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April 3 election guide: Mayor, City Council, town boards, municipal judge

The River Falls Journal sent questionnaires to candidates in all contested and non-contested trustee and alderperson races in the April 3 election for the city of River Falls; towns of River Falls, Troy, Kinnickinnic and the River Falls School Board.

Contested races include two vying for the Mayor's seat in the city of River Falls, four vying for two open alderperson at large seats on the River Falls City Council, and two vying for the alderperson District 4 seat on the River Falls City Council.

In the other races, the number of candidates for each seat doesn't exceed the number of open slots on the boards. The Journal asked them to also participate in order to refresh voters' minds on their elected and potential elected officials.

Those who responded have their answers recorded below. Incumbents are marked with an (i).

City of River Falls Mayor

Two candidates have filed for the seat of River Falls Mayor.

Name: Dan Toland (i)

Position for which you are running: Mayor

Age: 55

Address: 420 E. Elm St.

Occupation: Owner, Pearson Florist and Greenhouse. Full time at Andersen Windows

Family: wife: Joni; children Zach, Bailey, Sam and Sophie

Prior elected offices: Mayor is the only elected office

Civic involvement: Member of Masonic Lodge #109 in River Falls; coached Little League baseball and soccer when our kids were little; Scout leader.

Discuss the committees on which you have served, review any accomplishments to which you feel you have made a particular contribution and share your intentions for involvement during the new term.

Committees: I run all council meetings and the planning commission meetings. Accomplishments: In my opinion my accomplishments are measured by results and we get those results by listening to the department heads and the city administrator and making sure they have what they need to accomplish the goals they are working on. By my listening and acting, they can continue to make this a city that people want to be a part of. Intentions: I want to continue to make sure that our citizens are our number one priority, and to make sure that we are always looking for innovative ways to make our city stronger and enticing to businesses and families, so they can move here and feel welcomed and safe.

Identify and elaborate on any other issues facing the board which you feel to be important.

The biggest issues will be continuing to keep our infrastructure system up-to-date, which so far the city has done a great job of. Continue to work with different developers and business owners to take as many obstacles out of their way, so they can be successful and, in turn, we are successful.

As members of this community we need to welcome everybody who moves here to raise their children and work in our city. We will have to continue to make hard decisions on how we spend your tax dollars and to make sure we do that in the most economical way possible. In short, we have to keep moving forward down this path before us we have all worked so hard to create. The future is bright in River Falls.

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Name: Aaron Taylor

Position for which you are running: Mayor

Age: 30

Address: 1119 State St. #251

Occupation: Analytical Chemist

Family: None

Prior elected offices: I was Alderperson in District 4 in River Falls from 2014-2016

Civic involvement: River Falls Community Food Pantry board member, also a volunteer there; Theta Chi Fraternity Alumni Board; past member of of the Police and Fire, Ambulance, Historic Preservation Commissions

Explain how and why you chose to run for office and what areas particularly interest you.

I decided to run for Mayor to become involved with city government once again. I enjoyed my time on the city council but wanted to increase my role to help my generation have a stronger voice in determining the future of River Falls. I will continue to support River Falls' excellent staff and hiring of staff. My priority will be keeping the city's portion of property taxes as low as possible while still maintaining our current level of service. Most of all I will be available to listen and discuss issues with the residents of River Falls so I can advocate for what they want the city to be.

Identify and elaborate on any other issues facing the board which you feel to be important.

A major issue facing River Falls is the lack of affordable medium-to-low income housing. There are many young professionals who would like to become homeowners in River Falls, but are forced to buy out of the city because of high prices and high property taxes for the available houses. There is also a shortage in employment opportunities that pay a livable wage (compared to previous generations) in River Falls. The city staff is also facing a few higher level retirements in the next five years, so succession planning is key for River Falls to maintain its great track record in staffing.

City of River Falls Alderperson-at-large

Four candidates have filed for two open alderperson-at-large positions on the River Falls City Council.

Name: Jeff Bjork (i)

Position for which you are running: Alderman At-Large, City of River Falls

Age: 54

Address: 759 River Ridge Road

Occupation: Director of Business Development for an international manufacturing company

Family: Wife Misty (26 years); three sons Andrew (25), Jackson (22), and Benjamin (20), and Eleanor (5) our Labrador.

