LWV distributes questionnaires for aldermanic candidates
The Stevens Point chapter of the Wisconsin League of Women Voters (LWV) recently sent out a questionnaire for the challenged Stevens Point aldermanic districts up for election Tuesday, April 4.
Odd-numbered district seats are up for election this year. Among the six total odd-numbered districts, three are contested. The candidates are as follows:
District 1 – Incumbent George Doxtator is being challenged by Tori Jennings.
District 3 – Incumbent Garrett Ryan said he will not seek re-election. Newcomer Cindy Nebel will face off against Christopher Villarreal.
District 5 – Incumbent Meleesa Johnson is running unopposed.
District 7 – Incumbent Mary Kneebone is running unopposed.
District 9 – Incumbent Mary McComb is being challenged by Polly Dalton.
District 11 – Incumbent Shaun Morrow is running unopposed.
The questions and candidate answers are as follows, in order they were received.
Tell us about your background and what has prepared you for running to become an alderperson?
Villarreal – My years as vice president for Wisconsin Student Government and parliamentarian for Wisconsin student government has prepared me for becoming alderperson. Ten years of serving as a firefighter for Park Ridge fire department and being a part of the village board meetings is more background that helps me in becoming alderperson.
Jennings – My leadership and municipal background includes 13 years in the fire service. I rose through the ranks as a firefighter, paramedic, engineer and captain at Littleton Fire Department, Colo. As a captain, I not only directed fire suppression, EMS calls and training, but also made day-to-day decisions that required knowledge about citywide resources, services and the budget.
In addition, I hold a doctorate in anthropology from University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). I am fascinated by the social, economic, political and environmental interactions of people living in rural communities, which has been the focus of my work for almost three decades.
Our city is special. Stevens Point has unrealized potential and is poised to become one of the most livable small cities in Wisconsin. Being involved in this transition is exciting and as Chair of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), I co-authored the city’s successful Transportation Alternatives Program grant application (TAP). Through my numerous volunteer efforts, community workshops, grassroots organizing, city project development and efforts to bridge the community and university through student service learning opportunities; I have demonstrated my commitment to our community. My professional background coupled with my genuine appreciation for Stevens Point uniquely qualifies me to meet the challenges of our diverse and changing city.
Nebel – My husband and I have lived in the third district for more than 37 years. We bought and renovated our house on Phillips Street and raised our family in a diverse neighborhood of families, elderly, and students. Throughout these years I have been very involved in collaborating with UW-Stevens Point, city departments, Student Government Association, homeowners and renters. My goal has and still is to work on behalf of others to make a positive difference in making our neighborhoods and our city a place that everyone can be proud to reside in.
Dalton – I moved to Stevens Point two years ago from Appleton to start a farm and cider company. In Appleton, I was appointed, and then elected to serve as District 8 alderperson. During my term, I was on the Parks and Recreation and Public Works committees and was deeply involved with issues of the Safety and Licensing Committee.
I am comfortable with a city’s budgeting process and the research and investigation that is an ongoing part of the alderman role.
As a business owner and farmer, strategic investments, forward thinking, and creative problem solving are a part of my daily work both on a small and large scale.
Doxtator – I work for the Wisconsin Veteran’s Home at King as an emergency services officer with 700 veterans and their spouses and more than 1,000 staff under my watch as a firefighter, first responder and security.
I was born and raised in Stevens Point and I have been the alderman for District 1 for four years, served on the Board of Public Works for three years, the Public Protection Committee for three years and chairman one year, Finance Committee as vice-chairman for one year and the Housing Authority as vice-chairman for four years.
McComb – I’m a Stevens Point native. Twelve years ago, after a television and college teaching career, I came home and moved to District 9. I was one of those who planned and implemented our free city dog park. I was asked to serve on the committee to redesign the public square. As a business owner, I belong to the Association of Downtown Businesses, where I served on the Board, chaired the Design Committee and collaborated in putting together Krazy Daze (Discover Downtown) and Fall Festival. Before I was elected to Council, I had attended and spoken at various committee and council meetings.
