By Missy Klatt
GLENWOOD CITY – On March 22, 2018, Holy Cross Lutheran Church played host to a town hall event for newly elected state senator Patty Schachtner. The purpose of the event was twofold; one, a chance to learn more about Schachtner, who won a special election to replace Sheila Harsdorf, who became the Wisconsin Agricultural Secretary and two, to let Schachtner know a little bit about the Glenwood City area and what issues are important to us.
The agenda for the evening, which drew just over thirty area residents was slated to last approximately one hour. After introductions and opening remarks by Schachtner, attendees were to have table discussions where they were challenged to come up with things important about the Glenwood City area that they could relate to Schachtner and to come up with questions that they wanted to ask the senator, with one per table being answered at the meeting. Prior to answering these questions the senator answered three questions about community concerns that were shared ahead of time with her.
During her opening remarks Schachtner stated that mental health and addiction services were the reason she ran for office. She feels that we can do better in these areas. She goes on to say that entire communities suffer from addiction and mental health issues. She said that this is just one issue and she is learning that there a lot of issues out there.
Schachtner who is from Somerset has been married to her high school sweetheart for 39 years and they have six grown children. She states that she has always been civically engaged and she was raised in a civically engaged family. She went on to say that they were taught to stand up for what they believed in.
Schachtner will be filling out the remaining three years of a four year term which will end in 2020.
Questions on Community Concerns
The following are the questions that were shared with Schachtner ahead of time.
• Glenhaven is our number one employer and is having trouble hiring staff due to Medicaid cuts. What would you like to see and what could we realistically expect for the future from the state?
Schachtner replied that Wisconsin has the lowest Medicaid reimbursement in the nation and they are working to increase that. She said we also need to work with our schools in helping to train these health care workers. We have a high concentration of senior citizens and we need health care workers. She continued by stating, funding is something we need to work on but “I’m just one vote”.
• How can the state balance the needs of small farmers against the industrial agriculture needs?
Schachtner responded by saying that small farms are the pulse of a community. She sees education in helping to get kids interested in keeping the family farm going. She would also like to see more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs in the schools. She goes on to say that a partnership in education and the schools would help.
• Small towns with empty main streets are looking for programs for revitalization and resources to help sustain and grow their local economies. Could you speak to this issue?
The senator stated that most main street projects start with grants but first you really need to figure out what you really want and that takes a group to figure it out. She gave an example where one town wanted to spruce up their main street so they put flower pots along the street. She also said that when there was an empty store front, local artists were allowed to use that space until an entrepreneur came in.
Questions from the Tables
Gib Krueger, Boyceville Village board president posed a question about sex offenders and why is there so much plea bargaining? He expressed his concern about repeat offenders and how easily they get off with plea bargains. Schachtner stated that she doesn’t know enough about the process of plea bargains but that personally she stated that a crime against a child is horrible but that’s a broad statement.
Another concern for young kids and keeping them from just hanging out in parks and causing trouble, etc. The question: how difficult is it to get funding for something like a Boys & Girls Club. The senator replied that the key is to be specific and have a plan and the kids will join. She sighted an example of a woman in Hammond that started a unicycle group for kids. She went on to say that you need to find those community resources, “people will give money if they like the idea.” She further stated that there is the St. Croix County Foundation that has grants available.
One table wanted to know Schachtner’s thoughts on school safety. Schachtner replied that it’s really about community safety and wellness overall. She went on to say that we focus too much on test scores and rankings and not on resiliency and coping skills. “These have gone away”. She said it comes down to mental health. One in four people are struggling with mental health issues, including anxiety and one in seven people are struggling with addiction issues. She feels that it is more important to cope with life than test scores. Many of our kids have lost the ability to cope. She further stated that we as humans need to be more empathic. And on a final note about school safety, Schachtner said “lock up your guns and keep your ammo separate.” Sixteen year olds are not going out and buying guns but they have access to them.
School board member, John Logghe, wanted to know the senator’s thoughts on the voucher program for schools. Schachtner immediately replied, “I do not favor the voucher program at all.” She goes on to say that the public schools are already struggling, trying to give a twenty-first education on a twentieth century budget. She continued by stating that we need to look at education as an investment.
Another table question was “how do we make our voices heard?” Schachtner’s answer was, figure out what you want and engage with your legislators, call my office. Schachtner said that during her short time in office she has already received hundreds of letters, emails, or calls. She went on to say that she will answer all inquiries that come to her office but you may not like the answer.
After some brief closing comments the evening was over with hopefully both sides having a better understanding of each other, Schachtner about the Glenwood area and our concerns and the attendees about Senator Schachtner.
Holy Cross hopes to play host to similar town hall events in the future.