Prior elected offices: City of River Falls Alderman At-large

Civic involvement: RFHS Alumni Association (President), Ezekiel Lutheran (member, usher, etc...), Masonic Temple (Chaplin), River Falls Historical Preservation Committee, EMS Advisory Board, UW-Stout Alumni Association, Falcon & Wildcat football game day crew, and much more.

Discuss the committees on which you have served, review any accomplishments to which you feel you have made a particular contribution and share your intentions for involvement during the new term.

During my time on the city council and before I have had the privilege to be on a number of city commissions and boards. They have included Downtown Design Review Committee, City Board of Appeals, Historic Preservation Commission, Community Art Base Utility Box Beautification Project and currently the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board. Each of these opportunities has been met with enthusiasm and respect for what they are. My attention while serving in these organizations has always been to do what is right and proper for the residents of the City of River Falls and not the individual. Many accomplishments have been met in all these groups during my time and I'm only too happy and proud to be part of those teams.

Identify and elaborate on any other issues facing the board which you feel to be important.

River Falls is a city I will always call my home and a city that I will always take great pride and honor serving and representing. Issues come in all sizes and the city will continue to face concerns of all natures that need attention from many resources, including those of the city council. Two top concerns of mine would be our city's pace of growth and expansion and the issue of our old and outdated police and fire stations. River Falls is somewhat in a unique situation in that we are closely located to a major metro and are financially very sound, allowing us many opportunities to explore and pursue, but which ones and how are the questions this and future councils must ponder.

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Name: Judie Foster Babcock

Position for which you are running: Alderperson At Large - River Falls City Council

Age: 55 (Born in 1962)

Address: 104 Sylla St,, River Falls

Occupation: Commercial Insurance Underwriting

Family: Married, and fifth generation Foster, one of the founding families of River Falls.

Prior elected offices: None

Civic involvement: River Falls Rotary Club/ Rotary International - member; River Falls Area Optimists Club / Optimists International - member; River Falls Legion Post - Women's Auxiliary - member; Community Arts Base (CAB) - member; Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters Society (CPCU) - member; Minnesota Chapter of CPCU - board member and volunteer communications director; Travelers - Women's Diversity Network - member; Kinnickinnic River Land Trust - Vice President and Capacity Committee Chair; Bethel Lutheran Church, Hudson.

Explain how and why you chose to run for office and what areas particularly interest you.

I decided to run after discussions with many people in the community who encouraged me to get on the ballot. I grew up in River Falls and have a deep family history here. Our community is attractive for all life stages. Continued investment in our quality of life is important to me. My 30-plus-year career in risk management and commercial underwriting allow me to bring deep business acumen to the alderperson role. I've served in a variety of leadership roles for local and regional non-profit and professional organizations. As a growing community, River Falls has many challenges, choices and opportunities to pursue. If elected, I will listen to community voices and make balanced decisions prepares River Falls for the future.

Identify and elaborate on any other issues facing the board which you feel to be important.

As one of the fastest growing cities in Wisconsin, River Falls is going to change. It is important that the change is managed with a long-term view, including: Attracting high-paying service and manufacturing industries and businesses to River Falls, bring tax-base and families in our community. Investing in the future through our school systems and facilities to prepare youth for careers and active citizenship. Kinni Corridor planning and implementation to encourage people to enjoy the natural beauty of our parks and waterways, in all seasons. Ensuring government is efficient, experiences are convenient, and we manage public funds with integrity.

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Name: Scott Morrissette (i)

Position for which I am running: Alderperson at Large

Age: 52

Address: 2137 Rushmore Drive, River Falls

Occupation: Business Banker for Bremer Bank

Family: Wife, Jody, works at Greenwood; kids, Emily, college in Winona; Molly, college in Mankato and Sam, high school senior.

Prior elected offices: Alderperson at Large (incumbent)

Civic Involvement: River Falls Rotary Member (President 2014-2015), River Falls Area Chamber of Commerce — Board Member (President 2014), River Falls Sunshine Foundation Board Member.

