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Colfax village president candidate: Chris Olson

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX —  Chris Olson, an incumbent trustee on the Colfax Village Board, has filed nomination papers for Colfax Village President in the April 2 election.

Along with the answers to the questionnaire, Olson submitted a description for village president from a guide about city and village government from the League of Wisconsin Municipalities: “The village president is a trustee, with a vote on all matters that come before the board. The president is not designated as “chief executive officer,” but has certain administrative responsibilities. The president presides at all board meetings, and signs all ordinances, rules, bylaws, regulations, commissions and licenses and permits adopted and authorized by the board … In addition, the president must “maintain peace and good order, see that the ordinances are faithfully obeyed … the president also has a leadership role in coordinating the inter-network of village government, responding to citizens, and representing the village at state and local events.”

 Olson has been a village resident for a number of years and graduated from Colfax High School. He is an incumbent trustee and also is on the ballot April 2 for village trustee.

Incumbent Village President Gary Stene is not running for election on the April ballot.

Village Trustee Scott Gunnufson is running for village president as well, but as of press time had not yet submitted his questionnaire.

Here is a profile of Chris Olson as a candidate for village president:

1. Why did you decide to run for the position of village president?

I decided to run for village president because the position was open. I have served as the congregational president for Colfax Lutheran Church previously. My terms were for five years, and I enjoyed being the ‘pivot point’ on some of the issues.

When you look at what the state statute says about what the president does, he or she is nothing more than a trustee with additional duties of signing checks and signing ordinances. It doesn’t give that person carte blanche to go out and tell a business, ‘come on in and we’ll make sure we make you fit into the community.’ The village president still has to follow the procedures. I worked for the City of Hudson for six years and am familiar with municipal government. After being on the village board since 2009, and a previous employee of the (Colfax) police department, I know the issues of Colfax.

Colfax is a nice, quaint community that is growing and can grow larger in the industrial park, with some nationally known companies like Timber Technologies and Anderson Bridges, along with Woods Run and the Colfax testing lab and their secondary venture of CTL Foods making the dry powder for Dairy Queen and Orange Julius mix.

We’ve got a lot of small businesses in town that have a national impact, and we need to promote Colfax as a starting place or a life-long venture location for a business and to live in.

2. From a village president perspective, what issues do you see as being the most important for Colfax?

The most important right now is the DNR and the phosphorus issues. We have a local business in town that has dealt with this with other communities with pit pumping, and our solution may be in our own backyard. When the lagoon was originally put in, the old treatment plant needed a lot of upgrades, and we didn’t have the populace for that size waste station. The lagoon system has been in 25 or 30 years and has exceeded its life expectancy.

Number two is the development of our industrial park. We’ve only got one lot left, and we need to work together with the local farmers in the area to see if we can acquire some property or have the first right of refusal to strengthen our industrial park. We need to go through Eric Turner at Dunn County Economic Development Corporation to make sure that our infrastructure is there for the future so we don’t run into issues.

Housing — currently we’ve got minimal housing and rental places. We need to look at getting someone to come in and build an eight-plex or a sixteen plex to make it affordable for single parents or the low-income employees so they can live in Colfax.

Infrastructure — Some of our roads are in dire need of repair, but it’s cost-prohibitive to even patch them because of the underground status of water and sewer. If we were to do Roosevelt (for example) we’d have to go all the way back to Main Street on Third or Fourth to do it right. The biggest issue is to promote Colfax for industrial needs and to make sure we have good fits for our community.

3. As village president, what issues do you hope to bring to the Colfax Village Board or what issues would you like to see addressed by the board?

One issue would be to finish up the work on the cemetery. In the past two years, after John Jahr’s death, we found out work had been done out there without the village properly owning it. Now we need to work with the school district and Jackie Ponto (administrator-clerk-treasurer) and Randy Bates (public works director) to get the extension of the cemetery done properly and make sure we beautify the area for the final resting place. The cemetery is probably full right now, but with the new expansion, we will end up with room for about 1,200 additional graves, and we will set up for urns.

4. Why are you best the candidate for village president?

When there’s an issue at hand, we get our packet early enough that I look through the packet, and if I’m not sure about something, I’m not afraid to ask. When I look at the village board, we are elected by the people for the people. Sometimes I feel when we go into a vote, it’s us thinking and not what the village residents want. The people are the ones paying taxes. Taxes have been staying steady for now, but they may not always. Keeping taxes low and keeping people informed about what is going on. That’s what I want to do as village president.

5. Additional comments

If I am elected president of the village — or even re-elected as trustee — my phone is always on. I am willing to listen to the people. If you have an idea to improve, or if you have a complaint, please call me or come to board meetings to speak your piece. A few people have stepped up in the past few years to tell us what they think. We need to hear more. This is your town. The Messenger used to have The Friendliest Little Town in Wisconsin (on the top of the front page). I’d like to see a beautification program also, to make sure that everything looks nice to welcome people here. We have a lot of people coming through for basketball games and softball tournaments and things of that nature, and we want them to feel welcome in Colfax.