Marshfield Mayor Candidates Speak on Issues Facing City

Left to Right: Mayoral Candidates Bob McManus, Ken Bargender and Lois TeStrake.

MARSHFIELD, WI (OnFocus) – Three candidates for the Marshfield mayoral race will be vying for two spots on the ballot during the Feb. 15 primary. They all come from different backgrounds and have different views on government within the city.

We asked them all questions (with help from our readers) to help citizens make their choice when they vote in the primary and then during the Spring Election on Tuesday, April 5. We have provided some background information on the candidates with their answers to questions included below.

Lois TeStrake

Lois TeStrake

Lois TeStrake has lived in Marshfield for 35 years and currently works as a self-employed hairstylist.

Ken Bargender

Ken Bargender

Ken Bargender moved to the city of Marshfield 32 years ago after moving from his family farm outside of Marshfield and is self-employed.

Bob McManus

Bob McManus

Bob McManus has lived in Marshfield for 12 years and currently works as the Sales Manager and Commercial Real-Estate Agent for Century 21 Gold Key Realty Inc.

Q: Why did you choose to run for office?

TeStrake: Marshfield means the world to me. We have a wonderful, safe town in which to live. Great education, low cost of living, and many other quality of life opportunities add to our excellent community. As your Mayor, and with the partnership of the community as a whole, we will keep it a great place to live. My past, and present involvement with different organizations has given me the push to be in public service.

Bargender: Because the citizens and taxpayers of the city need and deserve a Mayor that is 100% honest, 100% transparent, 100% trustworthy, 100% of the time.

McManus: I truly love the City of Marshfield and want to contribute and do my civic duty to help the city through its current condition and help it thrive in so many different areas.

Q: Why do you feel qualified to run for office?

TeStrake: I believe I have a good feel for the people of Marshfield. I am willing to work and learn from anyone who is willing to be by my side to continue moving our city forward. My drive and motivation is my biggest attribute. No one outworks me! I have served on the Main Street Marshfield Board of Directors for the past 17 years. I am a graduate of the Leadership Marshfield program. I have a ton of volunteer work for many organizations within our community. I dedicated more than nine years at Regis Hairstyling Salon, here in Marshfield. For the past 33 years, I have owned a successful Beauty Salon.

Bargender: I have 14 years of experience serving the residents of the City of Marshfield as alderperson and on many other city boards, commissions and committees. The 35 years of business knowledge I have acquired has been an asset for making wise decisions on behalf of the city.

McManus: I absolutely feel qualified. I have a very diverse background. In my younger years I was a paramedic. This really helped me gain clarity of decision making and be confident in my decisions and working them through. I also have been a business owner, and ran all aspects of the business. Additionally, I have been in the finance and banking world. This really helped me sharpen my skills of policy, and working on projects with many different people, and differing opinions, but arriving at a comfortable solution that worked for all involved. I really learned the value of listening to many different points of view, and being open to others points of view, to eventually arrive at a solution that worked for all.  My current occupation is that of a Sales Manager and Commercial Real Estate Agent. One of the businesses that I owned was a real estate office so I am back practicing what I love the most, which is bringing people together on a transaction where both buyer and seller can be involved in a win-win transaction.

Q: Where are your favorite places to spend time in Marshfield?

TeStrake: I am ALL about LOCAL, LOCAL, LOCAL! There are many terrific recreational activities to do here. It would be too hard to mention all of them and I don’t want to leave any one out. I enjoy walking and seeing different parts of the city. For the past two summers I have attended almost every home game for the Marshfield Chaparrals. I have had the outstanding opportunity to sing the National Anthem for them as well. This has been such an honor. My late father was a WWII Veteran and I am a lifetime member of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary.  Singing the National Anthem is part of my heart. I am a member of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, and have served as a Parish Council Member.

Bargender: The Upham Mansion, I really enjoy the time I spend contributing to the museum. Weber Nature Park, Weber Nature Park adjoins my property, so it is convenient for my family to use. Most recently, I have been spending time at the Senior / Community Center and conversing with some of our senior citizens.

