Three positions on the Village of Cambridge Board of Trustees will be on the April 5 ballot. Seats currently held by incumbents Paula Hol-lenbeck, Dwight Christianson and Mary Fahley are up for election. However, Fahley filed for noncandidacy and is not seeking a new term.
Christianson and Hollenbeck will be challenged by Susan Christianson, Craig Carpenter, Jason Stiel and Mark McNally. All positions are for two years.
The candidates were asked to provide the Daily Jefferson County Union with information on their background, experiences and top issues of concern related to being a village trustee. The following are their responses, with incumbents listed first.
Trustee Dwight Christianson, 71, said he is running for re-election because he feels the need to ensure the village carefully invests in local government and operations.
Having been in the Cambridge area for all but two years of his life, Christianson said he is aware of the history of the village regarding the ‘who and why’ and the how things got accomplished.
He cited his goals as being to maintain a budget that is in balance and get as many things that need repair or replacement accomplished.
“Our village residents deserve police, water/sewer, fire protection, EMS, good roads, snow plowing and park maintenance, which all take time and negotiations to get in place and be paid for, either through taxes or rate-payers,” Christianson said.
He also pointed out that residents of the village need to realize that the county, school districts, vocational-technical colleges and the state all take portions of property tax dollars.
“As a citizen, I look and see a lot of work to be done,” he said. “I want this village to be a place of growth where people come to raise families and help the school district.”
Using the expansion of the library as an example, Christianson said the facility should remain multi-use as a community center and village offices.
“My thoughts are a community center should benefit all, not just short term, but years down the road,” he said.
Incumbent Trustee Paula Hol-lenbeck has been involved with Cambridge village government for the past five years.
“I appreciate the opportunity to be involved in my community and feel I bring a unique perspective to situations presented to the village board,” she said.
“While my spouse and I have lived in Cambridge for 20 years, we are not entangled in some of the complex relationships within the community,” Hollenbeck, 52, said. “This allows me to view issues presented to the board without the veil of personal baggage or past history that can sometimes cloud the picture.”
The incumbent said she is seeking re-election to continue to bring an objective voice to the village board.
Hollenbeck said she views the top three issues of concern facing the village as being fiscal responsibility, choices and transparency.
“As a member of the Audit and Finance Committee, I see how our tax dollars are spent,” she said. “We are required to balance our budget every year, and that means making hard choices regarding which efforts we pursue and which efforts we abandon or postpone.”
In seeking re-election, Hollen-beck said, she would like to continue making the smart choices about how the village not only spends money, but also looks at ways to create and increase revenue streams that does not include taxes.
In addition, the incumbent trustee said she wants to ensure that the board makes decisions that increase the choices available to citizens and business owners rather than limiting those choices.
As an example, she noted that with the update to the village ordinance related to dogs from a breed-specific ban to a dangerous animal ordinance, the board provided Cam-bridge citizens with additional choices while adding to overall safety by addressing dangerous animals versus a singular breed of dog.
Hollenbeck also cited the addition of the development at the northwest end of the village as another example.
“Housing needs of the community will be addressed by the various components that include estate lots, single-family lots, condominiums and apartments,” she said. “I would like to continue contributing to the choices available to the citizens of Cambridge, including working with the business community to enhance economic choices.”
Lastly, Hollenbeck said she hopes to address questions of transparency that have arisen from citizens during her tenure.
“I would like to increase communication with the citizens of Cambridge,” she said. “I would like to see the village board share more of why decisions are made and why selected opportunities are pursued.”
Craig Carpenter, a former Cambridge village trustee who served on the board 12 years ago, said he was drawn to run again to address questions about increased taxes, as well as water and sewer rates.
“There has been a lack of financial transparency on the board,” he said, noting that village taxes increased 10 percent and the water and sewer rates were raised between 30 percent and 35 percent in the last year.
During his past tenure on the board, Carpenter served on the Audit and Finance Committee, which he said discussed the finances and appropriations, balancing the budget and ensuring there was no overspending.
In addition, he served on the Water and Sewer Commit-tee that was responsible for putting together the plan for the $10 million wastewater facility in conjunction with the Town of Oakland.
“Once that (wastewater facility) was implemented, the payback for the facility was to be a linear payback due to the fixed capital investment,” Carpenter said. “To get this 30- to 35-percent increase in just one year is not acceptable, and should be transparently ex-plained.”
Born and raised in Cam-bridge, Carpenter pointed out that for those who are active members of the community, there is a bit more of a desire to keep it on the right path.
“There has to be representation on the board to keep things accountable, accessible and in the general direction on the straight and narrow,” Carpen-ter said.
