City and School elections will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 5, with three contested races on the ballots in Britt and Forest City.
Three seats on the Britt City Council are up for election. These seats were held by Curt Gast, Karrie Wallen and Stacy Swenson, all of whom are re-running with Thomas Anderson and Jay Ryerson joining the race.
Gast, 57, is the director of facilities at Hancock county Health System.
He said he enjoys serving the residents of Britt, and the council is actively trying to improve Britt and make it the best it can be.
“One thing we heard in the strategic planning was that we need to communicate more and better with the residents, so we are working to get better at that,” Gast said.
Wallen, 57, is a former teacher and a teachers union representative working in retail at Target.
She was appointed to the council after Dwight Leerar resigned in June this year and decided to run for city council because she feels she can make a positive contribution, Wallen said.
“I believe it takes a village to maintain, sustain and grow a village, and I want to do my part,” she said.
Wallen said the council needs to work on developing a community-wide vision for the future of Britt as well as improve communication between the council and the community.
Swenson, 30, works as an insurance agent, and said she is running beccasue she wants to “see Britt thrive and grow for my children.”
Swenson said one positive she sees of the city council is everyone on the council is a group that respects each other and works well together.
“Even when we don’t all agree on a topic, we are able to have intelligent conversations to reach a solution,” she said.
The council needs to work on communication, and they are “pushing hard right now to find new ways to keep the public informed and engaged,” Swenson said.
Anderson has withdrawn his candidacy, but his name will still appear on the ballot.
Ryerson, 50, works at Winnebago Industries as a special repairer with 28 years of manufacturing experience in nearly all areas under his belt.
He said he is running for city council because “it is the City of Britt.”
“[Britt is] a tight supportive community, which is the best place to live and raise a family with good neighbors, school system and businesses,” Ryerson said.
The water treatment facility, 1st Street repairs and bringing in business are all important to the future, but a couple of his main concerns for the present are repairing sidewalks and having handicap accessibility, Ryerson said.
Ryerson said though he cannot speak on what the current council can improve on, he can improve being visible in the community and approachable with questions, concerns and ideas if he’s elected.
The at large seat on the City Council of Forest City is up for election, originally held by Karl Wooldridge. Wooldridge is running for re-election with Kip Murphy also in the race.
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Wooldridge, 44, is the station manager of KIOW radio.
He said he enjoyed working with the citizens of Forest City on projects to improve the city, such as Kwik Star, the Cobblestone Hotel, Boman Fine Arts Center and Country Thunder, and taking the feedback from citizens to help move the city forward.
“There’s been a lot for me to learn in the first four years, and I feel like I now have a much better grasp on the issues the city is facing and am better prepared for what lies ahead,” Wooldridge said.
One positive with the city council for Wooldridge is always listening to the concerns of the citizens, though they may not always agree on the best path to take to move forward.
The council has taken steps to modernize the infrastructure of the city, from repaving the streets to updating the electrical grids, and Wooldridge said these projects will help the city continue to “provide high quality utilities at a reasonable price for our citizens.”
“There are more projects we can do, as time and resources permit,” he said.
Murphy, 68, is a retired 22-year Navy veteran and a transit bus driver for Mosaic.
As a resident and taxi bus driver, Murphy said he sees Forest City can be a great place to live and under the right leadership the City can ensure it is working toward listening to the residents’ concerns.
“I want to continue to see this City grow and make it a place where people want to live and raise their children,” he said. “I not only want to be your neighbor; I also want to be your voice!”
Murphy said the city schedules different events and activities that help residents feel a sense of belonging and being a part of the community, but the city needs to re-evaluate the cost of services for the residents.
“The amount and the services each resident receives on their monthly bill needs to be re-evaluated and looked at to ensure we are doing what is right for the customer and not be overcharged,” he said.
The third contested race is for the District 1 seat on the Forest City Community School District School Board, originally held by Keila Buffington. Beth Clouse will be running against Buffington for the seat.
Buffington, 47, is the claims manager and commercial and agricultural agent with FCIS Insurance as well as part owner of The Paddler’s Tap.
Buffington was elected to the board in fall 2005, and though 14 years have passed since then, she said her reasons for re-running today are the same as they were then.
“My husband and I both graduated from Forest City High School,” she said. “Both our children have gone through the school system, the younger a senior this year. We have a great school system, and I want to do my part to help keep it that way.”
Being on the school board means being collaborative and doing what is best for students, and she thinks the board has tried to work within that culture, Buffington said.
“I think as a board we should get back to learning together,” she said. “We’ve done different types of learning through my tenure, but it has been a while. Promoting life-long learning should start with us.”
Clouse, 48, is a social worker with Healthy Families Winnebago County in public health.
She said she decided to run for the school board because she “has a vested interest in children’s education” as a former high school teacher and mother of four school-aged children.
“I am passionate about ensuring that our school district continues to offer the highest level of education,” Clouse said. “I would embrace the opportunity to serve on the board and do my part to reflect the values and concerns of the constituents, teachers and staff members and be committed to personally learning how future decisions will impact them before supporting proposals for change.”
Though the board works well together and is supportive of various capital improvements and keep the district fiscally healthy, Clouse said the ideas and spending priorities of local taxpayers and district members need to be sought out and considered.
“Creating an atmosphere that welcomes and seeks input is key to positive community investment in our schools and future growth in our district,” she said.