can take place with all supervisors. I believe roads and infrastructure are a priority, Currently the county has a sizeable cash reserve as well as excess sales tax revenue which could be utilized for some of the repairs to roads. With the LaCrosse Center being expanded, additional sales tax revenue should be realized. We also need to work with the legislators on how we can partner to achieve our goals together.
Kevin Hoyer :
I am not comfortable with how some of the county budget is currently allocated. I feel that the budget has neglected our surface infrastructure challenges and put too much emphasis on county buildings. La Crosse County needs to place higher priorities on areas that improve commerce in the county, that benefits the county. Without a sound and efficient infrastructure, the whole economy of the county suffers. Setting a budget on social programs must be looked at as how it will affect the county as a whole. The same goes with budgeting for judiacry and public safety departments. It is vital that our judicial system can do their job effectively and to be able to provide top notch public safety.
Much of the county’s budget is dedicated to mandated services and other non-discretionary expenditures. The relatively small remaining part of the budget takes up the bulk of county board budget negotiations and deliberations. The county board tends to be fiscally frugal and prudent, our 6th lowest tax rate in the state and our Aa1 Moody’s bond rating reflect that. Our budget deliberations are thoughtful, inclusive and multi-faceted, beginning at the department level, moving to the committee level and finally getting multiple hearings at the county board level before a final vote. It would be great to have more money available to fix roads and other infrastructure, but the vast sums needed to catch up are not to be found in a very tight county budget.
Overall I am satisfied with the budget. The main thing that I am unhappy about is that we do not have the funding to address the problems with our transportation infrastructure. We currently have over $100 million worth of road work we are behind in that somehow need to be funded, but that needs to come from more than just the county. The state will have to be part of the funding plan to solve that problem long term. There are some controversial budget items like the $500,000 to fight homelessness. I do think those types of programs are important just for the simple fact being proactive and trying to keep families in their homes is a more cost effective approach to homelessness than letting families lose their homes and then trying to deal with it through reactive measures like shelters, emergency rooms, law enforcement, etc.
We need to take a hard look at how our roads are funded. The state hasn’t paid it’s fair share of it’s state roads in the past few years. The burden of road funding has fallen disproportionately on local municipal and County governments. So I am not satisfied in how our roads are funded.
Increase spending on county roads, infrastructure – support lobbying efforts at state and federal level to consider a 5 cent gas tax increase to all WI residents. I do not support La Crosse being a resort city and do not support the resort tax.
Maintain smart spending, do not support any new building projects.
I would not have supported the recent county funds for homelessness. The populations needs mental health and AODA services. Work with local medical professionals to get their needs met. Refer to local agencies that already have housing services. Caseworkers at the county level have opportunity to work one on one with this population. It doesnt always involve monies, instead services to get them better, and not a one-time handout for security deposit and 1st months rent. They will be right back out on the streets. HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE IF GIVEN SERVICES.
4. What should the County Board do in the future to improve the transportation infrastructure of the county?
Work together with the state legislators to find funding at the state level, utilize excess sales tax revenue, and also utilize cash reserves on hand to get the biggest bang for our buck.
Kevin Hoyer :
Transportation and infrastructure is vital to the healthy economy of La Crosse County. We need to put a higher emphasis on funding projects that improve our roads and bridges. We can do this by reprioritzing how the county budget is proportioned. We also need to take a hard look at improving our rural information infrastructure. Having slow and even nonexistent wireless communications is a roadblock to improving rural economies from adding to commerce in the county. I feel the whole budget needs to be scored to rank our needs and priorities, this will identify areas of over spending and areas of under budgeting, This will help to move the money available in the budget to where it is needed the most.
Deteriorating infrastructure is our county’s greatest challenge, in my opinion. It affects everything we’re trying to do to make La Crosse County the best county in the state! It has detrimental effects on our economic development, our public safety, our desirability as a tourist destination, our ability to move goods efficiently, our viability as a go-to community for potential new residents. In essence, this sad state of affairs reflects a failure at the state level to adequately fund transportation, and we need to keep pressuring our legislature to bite the bullet and stop passing the buck! It is the County Board’s responsibility to look for all possible ways of generating local funds in the meantime, and lots of proposals have been advanced, all at considerable expense to local taxpayers. I feel the PRAT has possibilities, but it faces a number of hurdles and may not actually become reality. Other ideas include increased wheel tax, higher gasoline taxes, etc.