Discuss the committees on which you have served, review any accomplishments to which you feel you have made a particular contribution and share your intentions for involvement during the new term.

I am currently the council president. In this role, I stand in for the mayor if he is unable to attend a ribbon cutting or preside at a meeting. In addition I have served as the comptroller of the council, which is responsible for financial oversight as well as signing legal document on behalf of the city. Currently I served as the council representative to the Plan Commission and have worked on the South Main Street plan. In addition, I have served on the Kinni/RF Boundary Committee as we all the Troy/RF Boundary Committee. I have also served on the Historic Preservation Commission. All these positions have given me a comprehensive understanding of the operation of the city.

Identify and elaborate on any other issues facing the board which you feel to be important.

Maintaining the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the city is my key focus. There are several projects that address these priorities currently in process. North Sewer Interceptor: This will ensure that waste water from the northside of River Falls will be handled responsibly. Currently it runs through a lift station reaching the end of its useful life. Glen Park Plan: Implementation in 2019 with some work beginning in 2018. This plan was a result of community involvement and reflects the public's input. Highway 65/Division Jug handle: The city, along with the WisDOT, has begun the process of making the intersection safer. There have been several accidents at that site and we will be working with DOT to add an additional exit on the west side (ballpark) to make it safer.

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Name: Michael Page

Position for which you are running: Alderperson at Large, City of River Falls

Age: 38

Address: 315 N. Fremont St., River Falls

Occupation: Dentist at Page Family Dentistry and Major in the Army National Guard

Family: I am married to Emily (Schwartz) Page; we have three children Isla, Theron, and Ellis ages 6, 5, and 2, with a fourth child on the way!

Prior elected offices: University of Minnesota — School of Dentistry Webmaster — four years in elected office

Civic involvement: President, Friends of the Kinni; First Past President, River Falls Lions Club; member of the River Falls Sportsmen's Club, Kiap-TU-Wish chapter of Trout Unlimited and Kinnickinnic River Land Trust.

Explain how and why you chose to run for office and what areas particularly interest you.

I am running for city council because I want to serve our community during this exciting time! I will make our city a better place by ensuring we restore the Kinnickinnic River in a timely and fiscally responsible fashion by bringing outside funding sources into our community. The opportunity we have today to restore a free flowing Kinni and Junction Falls Waterfall in the heart of our community is amazing! Splitting the restoration of the Kinni into two different projects over 20 years will add significantly to the expense of the project, at a cost the recent resolution lays on the shoulders of our children. We cannot afford to delay the restoration of the Kinni another generation before we reap the benefits of this opportunity.

Identify and elaborate on any other issues facing the board which you feel to be important.

The Kinnickinnic River is the centerpiece of our community, yet we have turned our backs on this beautiful River and abused it for too long. It is time for us to turn around and embrace the Kinni! Public support has weighed in heavily in favor of the restoration of the Kinnickinnic River through dam removal. Scientific facts tell us that removal of the dams is the right thing to do for the River. Delaying this opportunity for our community and for our River comes at a substantial ecological and financial cost. We have already decided as a community that removing the dams and restoring the River is the right thing to do, and now is always the right time to do the right thing.

City of River Falls District 4 Alderperson

Two candidates have filed for the District 4 Alderperson seat.

Name: Todd Bjerstedt (i)

Position for which you are running: Alderperson District 4

Age: 61

Address: 531 High Ridge Road RF

Occupation: Designer and Project Manager for McDonald Remodeling, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. We also own and operate Southtown Cleaners, a 24-hour laundromat at 1025 S. Main St.

Family: Wife: Denise; daughters: Edie and Olivia, grandchildren: Lilyanna and Maleko

Prior elected offices: Alderperson District 4 (one term)

Civic involvement: Numerous church boards and committees over the years. Numerous committees and board positions, including president of the Builder Association of the Twin Cities. Numerous committees and board positions, including president of the Builders Association of Minnesota. Past member of the board of directors for the National Association Home Builders Committee member for the Towns of Troy and Kinnickinnic

Discuss the committees on which you have served, review any accomplishments to which you feel you have made a particular contribution and share your intentions for involvement during the new term.

