Candidate profiles: Towns of Forest and Glenwood, Villages of Knapp and Wilson

By Cara Dempski

There are several contested seats in area townships and villages for the upcoming April 4 election.

The Town of Forest will see Jamie Junker and Roger Swanepoel running for chairman, and will pit incumbents Craig Paulson and LaVerne Hoitomt against Bruce Fouks for seats as town supervisors.

In the Town of Glenwood, incumbent Mark Maes is being challenged by Joe Draxler for town chairman. Clerk Mike Myers is stepping away from his position, and his successor will be either Joyce Keenlyne or Heidi Wagner. Incumbent town treasurer Audrey Maes is being challenged by Julie DuBois.

Knapp village president Matt Friest is not seeking another term. Georgene Close and Ronald Finder are running for his open seat. 

Wilson’s incumbent village president Dennis Cowan will be challenged by Jennifer Thatcher, who is also running against Michelle Nelson for a seat as a town trustee.

The Tribune Press Reporter sent profile questionnaires to all the candidates in each municipality, and received responses from many of them. Their answers are presented here for your consideration.


Roger Swanepoel

Swanepoel is running for the position of town chairman after having served several terms as both a supervisor and the chairman.

“I chose to run so that we would again see our taxpayer money used responsibly,” Swanepoel said.

In the past, the town has looked at and planned, road improvement projects for future years. The former chairman said by managing the town’s money, the board was able to pave or rebuild one mile of township road each year.

Swanepoel would also like to see a more uniform zoning ordinance, which he said will make the process of changing zones easier for residents hoping to make changes in future years.

LaVerne Hoitomt

Hoitomt said he attended, and graduated from, Glenwood City High School. He is running for the position of supervisor in the Town of Forest and his goal is to “do the best I can for the residents of the Town of Forest.”

Bruce Fouks

Fouks is also seeking a seat as a town supervisor in Forest. He currently serves on the Town’s Plan Commission, and is the Land ‘O Lakes Employees’ Club President. 

He is a graduate of Clear Lake High School, and indicated he has lived his whole life (48 years) in the Town of Forest.

“I have seen many changes, and would like to see a non-biased and non-divided Township,” Fouks stated. “I feel that I can stay neutral on issues that need to be taken care of to run a Township, and not be one-sided or persuaded if ordinances are not being followed.”

Fouks indicated his main goal is to keep the town budget so that all roads can be maintained. Currently, there are no funds to replace culverts, bridges, and asphalt as needed. His other goal is to be impartial regarding township zoning concerns.


Mark Maes

Mark J. Maes, 68, of Glenwood City, is the incumbent town chair in the Town of Glenwood and has lived in the township his entire life, except for two years in the Marines.

His family includes wife, Audrey, and children Melissa Henry and Joseph Maes.

Maes worked as a district manager for a seed company for 30 years and says he learned how to delegate tasks, to work within a budget, and how to get ideas from others and incorporate them into the business.

Roads and road maintenance are the biggest challenge facing the Town of Glenwood, Maes said.

Sealcoating over gravel does not work. Farm equipment has become bigger and heavier, and the roads need to have a good base, he said.

In the time Maes has served as chair, the township has now started doing the roads properly and is making sure the road has a good base before putting down asphalt. The Town of Glenwood has a five-year road plan as well, he said, noting that it is also important to maintain “the integrity of the roads we already have.”

The five-year road plan started with sealcoating five miles and improving the base on 150th between 310th and Highway 128. The next road is 150th from 300th to 290th and then starting on 290th, Maes said, noting that if re-elected as chair, he plans to continue with the five-year plan.

Joe Draxler

Joe Draxler, 63, is from Glenwood City and has lived at his farm or at the current address, which is a quarter mile away from the farm, his entire life. His family includes wife Charl; children Steve, Cathy, Mike, Chuck and Bill and 19 grandchildren.

Draxler formerly served as town chair for 16 years and says he is a “numbers guy” who constantly crunches numbers to figure out what is the best economic decision to make.

The biggest challenge facing the Town of Glenwood are roads and budgets. Snowstorms, ice storms and 100-year rains are short-term problems. The biggest challenge is trying to make progress on the roads within the constraints of the state budget, he said.

As chair, Draxler said he worked hard to put together a balanced budget. The township upgraded equipment and built a new town shop and town hall with geo-thermal heating.

When he first started as chair, the Town of Glenwood had more dirt roads than any other township in St. Croix County.

“We paved many miles during my tenure, and we no longer have that ‘dirt road’ title,” he said.

