Three candidates vying for the Wausau City Council District 1 seat will face off in a primary race on Feb. 15. The top two vote-getters will move on to the spring election on April 5. Pat Peckham, who currently represents District 1, is not seeking reelection.
For information on voter registration and polling locations, you can visit MyVote Wisconsin’s website.
Education: High school graduate
Occupation: Energy auditor/rater
Education: Associate degree
Occupation: Teacher with the Wausau School District
Education: Master’s degree
What motivated you to run for city council?
Bublitz: The chance to make a change for the better for Wausau and to bring back common sense to the city of Wausau.
Kroll: My career has allowed me to assist thousands of homeowners, renters, landlords and builders to meet their home energy needs, including many low-income families. These experiences of helping people across every spectrum of life has developed a deeper desire to serve my community on a bigger platform through local government, of which I already serve on two city committees. After having children, my family and I chose to live in Wausau because we believed it was a city on the verge of some real positive progress and we wanted to participate in its transformation.
Lukens: As a lifelong resident, I’m deeply rooted in this community. Passionate about civic engagement, I believe participation in local government is critical as it impacts us most directly. The combination of my employment experience, civic engagement and volunteer service in this community has provided insights into some of the services and needs of Wausau’s residents. At the same time, being new to city council means I will have more to learn about strategic plans, current projects and resident concerns, and I find that exciting because I love to learn.
What makes you the better candidate in this race?
Bublitz: My caring for my adopted city and the willingness to talk with the people and see where they want Wausau to go.
Kroll: I’m already an active Wausau citizen by serving on two appointed committee positions — chair for the Sustainability, Energy and Environment Committee and citizen member for the Citizen’s Advisory Committee. Serving on these committees gives me some experience on how a local government operates.
My work has given me a unique platform to connect with residents on a personal level. I’m invited into their home, listen to their concerns, answer their questions and help their needs. Not many professions allow this type of relationship to form. These skills translate effectively to serving a local community.
Lukens: My longevity here and the diversity of my experiences. I’m an educator, former legal assistant (17 years), assisted both students and adults with employment, college and career preparation at the Job Center and Northcentral Technical College, and helped formerly incarcerated individuals re-enter society through ATTIC Correctional Services.
I also served as a volunteer for United Way, Lutheran Social Services, St. Anne Parish and America Reads Program; a facilitator for Certified Diversity Circles; history/culture and immigration consultant; and D.C. Everest School District oral history projects editor and contributor.
The combination of these experiences has expanded my perspective about the complexity of issues involved in public policy work.
What do you believe are the most pressing issues facing the city right now?
Bublitz: The most important issue is the need for affordable housing, the need for more bus service, more help to get the homeless a place to stay and to get working, and more things for teens and children to do.
Kroll: 1. Employee retention. It is becoming more challenging for the city and private businesses to serve their citizens/customers with so many positions being left unfilled and skilled workers leaving for better employment.
2. Accessible housing. Residents are having a difficult time finding an affordable place to live that also meets all of their needs.
3. Sustainability planning. Wausau is missing out on the benefits that other municipalities have taken advantage of from creating a path that incorporates sustainability policy into its decision-making process.
Lukens: Three I have witnessed firsthand are the employee shortage, affordable housing and limited public transportation. Lack of extended public transportation is a barrier to employment for high school students and some adults. However, the remedy is not simple given the differential between expense and demand. The solution cannot rest solely on the city because many businesses needing employees are in the larger Wausau metro area.
A lack of affordable and safe housing places overwhelming burdens on families and creates ripple effects that impact students’ ability to learn. To learn and to thrive, students need stability, safety and consistency.
What steps would you take to address those issues as a member of the city council?
Bublitz: Listen to the people and look into what needs to be done to get things taken care of.
Kroll: Employee retention. Connect with city/county departments and local businesses to determine options. Topics include compensation, paid/non-paid benefits, transportation challenges, employment types and child care options.
Accessible housing. Continue the Affordable Housing Task Force discussion on defining accessible/affordable housing that fits Wausau and then identify variables with city staff. There is no one answer. I’m intrigued to search for solutions in unique areas such as operational costs, wages, building standards, etc.
Sustainability planning. Sustainability needs a comprehensive plan to drive policy. A primary goal of mine will be to advocate for a Climate Action Plan that Wausau references in decisions.
Lukens: Again, all three are complex issues with no immediate or simple answers. As a new city council member, I would take a multi-pronged approach to learning all I can about each of the issues. I would research background information and reach out to listen and learn from current council members, staff, residents and any others involved. To address the issues, I would make decisions based on data and what is in the best interests of District 1 and the city of Wausau. I know the process may not always be easy but fulfilling this office with integrity is a priority for me.