Incumbent Deb Ryan will face challenger Chad Henke in a race for the Wausau City Council District 11 seat in the spring election on April 5. For information on voter registration and polling locations, you can visit MyVote Wisconsin’s website.
The Wausau Daily Herald asked each candidate to address important issues in the city and why they believe they are the best candidate for the position.
Occupation: Electrical engineer
Education: Bachelor’s degree
Age: Did not provide.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in accounting and business administration from Northern Michigan University; master’s degree in business administration from Roosevelt University
RELATED: These contested races will be on the ballot for Wausau, Marathon County in the spring 2022 elections
RELATED: Wausau area February primary election results
What motivated you to run for city council?
chicken: As an engineer, going into politics never really crossed my mind. However, I do think if we want more young professionals in the area, more of them need to be involved in policy discussions. I hope to help make Wausau an inviting, welcoming and economically successful city.
Ryan: Over the last 10 years, I have attended city council and committee meetings regarding three four-way stops that have improved walking, biking and driving safety in west side neighborhoods. I learned the process for traffic improvements working with city engineers, police and accident data as well as council members.
I questioned how having a four- or five-lane road merging down to a two-lane bridge on Thomas Street made any sense. I have shared concerns on issues such as: why there were no bids on the Stewart Avenue birds project and the need to make improvements on vetting proposals such as Riverlife and West Side Battery developments.
What makes you the better candidate in this race?
chicken: I have spent my professional career working with and for some of the largest employers and major industries in town. I have known people my age who have decided to stay in the area and some who have decided to leave; I feel I would be able to bring those experiences to the table when discussing economic development, housing and employment issues. I will approach city council work with a logical and methodical mindset.
Ryan: With a bachelor’s degree and over 20 years of work experience in accounting and grants management, I have used my skills on city budgets, expenditures as well as how to save unspent dollars for the overall city needs as determined by the city council.
I have been advocating for an overhaul of the grants application and management so the city council can have more input and approval in once-in-a-lifetime grant funding, which currently is controlled only by the mayor and city directors and staff. I was not for the grant submission of the $10 million WOZ elevated pedestrian walkway.
What do you believe are the most pressing issues facing the city right now?
chicken: Successfully executing the city’s plan for the downtown redevelopment and recruiting and retaining young professionals in the area.
Ryan: The most pressing issue is the water advisory of water coming from our city wells and filtered by the old water plant. The new Wausau water plant is planned to start operations come November 2022, but it was not designed to filter out or reduce PFOS and PFAS of the 5 million gallons a day of our water needs.
I have advocated for the removal and replacement of lead water mains and laterals on homes built before 1986. The city estimates there are over 9,000 business and residential lead water laterals around the older sections of Wausau. Under the current city plans – replacing 100 laterals per year – it would take 92 years.
RELATED:Drinking water in all of Wausau’s municipal wells test above the recommended state standards for PFAS known as ‘forever chemicals’
RELATED: ‘The city needs to grow’: Wausau Center mall redevelopment plans
What steps would you take to address those issues as a member of the city council?
chicken: I will use my professional experiences to ask the technical questions required of these bigger projects and issues and relay that information to residents. I have managed and worked on multimillion-dollar capital projects and understand how important it is to think critically when planning ahead. I will also listen to my constituents and voice their concerns, answer their questions and share their ideas about these issues.
Ryan: As a council member and member of the Finance Committee, I voted for purchasing bottled water for our residents, pursuing water plant additions for the treatment and filtering of the city’s drinking water and purchasing home filters for our customers.
The city has no long-term plans to accelerate the replacement of the lead water mains and laterals. I have asked for updated information on how many miles of old lead water mains and laterals still need to be replaced.
I am advocating that the majority of the unused $10 million of American Rescue Plan funds available through Dec. 31, 2026, be used to address these issues.
RELATED: Wausau mayor says Public Works director misled on PFAS contamination; he calls accusations ‘ridiculous’
RELATED: Biden’s ‘historic’ infrastructure plan could help Wausau get big projects done without borrowing