My familiarity with and commitment to Stevens Point run deep. I’ve been a student here, graduating from UWSP. I’ve been a worker: waitress, packed calendars at Worzalla’s, did customer service at the paper mill and on the phones at Travel Guard. I taught communication and English as a second language courses at UWSP. I’ve owned a successful downtown business for almost 10 full years. I know this town, and I love it. Serving on Common Council since 2015 has deepened and broadened my knowledge of the city and its residents, and the intricacies of working with colleagues and staff. I’m seasoned and ready to move full speed ahead on my second term.
What do you anticipate as the biggest challenges the city anticipates in the next year?
Villarreal – The biggest challenge for the city in the next year is parking, around campus and downtown. The city wants to meter/provide permits parking. I don’t believe the city has the right to meter/provide permits when the home owners pay taxes and use the parking at their residential area already without additional costs.
Jennings – Our city’s financial health should always be a chief concern. The current Common Council, mayor, and comptroller/treasurer have managed debt obligations despite state restrictions on property assessment and property tax revenue growth. However, the city’s biggest challenge is developing a coherent policy direction that will allow the city to grow local businesses, create new jobs with good wages, improve transportation, build diverse and attractive housing options, maintain parks and green space, and support thriving neighborhood schools.
The benefits of new development that grows the tax base will be lost if we do not maintain and improve the attributes of our existing neighborhoods and maintain quality of life we all value. The perceived economic benefit of sprawling new development on the fringes of Stevens Point is not sustainable and should not be prioritized over infill redevelopment or the need to address the deferred maintenance that already afflicts some of our neglected, established neighborhoods.
Density is key to economic prosperity and our city’s biggest challenge is achieving sound planning and community development decisions that focus on quality of life and sustainable growth.
Nebel – The biggest challenge the city will face in the next year will be growth. Because the state has set levy caps, restricting local control, the city needs to find ways to grow (increasing both residential and commercial development). However, growth should be well-planned and designed to meet a long-term sustainability goals.
Dalton – Housing affordability and opportunity. Young people find few housing options beyond student rentals if they decide to stay here after graduating. Families moving here for job opportunities have trouble finding starter homes. With the housing study being reviewed, the zoning code re-write process initiated, and the new neighborhood development coordinator position, I hope to be a part of shaping the residential vision for Stevens Point.
Housing is not just a family’s private affair, but it plays an important role in economic development. Diversity in housing stock options leads to safe and comfortable base for people to use and experience the great resources of the community as they build the rest of their life.
Doxtator – Staying within our budget while providing the excellent services our citizens expect of the city. City hall and the police department need a new home. The East Park Commerce Center is growing and needs more infrastructure. Our department heads do a great job trimming budgets but the city needs to grow its tax base to keep projects that have been in planning for years and for the future needs of Stevens Point.
McComb – We are already seeing tensions surrounding development. How do we balance the financial benefits with other factors, such as preserving green space for future residents? How do we encourage and reward infill development? How can we attract development that will use and treat our local workforce fairly? Development is necessary, and we must aim for development that sustains a good quality of life for all.
How will you solicit citizens input on actions of the council?
Villarreal – I plan to solicit citizens input through social media via Facebook and regular informational meetings. I am willing to listen when any citizen calls, stops by to talk about issues or concerns.
Jennings – When elected to the common council, I will continue to host listening sessions and have an open-door policy for my District 1 constituents. I have lived in District 1 for seven years. Over the past several months, I have knocked on hundreds of doors and walked every block of the district, and it’s clear that many residents do not feel heard. An involved, informed electorate is crucial in moving Stevens Point forward.
While we may not always agree on the details, I believe we share a collective vision about what makes a strong community. Whether I am contacted by phone, email, or in person, I will listen to the concerns of District 1 residents, learn from your perspectives and respond with respect.