McManus: There are so many different things to do in Marshfield. We have a world class zoo right here that is incredible to go to. The drive thru zoo and the ponds are an amazing way to enjoy some peace and quiet. The new Aquatic Center is nothing shy of amazing. I am very proud of the fact that both my wife, Kara, and I were on the fundraising committee to help bring that idea to fruition. Jurustic Park is an amazing experience.  Because of my background as a paramedic and first responder, Strohman Park is a great place to help get centered if you have things on your mind. We have an amazing YMCA in town, and some fun restaurants to go to as well. Kind of hard to say I just have a favorite place because I enjoy the entire City.

Q: What are three key issues you feel Marshfield faces in the next two years?

TeStrake: Economic Development, Taxes, and to improve city wide “Broadband Access”.

Bargender: 1. Rebuilding the trust in the office of Mayor. 2. Rebuilding the trust in leadership at the police department. 3. Dealing with a 2023 and 2024 budget, which will likely be affected by higher costs due to inflation.

McManus: Since I made my decision to run I have been out talking with the public to get a sense of what is important to them.  It is not good for anyone to have a predetermined agenda when running for public office, but rather to listen to the public on what is important to them.  Here is what I have heard over and over – 1) The public wants a local government that listens to them and values their input.  Too many people that I have talked to feel as though they are not being heard…at all. 2) Roads and Potholes. This is something we always hear about, and it is a Public Safety Concern. When people hear of public safety, what typically comes to mind are Fire and Police Departments. We are fortunate here in Marshfield to have amazing Police Officers, Firefighters, and Paramedics, support staff and management. But another aspect of public safety is the roads. Dan Knoeck the City of Marshfield Public Works Director and Tom Turchi the City Engineer have done outstanding work on a large-scale road plan to take care of the roads. Their plan is very comprehensive. Our issue in Marshfield is not that we don’t know about it, or have a plan for it, the issue is we need more funding to go towards these projects. The balance between need and want in the city roads is amazing. As an example, if you have a need for $3,000,000.00 worth of projects that need to be done, but only have $2,000,000.00 of resource, you are going to have continued road issues. We need to find a way to get the resources that they need. 3) TAXES. Because of the very odd accounting methods that were used for over a decade, the City has had to raise taxes sharply over the past couple years. It would appear that things have stabilized a bit, but still needs to be controlled.

Q: If elected, what steps would you take to put Marshfield on a firmer financial footing?

TeStrake: I would work hand in hand with City Staff, community business leaders, and the Common Council in finding ways to expand and solidify commercial businesses and opportunities. I will be there to help and advise.

Bargender: I strongly believe in fiscal responsibility. I would ask department heads to be more responsible, by using cost effective spending measures. Continued support of economic development to ensure a larger tax base. I would encourage the common council members to adapt stricter budget guidelines.

McManus: This is twofold. First we have to keep our tax situation in check. The City of Marshfield credit rating took a hit with Moody’s due to the major accounting error and subsequent finances that were just off, and that needs to get back up. However, Moody’s does not just raise a credit score, it takes time. Moody’s wanted to make sure that the City was diligent to get our finances under control. With the last couple of tax hikes, the City is finally able to pay all of its bills and not be in a deficit. Second, in a recent discussion I had with City Administrator Steve Barg, he advised me that the City will be receiving a total of $1.9 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This can be very helpful to the City finances overall if spent wisely. Apparently, the City has already received approx. $900,000.00 of that, and they are working on a plan to utilize those funds as wisely as possible.

Q: If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

TeStrake: Work with staff and the Common Council to find where it can be used in the best way to serve the entirety of all residents.

Bargender: I would use $500,000 on a housing rehabilitation grant program for Marshfield homeowners of middle and low income. $400,000 to build a homeless shelter. $100,000 would go towards more education and tools for law enforcement to curb illegal drug activity in the city.