I am currently chair of the board of commissioners for the River Falls Housing Authority. I am pleased to be a part of the city council's recent actions regarding the Kinni Corridor plan. If re-elected I look forward to completing the plan. I have been a supporter of the Glen Park renovations — as budget allows. I have been a vocal advocate of a housing needs assessment study, which we now have in our possession. I believe it will prove to be a valuable planning tool. I am a strong supporter of necessary improvements to the Fire, Police and EMS facilities.

Identify and elaborate on any other issues facing the board which you feel to be important.

One of the main tasks of the council is to anticipate and plan for the needs of the future. The successful completion of boundary agreements with neighboring townships, coupled with an in-depth look at our business and housing needs will help immensely with future planning. Infrastructure, housing, police, fire, EMS, schools, etc. are all linked directly to growth so it's critical to maintain balance in our planning and not allow single topics to dominate the thought process. I feel the current council has that balance and I look forward to continuing our efforts.

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Name: Ben Plunkett

Position for which you are running: River Falls Alderperson District 4

Age: 44

Address: 709 Bartosh Lane

Occupation: Farming/Forestry

Family: None listed

Prior elected offices: Pierce County Supervisor 2006-2012 and 2016-2018

Civic involvement: Political Director of the Wisconsin Homegrown Voter PAC, member of Pierce County Democratic party

Explain how and why you chose to run for office and what areas particularly interest you.

I want our city council to protect the aspects of our city that make it a desirable place to live, and plan future development so that we preserve its attractive character. By encouraging compact responsible development we can maintain the qualities that brought many of us here. Modifying our zoning by adding a high density single family housing district can help prevent sprawl. Adding a critical parking area to our Parking Control map can help with parking for resident close to the university, while bringing in revenue from visitors. Further connecting our neighborhoods and downtown with paths and trails will allow us to increase our population while preventing traffic congestion.

Identify and elaborate on any other issues facing the board which you feel to be important.

Our UW and CVTC campuses bring young people from around the region to River Falls. Many of these residents are originally from Minnesota. Keeping these residents in our area, and providing housing they can afford to buy will help improve our economy. Residents are the people who will start and new businesses and be the workers and customers of existing ones. Challenges due to state regulations on high-capacity wells threaten our rivers and water. Economic disparity make it harder for those younger to achieve the success that older generations did. By involving younger voters and educating them about our government processes we can counter some of these problems, and help us with new ideas to fix pollution and resource needs.

City of River Falls Municipal Judge

Daniel Gorman has filed for the seat of municipal judge. He did not return a questionnaire.

Town of Kinnickinnic supervisor

Three seats are open on the Kinnickinnic town board. Two candidates have filed papers. Alex Williams did not return a questionnaire.

Name: Mae Wolfe (i)

Position for which you are running: Supervisor 4, Kinnickinnic Town Board

Age: None listed

Address: None listed

Occupation: None listed

Family: None listed

Prior elected offices: incumbent for this position

Civic involvement: Town representative for Rural Fire Association, town representative on Senior Center Board, treasurer of River Falls Garden Club, member of local church choir

Discuss the committees on which you have served, review any accomplishments to which you feel you have made a particular contribution and share your intentions for involvement during the new term.

I've held this position since 2012. Over this time, I have collaborated with my fellow board members to wrestle with some difficult decisions, such as big financial commitments on roads. I try to use common sense to make decisions that best serve the majority of the town residents. With my background in finance, I use that knowledge to be as prudent as possible with the use of all discretionary funds. We work to balance practical needs with the responsibility to protect our beautiful rural setting.

Identify and elaborate on any other issues facing the board which you feel to be important.

Our town roads are an important responsibility that consumes the largest part of the town's discretionary budget. It is a challenge to educate and enforce regulations that help protect these roads, such as weight limits and seasonal restrictions. Also, as a rural community, we face the hardship of fewer high speed internet options. Therefore, I am ever vigilant for new developments in that area that may help our citizens going forward.

Town of River Falls Supervisor

Two candidates have filed papers for two seats on the River Falls Town Board. Joe Mahoney did not return a questionnaire.