Nebel – I plan to solicit citizens’ input on council actions through several ways. I will be accessible to citizens on a daily basis through the city’s website that will list my email and phone number. In addition, I will hold and attend several listening sessions as a tool to provide information and to gain citizens’ input and involvement regarding council actions.
Dalton – I have already learned so much about roles, vision, ideas and concerns of neighbors in Stevens Point by knocking on doors around District 9. Maintaining consistent communication with neighbors is important. I plan to continue to get in touch with neighbors regularly, respond to phone calls and emails in a timely fashion, hold community conversations and listening sessions, and maintain a Facebook page with updates.
What I recognize from all the conversations I have is the value and experience of people living right here. Having a basic understanding of my fellow citizens’ interests allows me to consider opinions that may differ from my own when issues arise, and seek out the right people when I need to gain a deeper understanding.
Doxtator – The city holds informational meetings on all projects which concern many of our citizens. These are great venues for people to voice their opinions, concerns and ideas. Personally, my phone and email are open 24/7 for anyone inside or outside of the city to contact me, and I will bring their comments to council or committee. If my constituents need a town hall type of venue to address a project, I will be happy to arrange one at a school or business which has access for everyone.
McComb – I will continue my availability via the city website, the District 9 Facebook page, my phone and alder email. I’ll continue to organize open forums and listening sessions. I have a district email list. A surprising amount of citizen input comes my way at Sugar Doll. I will do canvassing and/or mailings in neighborhoods that are facing a particular local issue.
What committee on the city council interests you, and you believe you can serve?
Villarreal – I would join any city council committee that is interested in change and growth for the city. I would also like to be on any committee that works to develop and grow downtown.
Jennings – Although I have a wide range of interests including public safety, housing, historic preservation, and economic growth, the Board of Public Works interests me because no single issue can more effectively transform and improve our community than creating better and safer streets.
For several years, I have studied our local roadways from a social science perspective. By attending workshops and talking with traffic engineers and planners, I have learned about the relationship between street design, human behavior and urban design. I look forward to sharing fresh ideas and cost saving options with the Public Works Board. My second choice for a committee appointment would be Public Protection because together these committees play a key role in the overall health of our city.
Nebel – As an educator, parent and community member I value the public protection we receive from our Stevens Point Police Department, fire department and city departments. The importance of maintaining a high level of safety, as well as improving the quality of life in our community is why I began advocating for collaboration with UWSP officials and students, city police and Campus Security, and residents both renters and homeowners.
These connections have influenced the creation of the Old Main Neighborhood Association, encouraged initiatives to address AODA concerns, promoted educational opportunities for student off -campus living, improved street lighting and safety at the pedestrian crossing on Division Street. The quality of life and safety for all residents is what will keep Stevens Point a great place to live and work now and in the future.
Dalton – My experiences as a city council member in Appleton and as a business owner, homeowner and landlord in Stevens Point make me well-suited to the topics and responsibilities of the Public Protection committees. I make dozens of decisions each day regarding production, time use, quality control and financial management.
The mindset applies to committee work also. You need a clear vision for where you are trying to go when faced with an agenda full of decisions. Situations need to be assessed on their merit, not on who you know or how shiny your story is or isn’t. I believe I can bring a consistent, thorough and transparent approach to the role.
Doxtator – I have enjoyed my time on all the committees I have served on. If the mayor thinks I can help on any other city committees or advisory to the county level and wants to nominate me, I am prepared to learn and bring my skills to them.
McComb – Currently I sit on the Parks Board, the Public Protection Committee, and the Board of Public Works. All of these are interesting because the more you know about an issue, the more fascinating it becomes. For instance, I never would have thought that street design would have intrigued me, but lately I’m engrossed by it. I attend all meetings that my work schedule allows; that’s vital to doing my job.