A small but civic-minded set of Northwoods electors went to the polls on Tuesday to cast their votes – despite brisk weather and races that were principally local.
Both the Oneida and Vilas county boards were up for re-election, as were some towns and school board members.
Many incumbents kept their seats, but in a good number of cases, voters opted for new faces.
Oneida County Board
Two supervisors, Bob Martini and Candy Sorensen, lost re-election to the Oneida County Board on Tuesday.
Martini garnered 127 votes while his challenger, Robb Jensen, won with 211 votes – capturing District 11, which covers wards 1 and 3 in the town of Crescent.
Martini was not available for comment Wednesday morning.
In an interview, Jensen said he enjoyed meeting voters throughout his district while on the campaign trail – work that he said opened his eyes.
“It’s been a really wonderful experience canvassing the town of Crescent and getting to meet people and understanding the challenges that they face,” Jensen said. “The county really is very diverse socioeconomically. You think you understand it, but when you actually go around, you see it first hand and just how challenging some people have it.”
He said he intends to focus on improving economic development in the county, but first he has to understand more fully how the county board works and its role in county government.
“I don’t have any one specific issue that I’m going to be championing,” Jensen said.
The numbers were much closer in District 18, which covers wards 1 and 4 in the town of Minocqua and Ward 3 in the town of Woodruff. Sorensen received 121 votes and her challenger, Lance Krolczyk, received 127 votes.
Sorensen said in an interview that she learned a lot from serving on the county board for two years.
“I enjoyed my time on the county board very much,” Sorensen said. “The employees in Oneida County are excellent to work with. I think that’s what I’d say mostly. I thought the employees and the board were some excellent people.”
Krolczyk could not be reached for an interview on Wednesday.
The votes were so narrow between Sorensen and Krolczyk that absentee ballots could change the outcome, according to Oneida County Clerk Mary Bartelt.
“We really have some (races) here that are close,” she said.
As of Wednesday morning, there were 60 outstanding absentee ballots in District 18, according to Bartelt. Absentee ballots do not have to be filed with town clerks until Friday afternoon.
A couple other races are narrow as well. In District 16, Michael Timmons received 111 votes while his challenger, Michael Pockat, received 107.
And in District 7, Supervisor Bob Mott received 186 votes – six more than his challenger, Dennis Schoeneck, who garnered 180 votes.
Elsewhere in contested Oneida County Board races, county board Chairman Ted Cushing was re-elected with 165 votes in District 21. His challenger, Bruce LaRose, received 83 votes.
Though District 19 didn’t have any candidates on the ballot, write-in candidates Lisa Zunker and Jay Christgau went head to head. Zunker received 40 votes while Jay Christgau received 20 votes.
Zunker will replace Supervisor Jack Martinson, who did not run for re-election.
Superivsor Carol Pederson also won re-election in District 5, receiving 112 votes while her challenger, Robert Deede, received 17 votes.
In District 2, where no candidate was on the ballot, Tom Kelly won with 14 votes. Kelly is also a member of the Rhinelander City Council.
And in District 20, Alan VanRaalte beat Ken Dirks. VanRaalte received 134 votes; Dirks received 70 votes.
VanRaalte replaces former Supervisor Gary Baier, who died this past fall. Baier had intended to not seek re-election.
Supervisors ran unopposed and won in all other districts.
In total, the county board will see at least eight new supervisors. They are set to serve a two-year term.
Vilas County Board
A number of incumbents also lost re-election to the Vilas County Board on Tuesday.
In District 1, Vilas County Supervisor Ralph Sitzberger lost re-election to William Otterphol, 79 votes to 126.
Vernon Wiggenhauser received 119 votes and incumbent Dennis Nielsen received 66 votes in District 4.
In District 14, Art Kunde was elected to replace incumbent Maynard Bedish. Kunde received 106 votes, while Bedish received 71.
And in District 17, Ken Anderson received 101 votes while incumbent James Behling received 71 votes.
Anderson said he is obviously happy with the result.
“I’m happy the voters of Ward 1 in the town of Washington have the confidence in me to put me on the county board,” he said. “I look forward to the challenge.”
He’s covered the Vilas County Board as a reporter for WRJO Radio and The Vilas News Review for a total of 17 years.