Name: Brad Mogen (i)

Position for which you are running: Supervisor IV, Town of River Falls

Age: 62

Address: N7243 810th St., River Falls

Occupation: Recently retired after serving 25 years as a Professor of Biology at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls. Currently own Trimbelle Valley Apiary.

Family: Wife, Kim, who also served as a Professor of Biology at UWRF for 25 years. Two sons, Brian and Kevin, both graduates or River Falls High School

Prior elected offices: I have held the Supervisor IV position since 2007.

Civic involvement: Member of the St. Croix Valley Beekeepers Association; member (or have been in the past) of several town committees: Planning Commission, Parks Committee, Roads Committee, Cemetery Committee, Facilities Planning,Committee, Master Plan Committee, Comprehensive Plan Committee; completed Leadership River Falls; many UWRF committees over the years

Discuss the committees on which you have served, review any accomplishments to which you feel you have made a particular contribution and share your intentions for involvement during the new term.

I have served on many town committees since I first became involved in local government. We are blessed to have a very committed and talented group of individuals working at all levels for the betterment of the town. We have a wonderful town board and planning commission, comprised of folks with differing political views and individual strengths who are a joy to work with. The board is willing to compromise to make sure it serves the town. One of my roles is to be the lead in following the expansion of broadband into rural communities and to identify opportunities for the town. Like virtually all other rural communities, the lack of affordable high-speed internet is one of the most frustrating things our citizens face, along with inadequate State funding for infrastructure maintenance.

Identify and elaborate on any other issues facing the board which you feel to be important.

As previously mentioned, a lack of state funding to adequately maintain our infrastructure is the perpetual issue we deal with. The costs of road maintenance have increased significantly faster than state support so the town constantly struggles to prioritize more needs than funding permits and it's frustrating the state restricts the town's ability to raise the funds necessary to keep our roads and bridges safe. Broadband buildout and access are always topics of discussion, as are controlled growth within the Town and efforts to establish good working relations with the City of River Falls.​

Town of Troy Supervisor

Two candidates have filed papers for two seats on the Troy Town Board.

Town of Troy

Name: Cliff Jennings

Position for which you are running: Supervisor 4

Age: 41

Address: River Falls, Town of troy

Occupation: Finance Analyst/ Farmer

Family: Yes, married with a son and daughter

Prior elected offices: None listed

Civic involvement :Active volunteer with A1-Archery helping with youth archery sports

Explain how and why you chose to run for office and what areas particularly interest you.

As a resident of Troy for my entire life, I believe I can represent the unique challenges of a rural community impacted by growth and expansion. I believe my background working for a large corporation for the last 17 years along with growing up on and now running a family farm will allow me to help balance decisions based on rural values, yet understanding and appreciating the need to grow.

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Name: Lowell Enerson

Position for which you are running: Town of Troy Supervisor

Age: 73

Address: 293 Townsvalley Road, River Falls

Occupation: Retired

Family: wife Kathy, four adult children and eight grandchildren

Prior elected offices: Garden Valley Telephone Co-op — served 18 years; elected to numerous church boards; Board of Directors of Regional Development & Community College Equality Township Clerk

Civic involvement: President of Bethel Lutheran Church Council; member of River Falls American Legion; member of Town of Troy Planning Commission; Vice-Chair of Town of Troy Park Board

Explain how and why you chose to run for office and what areas particularly interest you.

Having a long career in public administration of municipalities and a 10-county watershed district, I have the experience and knowledge to go to work for the residents of the Town of Troy. We need to work with our neighboring cities of Hudson and River Falls for the future needs of our residents. We need to seek solutions to keep the cost of government services in check.

Identify and elaborate on any other issues facing the board which you feel to be important.

The State Census estimates the population of the Town of Troy at 6,000 residents. Growth in the township keeps moving upward and it is estimated that by the year 2020 the population will be over 7,000. We need to address our roads to ensure they are safe and will meet the requirements of our residents. The Highway 35 Corridor is an important area for the development and future tax base for our township. Careful planning and safe access to the highway and potential development is very important. I feel that I have the experience to benefit the residents of Troy and develop a safe solution to this growth.