The City of Lodi will have a contested mayoral race this election season as incumbent Mayor Jim Ness, Alderperson Suzanne Miller and Alderperson Ann Groves Lloyd to appear in the primary election on Feb. 18.

The Lodi Optimist Club will be holding a mayoral candidate forum at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at the Lodi High School Performing Arts Center for people to have a chance to hear more from the runners.

As the primary draws closer, the candidates have submitted the following questionnaires:

Jim Ness

Elected/Re-Elected (year): Elected mayor in 2016, Re-elected mayor in 2018

Tell us about yourself (background, career, etc.)

I am the youngest of 12 children born to Thomas and Verna Ness and have lived in City of Lodi all of my life. I raised two daughters and now have four grandchildren. My working life began at the Gray Rexall Drugstore for Russell and Thelma Gray when I was in the 6th grade until 1965. I continued at the Dick’s Pharmacy after Dick Rott purchased it until 1967. I then spent six years in the Army National Guard with the 13th Medical Evac Unit in Madison from 1965-1971. I had a 39-year career at Oscar Mayer working mostly as a Millwright Mechanic and retired in 2006. At age 58 I passed the Elevator Apprentice Test and worked as a Mechanic’s Helper in the elevator industry until 2011. I still find time to assist my niece at KD’s Bar and Grill now and then. Most of my time is devoted to conducting business at City Hall as the current mayor.

Why do you think you are qualified to be the Mayor of the City of Lodi?

I have lived in Lodi all of my life. The experience working on Main Street during my school years has given me insight into the Lodi business climate.

I have served as the Treasurer at the Curling Club for 30-plus years and know finances. I also understand governmental finances from my time serving on the City of Lodi Finance Committee.

As the Oscar Mayer Union Steward I worked closely with management to resolve employee relation issues and concerns.

Along with being the mayor for two consecutive terms I also served on the City Council as an Alder for over 12 years. We have accomplished some amazing things and rebuilt a great organization. I participated in the formation of our current recycling program. Cooperated with the school district to construct the streets and infrastructure for the new primary school building. Built the additional multi-purpose trail for a route to the schools. Refurbished the gateway signs and constructed the new sign on Highway 13 on the southside of the city. Streamlined the committee and commission meeting schedule to more efficiently use the time of the Alders. Executed the plan to install the Peaceful Valley mural on the side of the Martial Arts building. Expanded TIF district #5 to set the table for economic development. In the process of planning the 2023 state Highway 113 project. Through employee resignations and retirements I recruited multiple high level positions such as director of administration, chief of police, director of operations and the city clerk.

Have you held public office in the past? If so, when and what roles?

Yes, I was elected to City Council and served from 1990-1996 and served on Public Works Committee, Finance Committee, Parks Committee and Utilities Commission then again from 2009-2016. My Mayor responsibility started in 2016 to the present.

What do you believe are the roles/responsibilities of a Mayor?

The roles and responsibilities of the Mayor are to promote Lodi both commercially and industrially by meeting with engineers and developers along with promoting our Tax Incremental Districts. Planning future street projects, address employee relations, and promote cohesiveness during Council Meetings. Evaluate the strengths of the Alders to make appointments to proper committees and commissions. Build relationships with city employees and citizens to represent their best interests.

The Mayor is the friendly and welcoming face to whomever visits City Hall. I am here to listen to concerns, address problems and resolve issues.

Describe your highest priorities for the City of Lodi.

Road construction projects and infrastructure are crucial and must be high priorities. The Highway 113 road project is scheduled for resurfacing in 2023 and extensive planning with engineers and the State of Wisconsin DOT are taking place. Within the next two years both Fair and Sauk streets reconstruction and infrastructure need to be addressed and grant applications have been submitted to attempt an offset to the cost to the taxpayers.

Residential development planning on the west side of the city continues. Designing, preparation, and foresight including all the key stakeholders will resume as the projects unfold.

Developing the relocation plan for a new fire station with the collective townships is significant for the safety of all area residents.

Strive to continue our high level of customer service while maintaining the current level of taxation.

The highest priority is to preserve Lodi as a desirable community for us all live. I always do my best each and every day for Lodi.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for the City of Lodi?

The biggest challenges include continuing to fill the Main Street empty storefronts, expanding the Industrial Park and dealing with floodplain issues.

Suzanne Miller

Elected/Re-elected (year): 2017/2019

Tell us about yourself (background, career, etc.)

I grew up in a household whose parents survived the depression as well as WWII. My father served in the Army as a radio relay operator and my mother packed parachutes. We were instilled with a sense of Civic duty. We were expected to fully participate in our democracy. Voting and serving in public office was a responsibility of our citizenship.

Therefore, I have been a lifelong citizen activist. I follow three basic rules in my life:

  1. Secrets are bad. An uninformed citizenry is bad for democracy.
  2. Do the math. Do your homework. Get all the facts. Money in and money out is only addition and subtraction. Show me your budget and I’ll tell you your priorities.
  3. Follow the money. This tenet came out the Nixon Presidency. In a capitalistic society, following the money is always important information. This goes directly to the driving forces behind many decisions. Too many decisions, in my opinion. When economic considerations are first, people are not. When we do not value our people, our society declines. The math is easy. The outcome is certain.

Why do you think you are qualified to be the Mayor of the City of Lodi?