Draxler said when he previously served as town chair, he sought out the expertise of experts, weighed the options and brought the options to the town board. He also drove the roads frequently and tried to address minor issues before they became major issues.

“The Town of Glenwood is a vibrant and progressive township, and I feel I (can) bring a lot to the table to help it continue on that path,” Draxler said.

Joyce Keenlyne

Keenlyne is hoping to take Mike Myers’ spot as clerk for the Town of Glenwood. She is the wife of Kirk Keenlyne; the couple has four married children and eight grandchildren, all living within 45 minutes of Glenwood City.

She was educated at Chippewa Valley Technical College, and has been through many trainings related to her employment. Keenlyne has experience in banking and insurance, and has worked for Pierce County Human Services for the past 27 years.

The candidate started as an administrative assistant before becoming an economic support specialist. She currently serves as the lead child support specialist, a position she has held for 21 years. 

“I have a lot of experience working with people and finances, and have collection and enforcement skills,” Keenlyne said. “I have good clerical skills and computer skills, and am very organized.”

Keenlyne said she chose to run for town clerk because she is hoping to retire in the future after having been involved with government for many years. She wants to keep meeting people, and hopes to remain involved in the community while keeping up her skills.

If elected, Keenlyne will fulfill the duties of clerk to the best of her ability. She plans to attend needed trainings, and will be respectful to the residents of the Town of Glenwood.

Heidi Wagner

Wagner is a 2000 graduate of New Richmond High School who completed her bachelor’s degree at UW-River Falls in 2004. She is challenging Keenlyne for the position of clerk in the Town of Glenwood.

“I have always been a leader in the various organizations I have been in,” Wagner explained. “I am currently co-leading, and will eventually lead, the Bellringer’s 4-H club.”

She is also an avid reader and member of the library board, and has served as the Town’s chief inspector since 2008.

Wagner expressed confidence in her knowledge and competence in the election process, and had the opportunity to see what needs to be done to improve the voting process. She describes herself as a fast learner, and said she feels the other duties required of the clerk would be well within her capabilities.

Since the clerk does not have a voice on the town board, Wagner said her goals are limited to conducting proper election procedure and completing other duties in a timely and efficient manner. 

Audrey Maes

Maes is seeking reelection as town treasurer. Prior to her retirement, she was working for the Catholic Church in Glenwood City, Hammond, Wilson and Clear Lake as a bookkeeper and general office manager. Prior to her work for the church, she worked for many years at the Glenwood City grocery store, where she started as a cashier and worked her way up to assistant manager.

She says she chose the position of treasurer because she loves working with numbers and talking to residents when they pay their taxes. 

Maes’ main goal, should she be reelected, is to keep accurate records of the finances so the board is able to  make the right decisions on the roads, equipment and other matters.

Julie DuBois

DuBois holds a bachelor of science degree in marketing with a minor in accounting. She said she has no prior experience in public office, but has worked in various accounting capacities for over 30 years in both for-profit and non-profit organizations both large and small.

She said she chose to seek office because she wants to use her skill and experience to help the community.

“We have lived here nearly six years, and Glenwood truly has become our home,” DuBois explained. “I want to be a contributing member of the community, and think that using my background is the best way to do that.”

If elected, DuBois indicated she will be faithful in her responsibilities to manage remittances and receipts as well as budget recommendations. She plans to keep accurate and transparent books. 

DuBois said she can relate to taxpayer concerns and explain matters in way that can be easily understood by all.


Georgene Close

Close is seeking the village president’s seat in Knapp. She graduated from Elmwood High School, and has served over eight years as a village trustee in Knapp.

She said her experience as trustee has prepared her to do a great job as Knapp’s president.

“It is a healthy, beautiful little village,” Close explained. “It is important to have a good balance between the people and the best interests of the village.”


Jennifer Thatcher

Thatcher is running for two positions in the Village of Wilson: president and trustee. She holds an associate of applied science degree in accounting from WITC, has a bachelor of arts from Bethel University, and obtained her MBA with a focus on finance from Kaplan University in 2012. 

While she has not held any previous office, Thatcher does have extensive board leadership experience in the non-profit sector, and is currently a Fellow of Leadership Wisconsin’s Group. Organizations where she has held office are Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (board vice-chair), Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation (board chair) and BestPrep (director).

The candidate said she is passionate about Wilson, and other communities like it in rural America. She seeks to engage with community stakeholders at all levels to make a difference.

What are her goals? 

“I would like to increase transparency across the community, not only at a local level, but holistically by informing the public of issues impacting our community statewide and nationally,” Thatcher stated.