By Cara L. Dempski
ELK MOUND — There are several seats up for grabs this year on Elk Mound’s village board and four candidates vying for them.
Former President Andy Peterson stepped down from his position in December 2016, despite his term not ending until April 2017. Current president, and former president pro tempore, Tom Gilbert was elected last year to fulfill the rest of Peterson’s term.
He is one of two candidates who filed documentation for the village presidency in January. The other candidate running for village president is Steven Abraham.
Abraham also filed paperwork to run for one of the open village trustee seats. Current trustee Terry Stamm and village resident Montana Rose Boettcher are running for election as trustees. Each candidate was given an opportunity to discuss his or her plans and qualifications to let the community get to know them.
The election for Elk Mound village board will be held April 4, 2017.
Gilbert, as noted earlier, is the current village president, and is the candidate with the most board experience. He served as a village trustee for nine years prior to his election as president, and was chairman of the public safety committee. Additionally, he presided over meetings in his capacity as president pro tempore.
He said the past few months in this office have been very educational and galvanized his desire to run for a full term of the office.
“I had considered running for board president in the past,” Gilbert explained. “I have had citizens and board members, past and present, approach me on the subject. I even talked to Andy about it, and agreed to wait another term. When he announced his resignation, I decided I would run.”
Gilbert sees accountability to the constituents as the most important issue before the village. His view is that the board’s biggest job is to represent the taxpayers and be responsible with their money, all while upholding the Constitution.
One of the main issues Gilbert currently sees is the lack of a stable, consistent police department. He noted that the board has tried multiple approaches to the department since former police chief Randy Bartelt’s retirement that have been mostly based on cost.
He noted the current police chief is restricted to only 20 hours of work per week between administrative and patrol duties, spending approximately 10 hours on each set of tasks.
“Other than great schools, the major draw to a small community like ours is safety,” Gilbert elaborated. “A safe and comfortable environment for our residents of all ages and walks of life is a balancing act.”
Gilbert’s hope as president is to use the position to address the issues presented to the community and provide balanced representation of the village demographics.
He has lived in Elk Mound for the past 16 years and graduated from Elk Mound High School. He was living in Eau Claire when he decided the schools and atmosphere in Elk Mound were a better fit for what he wanted for his two daughters. Gilbert has also built a business in the community over the same time frame.
He hopes to continue working to share the same affection, loyalty and desire to maintain the integrity and charm of Elk Mound while improving the government’s efficiency and representation.
By the standards of small town society, Steven Abraham is a relative newcomer to Elk Mound. He has resided in the village for over 12 years after having served in the military and worked for the city of Rochester, Minnesota.
Abraham said he was initially prompted by several individuals to seek election as a village trustee. It was not until he was gathering signatures for his candidacy for village trustee that someone suggested he also run for village president.
“I was encouraged by enough village residents to also run for the position of president. I decided to do so after giving it careful consideration,” Abraham explained. “I see a definite need for board leadership from someone with more training, experience and depth, who appreciates the other people who have chosen to serve the village.”
Abraham was appointed to the board to fill the trustee seat vacated by Gilbert after he became president. He assumed his duties in January 2017.
The issue foremost on Abraham’s mind is finalizing the selection of a permanent police chief. Other issues he sees as important for Elk Mound include traffic/speed control and safety zones, and overall police presence.
Abraham also expressed interest in creating a multi-use trail between the Mound Hill Park and Village Park, creating more commercial, industrial and residential development, and exploring use options for the former Marshfield Clinic building.
While he had not held a political office prior to his appointment to the Elk Mound Board of Trustees, Abraham has gone through civilian and leadership training, and has made an extensive study of leadership and politics through reading and self-study. He has experience starting a small business, and held key officer positions in such organizations.
Abraham worked for the City of Rochester in electric, water, and waste treatment, and previously held office in the Southeastern Minnesota chapter of the Institute for Electric and Electronics Engineers (numbering 468 members).
He intends to unify the village board into a more cohesive working unit, and allow for a positive exchange of ideas. Abraham plans to accomplish this by providing leadership that fosters open communication, critical thinking and a positive climate.