McManus: So, this is a very interesting question. The mayor does not have the authority to designate where money can go. The Mayor can suggest or bring a presentation to the Common Council and they will vote up or down. However, I am happy to answer the question on what I would like to see if that were something I could do. My first inclination would be to return it to the taxpayer who is rightfully entitled to it. But the amount to them would be so small it would be hardly worth it. Today COVID has turned our world upside down. Thankfully, here in Marshfield we have a world class healthcare facility in the Marshfield Clinic Health Systems and great work from the Wood County Health Department that keeps us updated on all aspects of COVID. Because of this I would allot the funds in this way – 1) $250,000.00 to be split equally between our local nonprofits that do so much good, such as Mary’s Place, The Hannah Center, Shirley’s House of Hope, PDC Orenda Center, United Way, and Salvation Army. This direct support would certainly help these organizations and Marshfield residents greatly. And of course, we would earmark some of the money for our furry friends at Marshfield Area Pet Shelter (MAPS). 2) I would earmark $250,000.00 directly to an immediate pothole fund, that would give the city streets an infusion of cash that can only be used for fixing those potholes. And 3) $500,000.00 to be put into a fund as grants for local Marshfield businesses to apply for.  Our local businesses have been hit very hard due to COVID. Between supply chain issues and having trouble finding and keeping employees, this infusion of cash would be very helpful to them and to the goods and services that they supply to Marshfield Residents.

Q: What personal business interests/connections do you have that are connected to the City of Marshfield? How will you ensure these personal business interests won’t interfere with your ability to do your job fairly?

TeStrake: I am not in anybody’s pocket and I will not be swayed by anyone. I am not trading favors. When you elect me your Mayor, rest assured that my character and integrity will not waiver. Honesty is truly the Best policy!

Bargender: None.

McManus: I currently work at Century 21 Gold Key Realty Inc and I am the Sales Manager and Commercial Real Estate Agent. Occasionally because of the line of work that I am in I would be bringing businesses into the City to open their doors. If those businesses or entities had to come to the City through the Planning Commission or Council Discussion, I would simply recuse myself from those discussions. Additionally, the City now has an Ethics committee that advises those in public office if they should recuse themselves or not, and I would be sure to utilize their expertise.

Q: Do you think our main street/downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?

TeStrake: I spend a large amount of time in our downtown. As is the case everywhere, local businesses have struggled through this Covid struggle. We have great stake holders and there is always room for improvement. I would like to see more store fronts occupied and strive to make it more of a destination.

Bargender: I believe our downtown business district is alive and making progress every year. I know many people that are committed to making the downtown a business and tourist destination.

McManus: I believe right now because of what COVID has brought on, our Main Street/Downtown businesses have had a very hard time. Between supply chain issues and employee issues it has been tough for them. A local business recently did a post on Facebook that said she was ordering cups and in the last year her price went from $48.99 to $118.49 for cups. That is an enormous increase that she has to absorb in her business and that is just one of the expenses she listed. She stated the cost for these supplies went up by 260% just in the last year!!! How is any business supposed to keep reasonable prices when they are getting blasted with those major increases? Couple that with a dramatic shortage of employees and that is very stressful for business owners. I believe there are things we can do to help our Main Street Downtown businesses and all businesses in the City.

Q: Why should people vote for you?

TeStrake: I represent Honesty, Integrity and Character. I have no Hidden Agenda! I would like to try a new path in my life. I will commit my total devotion to this new avenue of service. If you don’t try, you will never know.

Bargender: Because, I am an honest and trustworthy person that truly cares about the City of Marshfield, it’s citizens and their values. I have the experience in government and the knowledge needed to successfully serve the citizens in the role of Mayor for the City of Marshfield.

McManus: Because I have the courage to do the job. Much of the job is fun – going out to ribbon cuttings, business openings, going to schools and talking with kids, engaging with the public and answering questions directly. Other parts are procedural like running the Common Council meetings, dealing with department issues and meetings. And the final part is very challenging, and that is dealing with very difficult and legal issues that the City has had to deal with. I believe that this is where my strength is; I am not a yes man, and I am not an insider. I will stand up for what is right and fair, and there are some that don’t like that. Additionally, I will listen to the people of Marshfield. When I am in office, the people’s voice will be heard. I hope you will consider voting for me, Bob McManus to be your Mayor.

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News Desk
Author: News Desk