I remember growing up I could drive anywhere in Wisconsin and be on a pristine well maintained road. We had some of the best roads in the country. Now everywhere I drive the roads are falling apart. Between Wisconsin Winters and a lack of commitment from the state over the last decade the roads are falling apart. My feeling on transportation funding is that the state needs provide a long term plan for transportation. The state has the most control and resources to fund road projects, but they seem to lack the will to follow through with it. I think in the short term the county can find ways to possibly redirect some funding or use reserves to provide temporary relief, but in the long term we need the state to come through with a transportation plan that includes adequate funding.
The County Board needs to take a look at producing a long term solution to our transportation needs. As in years past, the state has not paid it’s fair share of road funding. This is evident by the nearly 1 billion dollars needed for Wisconsin’s roads. This is reflective of cuts to our roads here locally, forcing local governments to compensate. We need a long term solution.
As I stated above consider lobbying efforts at state level to support a 5 cent gas tax increase to all Residents. It should be the top priority.
5. What ideas/suggestions do you have to make La Crosse County a more business-friendly community?
Reviewing and possibly re-writing applications for permits and fees that are attached to certain permits.These forms should be user friendly and fully accessible on the county website. Find out if there is an easier process to accomplish re-zoning.Continue to make funds available through the Economic Development Fund.
Kevin Hoyer :
Making La County more business friendly involves a top class infrastructure system that not only includes roads and bridges, but fast, reliable and efficient communication infrastructure as well. This also needs to be coupled with a business climate that creates jobs and does not place extra tax burden that would make La Crosse County uncompetive with other counties. We have a perfect location, having an interstate hiway, a strong regional airport, and a major intermodal waterway with a commercial port. We are also strategically located between major commerce centers that are within an easy drive. It is ashamed that our county has allowed our infrastructure to not reflect the potential it has to support a strong business climate.
I feel our county is already very business friendly. I attend many gatherings, such as the Chamber breakfasts, Economic Indicators, etc., where innovative business initiatives are highlighted, and where excellent, mutually beneficial relationships between the business community and local government are celebrated.
La Crosse County is one of the few in the state that employs an economic development specialist who works closely and collaboratively with the local business community. That said, there are always ways to improve on a good thing, and we need to be open to what the business community tells us is needed. The most important thing we can do together is find ways to fix our crumbling roads and bridges, which rival those in developing countries, in order to show the world that we are open for business. Another is to tackle the issues of homelessness and neighborhood revitalization for the same reason.
Somehow we need to improve our transportation infrastructure. Our roads are our lifeline. They are too important to ignore. The challenge lies in providing funding. We need to work together in collaboration with state legislators to solve this problem. The state has the best resources to provide a long term funding plan to help us repair our crumbling infrastructure. The other big thing that we need is a highly trained workforce. We need to provide the resources to schools today to train the workers/entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Without a trained workforce or infrastructure to support business we would not have an economically successful area. I believe that if we have a great place to live, take care of our infrastructure, provide quality education, keep taxes low, and provide quality services then businesses will want to be part of our community.
One of the backbones of commerce is road systems. Roads are required to transport goods and services. This is a problem also for tourism and trucking industries who may overlook La Crosse County due in part to our crumbling infrastructure. Roads are essential parts of commerce and we need to fund them adequately as to ensure our economic status in the region. With poor road systems, tourists and truck drivers may seek to purchase goods in other neighboring counties who have better infrastructure.
Support employees of businesses to easy access and transit to downtown La crosse. Support reasonable wages hours and conditions of employment.
6. What steps would you take as a County Board member to produce a “positive economic climate” in La Crosse County?
Continue to keep your thumb on excessive spending which keeps taxes low. Promote current business successes in our county. Continue with the LaCrosse County boards membership in the LaCrosse Chamber which enhances business promotion and development.
Kevin Hoyer :
I would take steps to make sure La Crosse County becomes a destination of businesses looking to locate in a scenic, diverse and friendly part of the country. The steps needed include better roads and bridges, along with the protection of our rural beauty and environment. I would be a strong advocate of creating job opportunities that would improve the earning power of the citizens of La Crosse County.
Continue our business incubator efforts
Work with WEDC to encourage local economic development
Streamline permitting and red tape requirements Continue our strong collaboration with the business community to be aware of trends, opportunities, outside funding that promotes and strengthens economic infrastructure. Neighborhood revitalization to make La Crosse County an attractive, go-to community for new businesses, young working-age families. Local energy, technology and sustainability initiatives that put the county on the cutting edge and make it a magnet for next-generation enterprises. Increased funding for transportation infrastructure – let’s fix the roads!!