The candidate sees some strengths and weaknesses in the community.
“Elk Mound is currently a lively bedroom community with great potential for growth,” Abraham elaborated. “It has an amazing public school system, along with the excellent Village Park.”
He sees the lack of employment opportunities for young job seekers as one of the community’s less desirable traits.
Montana Rose Boettcher
If Abraham is a relative newcomer, then trustee candidate Montana Rose Boettcher is brand-spanking new.
Boettcher and her fiancee moved to Elk Mound a little over one year ago from the Bloomer area, though she considers herself a “lifelong local” after growing up in the Chippewa Valley.
“As long as I can remember, my family has ventured over to the craft show, sporting events, Christmas tree farm, and other quality events Elk Mound has to offer,” Boettcher said. “Elk Mound is an ideal place to live and raise, or start, a family. The strength of small businesses, stability, and strong academics of the local school district are some of the pros that persuaded us to purchase a home here.”
The newest village resident of the four seeking office said she commented to her neighbors and several local business owners that she would love to find a way to give back to the community. She was prompted by the people she spoke with to apply for an open seat as a trustee.
Boettcher would like to help Elk Mound maintain what sets it apart from other small towns: its safety, small businesses, academics and smart handling of the taxpayers’ money. Her main goal as a trustee would be protecting those factors and pursuing their continued growth.
As a small business owner, Boettcher knows the diligence and creative thinking she gives to her design business, and her experience in public relations would serve the board well. She has education in graphic design from the University of Wisconsin – Stout, and currently works at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire.
Boettcher noted her job at the hospital engages her in problem-solving and critical thinking capabilities on a daily basis, which would be an asset for the board.
Despite not holding any previous public office, Boettcher has plenty of experience working with local government and served as an officer for several student organizations. She recalls helping her grandmother with the Town of Woodmohr’s (in Chippewa County) taxes from the time she was a young child until young adulthood. She also served on student council, the Spanish club, National Honor Society, and Future Business Leaders of America as a student at Bloomer High School.
“Even though this would be my first time serving, I come in with an open mind and a ‘fresh set of eyes,’” Boettcher said. “I am looking forward to being able to bounce ideas off of seasoned board members.”
While she sees many strengths in the village, Boettcher is hoping to meet and speak with more local residents to find things that could use improvement. She stated she will listen to ideas and concerns with an open mind, and plans to vote for what is best for the whole village, not just on personal preferences.
Of the four candidates seeking office for the village of Elk Mound, Terry Stamm is not only the one who has lived in the community the longest, but has also served the community the longest.
Stamm has only been a village trustee for approximately one year, but is seeking election for a full term because he wants to use what he learned through 39 years of work for the village to give back to the community.
He brings a multitude of experience to the table, after having served as Elk Mound’s police chief for 10 years, and the director of public works for 29 years. Stamm was also a member of the Elk Mound Fire Department for 30 years, is the past president of the local Lions Club, and is currently the chairman of Elk Mound’s public works and streets committee, chairman of the property and finance committee, and chairman of the community center/library committee.
Stamm serves as the village’s representative to the Colfax Rescue Squad, Dunn County Housing Authority, and Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling Board. He would like to draw more community interest in the workings of the village board.
“I am hoping to see our village board work as a team to encourage more involvement by Elk Mound’s citizens in the operation of our local government,” Stamm said.
Right now, Stamm sees maintaining a realistic approach to the village budget as the paramount issue before the board. He clarified his position by explaining he would like to see the village provide all needed services without exceeding the approved funding.
While he sees evidence of positive regard between neighbors in the community, he does see some changes that could be made.
“I believe that the village of Elk Mound’s strengths revolve around people trying hard to be good neighbors,” Stamm said. “You can see evidence of how much people care for each other every time there is a need for volunteers for some unfortunate circumstance.”
That being said, Stamm feels the village government and school district could work more closely on their agendas to improve the community for the future. He has noted some recent improvement, but would like to see greater cooperation between the two entities.
“We all need to contribute and not be so concerned about what is in it for us,” he clarified. “Good teamwork has its own rewards.”