Without getting overtly political, he noted that there has to be a fair balance between those wishing to spend and those wishing to budget conservatively.
“I question how good of an understanding the current board has of how a municipality, which should be run like a business, has to be managed in terms of checks and balances,” Carpenter said.
He suggested that when unfavorable financial actions are undertaken, it takes the concept of democracy out of village government and into a different realm. For example, Carpenter said the board eliminated the five-member economic development committee that was implemented to discuss and develop aspects of economic development for the community.
“Municipalities, both large and small, lean on these committees to help foster positive financial development and growth. That is what small-town government should be,” Carpenter said. “You have input from people of a cross-section of society to bring their expertise to the table and help that entity run as efficiently and effectively as possible for the sake of all constituents.”
Citing his past tenure as a trustee and his 35 years as a self-employed mechanical engineer, Carpenter said he has the ability to help define a problem and ultimately solve it with integrity.
“I have deep convictions,” he said. “When things happen that are, in my view, not morally right, I firmly believe I have the ability to go in, and try and fix it. You always want to do that in an upright and proper way without demeaning people along the way.”
Former village trustee and village employee Sue Christian-son, 67, is seeking to return to the board.
A lifelong resident of Cam-bridge, she said she cares deeply about the village and believes her direct knowledge of the issues, due to extensive experience with local government, exceeds that of most of the other candidates.
She served as a trustee from 2007-08 and was a village staff member from 2008-15.
“I want to help strengthen the leadership and communications between the board, the staff and the community,” Christianson said. “Having worked in customer service positions, I learned to listen to citizens’ concerns, to treat customers and colleagues with respect and to handle conflict in an assertive rather than aggressive manner.”
In her bid to return to the board, she said, she is emphasizing an improvement in village government.
Christianson said she would like to restore transparency in local government.
“Board business should be conducted following proper channels and observing committee structure,” she said.
In addition, Christianson said it is important to improve communications by board leadership so that all the board members are informed.
“Given recent staff reconstruction, it is important to review and clarify administrative hierarchy, update organizational charts and review staff job descriptions to better reflect current organizational needs,” she said.
Also, she said the needs of the public should take priority over any proposed commitment for the village hall and community center.
“Having served on the village board and staff, I am in a good position to help address any issue of staff morale,” Christianson said.
Other areas she would like to address include infrastructure and seniors’ use of the community center.
Christianson said she would like to see the village develop a long-range plan, including financing, for re-placement of water and sewer pipes, as well as streets.
Lastly, she stressed that it is important for the board to balance the needs of economic development with providing proper space and funding for senior citizens.
“We need to ensure survival of services and programs for citizens of all ages particularly seniors and children,” Christianson said. “Parts of the decision making for redesign of the Amundson Center must include space being properly allocated for village board, staff functions, the municipal court, community groups and perhaps most important senior programs and senior meal site.”
Mark McNally, 58, said he cares about the community; respects its history, values and commitment, and wishes to have a voice in crafting the direction it takes toward tomorrow.
He cited his top three concerns as attracting new families to Cambridge, capitalizing on the village’s downtown district and ensuring financial oversight.
McNally said that attracting new families to the community would allow the village to take full advantage of the school system, better utilize village services such as water and sewer and enhance the recreational opportunities.
He suggested that the village needs to better capitalize on downtown development.
“The village should take the lead in attracting, as well as retaining, exclusive shops; mandating consistent building zoning and improvements, and encouraging job creation to its employer base,” McNally said.
Regarding the village’s financial situation, he said the village board should include better and more planned-out increases in property taxes, as well as show careful stewardship of its annual budget and expenses.
“As a Wisconsin-licensed CPA, I would be willing to take an active role in assisting village employees with prudent oversight,” McNally said.
Jason J. Steil
Newcomer Jason Steil, 43, has lived in Cambridge for more than a decade and said he has witnessed little turnover in public office.
“I feel like there should be some new thoughts and ideas on how to grow the village,” he said. “My emphasis would be to build a stronger partnership with the local chamber of commerce.”
Steil said one of his goals would be for the village to help establish more local businesses in Cambridge to not only help support the water and tax burden, but also to offer more goods and services to residents of Cambridge.
“I am very excited to work hand-in-hand with the developers of the new winery here in Cambridge to allow them the opportunity to grow their business to help serve the community,” he said.
In addition, as a trustee, Steil said, he would hold the village to high standards of fiscal responsibility without adversely impacting the current standards of living.
“I would like to keep the current services offered to the community and look for ways to enhance or increase services while in keeping with a strict budget,” he added.
“These are very exciting times in Cambridge and I would love to have the opportunity to be part of it,” Steil added.