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Town of Howard candidate: Tom Zwiefelhofer

COLFAX  —  All together, six candidates for three positions were nominated at the caucus for the Town of Howard on January 24 to appear on the ballot in the April 7 election.

Vernon J. Schindler, incumbent, was nominated for chair of the town board, and Jeff Bennesch also was nominated for chair.

Incumbent supervisors Tom Zwiefelhofer and Dennis Dvorcek were nominated, along with Christian Rushmann and Todd Wanish.

Zwiefelhofer, a resident of 118th Avenue in the Town of Howard, has been married to his wife, Janet, for 34 years. They have one daughter Tara (Ben) Leiby, and one son, Cale Zwiefelhofer. Tom and Janet have one grandson, Caleb Leiby, and will have another grandson through international adoption by the end of this year.

The Colfax Messenger sent out questionnaires to the candidates.

Here are Zwiefelhofer’s answers to the questions.

• Where have you lived other than the Town of Howard (if anywhere else)?

I am a dairy farmer on a Century family farm and have farmed for 33 years. My wife is a nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital Birth Center for the last 34 years. I have resided in the township my entire life, and  my wife was born and raised on a family farm just north of Bloomer.

Prior to dairy farming, I owned and operated D&Z Lumber and Excavating and employed several full-time people.

I currently have one full-time employee and several part-time workers. I have also had four high school co-op employees through the years.

I am definitely local as all four of my grandparents (Zwiefelhofer, Swoboda, Anderson and Poirier) have all been from the immediate area.

• What is your educational background?

I attended St. Peter’s in Tilden for my grade school and then graduated from Bloomer High School in 1975.

• Why did you decide to run for the Howard Town Board?

I have been on the Howard Town Board for six years and believe there is a learning curve at any new job. With this experience, I believe I am now comfortable and well informed on town issues. I worked for the Town in my teens, driving my father’s tractor to mix gravel and blacktop oil to pave 1.5 miles of road north of our farm. I served on the fire department for three years from 1988 to 991.

My father was on the board and served both as supervisor and chairman.

• What do you believe to be the biggest challenges or issues for the Town of Howard?

The issues I feel are the important in the town are (in no particular order):

Roads — In my opinion, the best way to reduce road maintenance costs are to start at the bottom when possible, such as bigger culverts, good base course, ample and quality asphalt, and good shoulders.

When patching roads I would recommend using a roller. Patches may cost extra when done this way but the repair is much smoother and will last longer. Also patch material is not a fix all solution, and some roads will ultimately have to be replaced.

Snowplowing is always a challenge. Residents need to be able to get to and from work and school. I believe with the winter of 2014-2015, we have saved a significant amount of money and some of that could be used to pay down debt on equipment. I would also be in favor of setting aside money for equipment funding.

Fire protection — Recruiting new firemen is always difficult. We must be aware of new residents in the Town and make sure they are informed of the need and the requirements and are encouraged to be involved if they desire. The biggest complaint of firemen is the amount of training required. Although this is mandated by the State, we should still make our State representative aware of this issue and other concerns. I have always thought it is very important to support our fire department.

Taxes — Overall I think the Town has done a good job of keeping our share of property taxes as low as possible.

Sand issues — I have done my best to represent the Town in the sand mining issues. I have been cast as anti-sand, but I don’t feel that is accurate. I feel I am more pro-neighbor. The ordinances and agreement have helped the neighbors of the EOG mine with noise, water, and property values. I personally know of one resident whose top offer for their property would have been 50 percent of the true value of their place. Without the EOG agreement, they would have lost a large amount of money. With the agreement, they were treated fairly and received the true value of their home. Nobody should lose money because of what happens next door. I represent the whole township in these matters. The sand companies are very capable of taking care of themselves.

• Why are you the best candidate for a seat on the Howard Town Board?

The reason I feel I am the best candidate is because of my experience with employees, sand mine negotiations, road issues, and some experience with the fire department. I have always looked at both sides of any issue. The question of why I am well suited to be on the board was asked by the Messenger. I do not have any close relatives that live or own land in the Town of Howard; therefore, I do not have any conflicts of interest and don’t foresee any. Conflicts of interest arise when close family members are at the center of issues where discussion and/or action by the board is required. State law requires board members to abstain. Town board members are employees of the township. We receive W-2s like every employee. We must represent all citizens of the town as they are our employer. I appreciate this chance to explain who I am and to make known that I do believe in fair and open government.