Over the course of his coverage of the board as a member of the media, he’s made some observations of his own.
“I think the role of the county board supervisor is one of making policy and not one of micro-managing,” Anderson said. “That’s what we have department heads for. I think there’s been too much micro-managing going on in the last couple years. We’ve got to get away from that and get focused on policy.”
In other races, Rocky Caffarella defeated Grant “Jay” Verhulst in District 5 by a difference of 10 votes – 58 to 48.
Incumbent District 6 Supervisor Erv Teichmiller received 117 votes compared to opponent Michael Cady, who received 57 votes.
Mark Rogacki also kept his seat in District 11, defeating Marvin Anderson 135 to 102
In District 13, where there were no candidates on the ballot, write-in candidate Walt Maciag prevailed with 20 votes.
Steve Doyen won election in District 15, receiving 154 votes and defeating James Schweizer, who garnered 84 votes.
Incumbent Edward Bluthardt, Jr. Received 102 votes in District 20, defeating the 77 votes for Thomas Nitz.
And in District 21, Kim Simac received 140 votes while Christine Caz received 128 votes. Both were running as new candidates.
In a telephone interview with The Lakeland Times, Simac said she’s excited and is looking forward “to getting in there and being a positive person on the board.
“There’s going to be a whole new makeup of the board with so many new people there,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a really interesting time for Vilas County.”
Simac said she’s attended a few Vilas County Board meetings in the last year, including the most recent one on March 25.
“I know there are a lot of complex issues, different situations that are always coming up to the table,” she said. “I think the people want government to not keep growing and always jumping at every single program that comes down the line. I’d like to make sure that what we get ourselves involved with, what we apply for and what we partake in is really going to be beneficial for the people.”
She told The Times her election to the Vilas County Board is not, at this time anyway, a step toward getting back into politics at the state level.
In a recall election held in 2011, Simac lost a bid to unseat Jim Holperin, at the time serving as state senator for Wisconsin’s 12th District, a seat now held by Tom Tiffany.
She said she ran against Holperin in that recall only because at the time, she was upset about Holperin going to Illinois as part of an effort by Democrats in the state legislature to hold up Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights.
“That’s what really prompted it,” she said. “It wasn’t because I have a real political ambition to be ‘that person.’”
Simac said no one had run for her seat on the county board in quite some time.
Kathleen Rushlow, who had held that seat for several years, was eliminated from contention in a February primary.
“It’s not that she [Rushlow] wasn’t doing a good job,” she said. “It’s just that ... at what point do citizens need to see that they need to step up to the plate and run? That was the reason why.”
Voters in the town of Woodruff on Tuesday re-elected Town Supervisor Judy Allen but replaced supervisor Bill Rudolph. Allen received 169 votes, the most of any candidate. In second place was Corky Sheppard, with 135 votes. Rudolph received 124 votes, while Tom Granlund received 86 votes.
In the town of St. Germain, John Vojta received 271 votes, defeating incumbent Williams Bates who received 212 votes.
One new face will be added to the Lakeland Union High School Board. Incumbent Joe Fahrenbach was re-elected, though to a different seat. He had been in the at-large seat, but he sought re-election as a representative of the Minocqua-Hazelhurst-Lake Tomahawk School. Fahrenbach received 872 votes, while his challenger, Wade Wentland, received 761.
The MHLT seat was vacated by outgoing board member Shari Anderson, who opted to not run for re-election.
Two at-large seats were also in play on the LUHS board. Incumbent Shari Nimsgern was re-elected, garnering 1,423 votes. Newcomer Sarah Kemp was also elected with 1,068 votes.
For the MHLT School Board, Mary Whitman and Joan Christgau received the most votes and were elected. Whitman received 439 votes while Christgau received 384 votes.
At the Lac du Flambeau School, Brian Jackson and incumbent Michael Zimmerman won election. Jackson received 211 votes and Zimmerman received 202 votes. Incumbent Carl Edwards received 193 votes, while RunningHorse Livingston received 177.
In Mercer, newcomer Noel Brandt received 377 votes. Incumbent Micki Pierce-Holmstrom was also re-elected; she received 350 votes.
Oneida County Circuit Court Br. 1
Oneida County Circuit Court Judge Patrick O’Melia won re-election Tuesday with 2,963 votes. He ran unopposed.
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