I firmly believe that anyone who has ever run a tight household budget, like myself, can improve on the waste and inefficiencies I have witnessed during my last four years on the Council. In the past year, information to our fellow Commissioners and Committee members has improved, but the efforts to control the agendas, the minutes, and any voices of dissent or disagreement is continuously limited by this Mayor and his Council President. Most recently, only committee chairs were allowed input to the Council. This automatically eliminates other voices from important conversations.

Have you held public office in the past? If so, when and what roles?

I have been a city Alder for four years be elected and re-elected in 2017 & 2019 respectively. I have also served the city as an Election Inspector, Special Registration Ambassador and poll worker.

What do you believe are the roles/responsibilities of a Mayor?

I believe a Mayor needs to oversee and manage the future of the community and her people. Society exists for people and we need to prioritize their needs and separate out their wants. A healthy community is socially, economically, and physically fulfilling.

The Preamble to our Constitution is clear: “provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…..”

Describe your highest priorities for the City of Lodi.

My number one issue is transparency with open communication between the city and her citizens. I believe the city needs to pay her bills and plan for the upcoming needs of our city. I strongly disagree with the direction and priorities of the current Council leadership which is silent on the additional costs to the city for other ambitious projects.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for the City of Lodi?

Change! Change frightens people but it is necessary to evolve into the 21st Century. I believe our city is at a crossroads. Law enforcement, the fire department and transportation are needs and they have not been adequately funded and the 2020 budget has already been decided.

We are three years into a five year warning to upgrade these critical services. Lodi wants to have everything larger cities boast but those goals are unsustainable for our community size. We can have everything we need but not everything we want. We need to make wiser decisions with our money particularly when hidden costs are not included in funding decisions as well as referendum. The cost of maintenance and labor for our city streets is never included in the large budget proposals like the turf upgrade to the school. These items fall to the city taxpayer, not the school district tax payer.

We have changed the leadership in our law enforcement. We have replaced our assessor. It’s a beginning but more change needs to happen.

“Be the change you want to see in the World.” I am the candidate of change and I hope I can earn your support.

Ann Groves Lloyd

Elected/Re-Elected(year): Was elected to Lodi Common Council in 2015, and re-elected in 2017 and 2019.

Tell us about yourself (background, career, ect.)

I’ve lived in Lodi all my life (except for a nine-month stint for my first year at UW-Madison), raised on our family farm just north of town, and living in the city since 1981. I received my BS in Life Sciences Communication, and MS and PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis all from UW-Madison. I worked at the Wisconsin Alumni Association for 10 years, was the Director of Career Services and Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs in the College of Letters & Science, and was an academic advisor prior to my retirement in 2018. I ran for the State Assembly in 2018, and was re-elected to the Common Council in 2019.

Why do you think you are qualified to be the Mayor of the City of Lodi?

My academic work and career have focused on public service. I’ve managed a division with a budget in excess of $2 million, and led organizations going through times of tremendous change and growth. Through my work with several advisory boards and boards of visitors, I’ve helped raise funds for scholarships and other academic initiatives, and I have developed programs and services that generated revenue necessary to augment very limited budgets.

I believe I’m a good leader, and more importantly, a good listener. I have extensive experience with public speaking, working with volunteers, and organizational development. I bring a different skill set to the position, one that I think is needed now.

My heart is in the community, my friends and family are here, and we’re blessed to be living in one of the most beautiful places in the world. However, we could be doing much more for our environment and our community, and I would be honored to have the opportunity to lead Lodi as we create our future together.

Have you held public office in the past? If so, when and what roles?

I served on the Lodi Utilities Commission for nearly 10 years, and have served on several committees including Public Works, Public Safety, Finance and Human Resources, and currently I’m serving as the President of the Lodi Public Library and Treasurer of the Lodi Area EMS Commission.

I’ve also served on professional and non-profit governing boards for 25 years, including serving as President for the UW-Madison Student Personnel Association, the Wisconsin College Personnel Association, the Wisconsin Ag & Life Sciences Alumni Association, and as a member of the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras for six years.

What do you believe are the roles/responsibilities of a Mayor?

The mayor serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the City of Lodi, and as such is responsible for oversight of city operations. They are also tasked with carrying out the directions given by the Common Council. Contrary to popular belief, the Mayor doesn’t have a lot of authority — they don’t vote at Common Council meetings (unless there is a tie), and don’t serve on any of the formal Committees and Commissions. The Mayor must truly be a leader — someone who is visionary, a good communicator and a problem solver.

Describe your highest priorities for the City of Lodi.

As a community, Lodi is a very special and wonderful place to live, but I think we’re struggling to figure out who we are and what our niche is. We’re also a place where people want to live, and we must be thoughtful and strategic about our future growth and development. With that in mind, I see the following as my highest priorities:

  1. Economic development, particularly businesses for downtown.
  2. Communication to, and engagement with, city residents. Also communication between service and governing organizations so we can work together to serve our citizens and be efficient.
  3. Being strategic and getting out in front of developing issues, so we’re able to become proactive rather than reactive to what’s happening in Lodi.
  4. Bringing our community together to celebrate the amazing things happening in Lodi, and to be good stewards of this beautiful land on which we live.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for the City of Lodi?

  • Shared vision — looking at who we are and what we want to be as a community.
  • Housing — we need more affordable, multi-unit housing for individuals and families.
  • Economic development — we must be thoughtful, strategic and creative as we look to attract businesses and residents.
  • Collaboration with other governing entities — the city must work with surrounding towns, and our school district, to understand common challenges and work together to improve the lives of our citizens.

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