We need to support all types of education in the county. Our Universities and Technical Colleges are definitely assets to the County, but we need to do more to support programs like the various trade apprenticeship programs as well. Along with an already high demand for workers. There is a massive part of the workforce that is going to be retiring over the next 5-10 years. We need to provide education, training and opportunities to the next generation of workers so that they are ready fill the voids that will be left by the retiring workforce across all industries.The importance of our transportation infrastructure cannot be understated. If we can come up with a vision for transportation and adequately fund roads, it would be the single best thing that we can do to sustain the positive economic growth. It will involve a lot of work with state legislators, but we need to get moving on it
Road funding, as I said earlier, allows for capital to easily flow throughout our County. Which is one of the core duties that the County does. The County is also partially responsible for attracting tourists to our area. These tourists produce a healthy and vibrant area for local businesses to thrive. Local Businesses will not only hire locally, but they will also buy locally. This is turn helps create a long lasting and sustained economy.
provide reasonable wages hours and conditions of employment to county employees.
7. If elected, what will be your three top priorities as a County Board member?
- Roads – Tap into excess sales tax revenue, county cash reserve, work with state legislators to find out how we can work together to achieve the goal.
- Attract more residents & businesses to God’s Country – Additional businesses and residents generate more tax revenue to accomplish our goals to become better in all County services.
- Address opiate and other addictive drug issues (which also ties into the homeless population). Continue open communication with treatment facilities, courts, health care facilities, families, schools, etc. to heighten attention on the effects addiction has on families & communities. Make information readily and easily accessible on the county website and through other venues on types of aid & support offered for recovery.
Kevin Hoyer :
My three priorities would be
- Improving our infrastructure which would include roads, bridges, communications, and electrical.
- Strengthening of our judicial system to be sure our police and judges can do their jobs to the best of their ability. This will only strengthen our public safety as well. Too many rural areas are being targets of illegal drug activities that puts all of us at risk.
- Environmental protection. As a farmer and a lifelong resident of La Crosse county, I have seen the importance of a healthy environment as a sign of a healthy and prosperous community and rural economy.
- Finding a solution to the transportation funding logjam
- Continue and step up efforts to solve the opioid problem that affects every aspect of community life, as well as county budget. I am a member of the Heroin Task Force and the Lighthouse Peer Supported Respite Center Task Force. We have made impactful local changes to stem the use and detrimental effect of opioids, and are currently securing funding for the Lighthouse initiative. This would be a great opportunity for the local business community to make an impact!
- Working on clean water issues in the county. This includes pressuring the DNR to step up its oversight responsibilities, determining the source of pollution of our groundwater, putting in place common sense guidelines for discharge of pollutants to safeguard public health.
- Roads – We need to address this problem one way or another. We have heard the state pass the buck down to local governments long enough. They need to come up with a realistic long term plan to fund transportation infrastructure.
- The Opioid Crisis – Like everywhere else we are faced with a massive opioid problem. In my opinion there needs to be a multi-faceted approach to solving this problem. The first step is prevention, followed by a comprehensive treatment program for those addicted. We need help from law enforcement to address the trafficking of narcotics and finally a sober living program to help keep people from going back to drugs.
- Unfunded Mandates from the State and a Loss of Local Control – The state has done a good job of removing control from local government and forcing mandates while not adequately funding those mandates. We need to work with state legislators to move forward in the same direction while providing the funding to maintain and improve our county.
- Roads: Our roads are critically underfunded and are in desperate need of repair. I’ve heard from many people who’ve needed to replace suspension systems and tire after tire because of our underfunded roads. We need a long-term funding solution and we need it now.
- Opioid and Drug Addiction: Drug addiction is here in our community and it’s worse than ever before. In 2017, the number of people who died from overdoses has doubled. This is also the first year that my generation’s life expectancy is shorter than our parents’. A major reason for this is due to opioids and drug addiction. We need to continue funding our health and human services programs to tackle this epidemic.
- Mental Health: Mental illnesses, according to the U.S. Surgeons report (2015), are now more common than cancer, diabetes or heart disease. The county has also seen a spike in suicides. This shows a greater need for resources in our schools and in our community health centers.
- Improvements on infrastructure as top priority.
- Refrain on spending.
- No new buildings.
- Oversee all department employees, management to ensure efficiencies.
I am unsure if I would have supported the monies for homelessness. We have excellent brainstormers in county human services to provide homeless with referrals to necessary programs already in the community. I do NOT support privatization of services. The monies approved need to be utilized within the county and not contract out for services. Contracting out is never useful. Keep the monies at the human services level and have the existing employees brainstorm (social workers, economic support caseworkers). If we expend monies to individuals, families that are homeless, we must ensure it is permanent. The more monies we have for programs, the more people will suddenly say they also are homeless. Recipients of homeless funds must reciprocate back to the community. (work the monies off, i.e.pick up garbage, community garden, etc