Craig R. Tesch, left, and Jacqui Guthrie are both running for the city's 2nd District. (Contributed)

Candidates for city District 2 answer questions before primary

Metro Wire Staff

In the city’s 2nd District, three candidates will be on the Feb. 20 primary ballot: Jacqui Guthrie, Craig R. Tesch, and Cole Verbeten. Verbeten withdrew from the race after the deadline but is not seeking office. In missing the deadline, he triggered the inclusion of the race on the primary ballot.

Incumbent David Shorr decided last October that he would not seek a fifth term in the seat.

Stevens Point Council members serve two-year terms in staggered elections, with even-numbers seats up for reelection in even-numbers years.

Questions by League of Women Voters of the Stevens Point Area

Candidates for District 2 City Alder

Jacqui Guthrie

Please share a brief biography of your education, background and life experiences that help you to take a leadership role serving as District 2 City Alder.

I grew up in Appleton, thrived in public school, and studied government at UW-Madison before working for that institution for the first several years of my career. I moved to Central Wisconsin five years ago, purchasing my home on Peck Street in 2021. I continue to work in higher education administration, now for UW-Stevens Point, in a position that allows me to manage personnel, budgets, and programs that serve both students and our broader community.

I have always been passionate about economic mobility, access to education, and the proactive social safety nets that keep folks living healthy, engaged lives. In my adult life, I have focused my volunteer activities in line with these values. I am a part-time Portage County foster parent, taking kiddos in when the county, and that family, needs support. I have also volunteered in refugee resettlement, high school mentoring programs, and as a hospice caretaker.

When not at work or volunteering, I enjoy tending my veggie garden, biking on the Green Circle Trail, XC skiing at Standing Rocks, and putting up wood for our Wisconsin winter. I am active and deeply appreciative of the recreational infrastructure that we find in our community.

A couple years ago, I got involved in the Goerke/Washington area component of updating our city’s Comprehensive Plan. I attended meetings, discussed wishes with neighbors, read early drafts of the planning document, and provided feedback. One of the themes that came out of those community discussions was a sincere interest in reconnecting with neighbors after the pandemic. Some neighbors and I partnered with city staff to throw a party in Atwell Park to celebrate the end of the planning period and honor that interest in reconnecting. The party was a big success; we estimate that more than 125 folks came out for it. I found facilitating such a gathering to be deeply rewarding.

The City Council, including current Alder David Shorr, and city staff have been working hard to ensure that our community is resilient and thriving. I would be honored to continue that work towards sustaining a vibrant, inclusive community. In anticipation of running, I have been attending city meetings, getting to know city leaders, and talking with neighbors about their hopes for our community. My combination of administrative experience and passion for service at the local level have me feeling poised to serve in this position at this point in my life.

Why are you running for this office and what do you hope to accomplish?

There are so many challenges in the world today. It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of large, complex problems. Instead of languishing in despair and inaction, I feel called to serve locally. If enough folks around the world act locally to address global challenges I hope that, knit together, we can move the planet in the right direction.

My priorities are:

  • Refreshing the Stanley Street corridor.
  • Preparing for projected climate changes.
  • Increasing stock of all housing, especially affordable and accessible housing.
  • Investing in recreational infrastructure.
  • Strengthening and diversifying the already thriving local economy.

If, after my tenure, we rely less on fossil fuels, we have even more connected bike paths in the area, there are more inexpensive housing units within walking distance of key amenities, the institutions of higher education continue to thrive and meet the talent needs of our local economy, and Stanley Street feels more like a small, walkable, neighborhood corridor with coffee shops and more locally owned restaurants, my time on Council will have been a success.

What are the top three issues facing Stevens Point and how would you approach addressing them?

Our region needs more housing. While there is demand for expensive, single-family homes that the market is responding to, albeit too slowly, there is also a need for denser, less expensive, and more diverse housing stock within walking distance to key amenities. Developers are less inclined to attend to these needs because doing so will not maximize their profit. Through planning and leveraging grants, I will advocate for the variety of housing stock that our community needs to thrive. Adults with disabilities, seniors ready to downsize, and every other member of our community deserves housing that allows them to live with dignity.

Building infrastructure for the climate that is coming, from selecting the correct trees for green spaces to sewer infrastructure for anticipated weather events, will be critical to future financial solvency and wellbeing of our community. I will vote for investment in said infrastructure to limit future expense and hardship, while advocating for reducing our carbon footprint.

Finally, maintaining infrastructure and activities that are attractive and enjoyable – that create a sense of place – will be key to attracting and retaining young professionals and employers in our community. Think vibrant downtown with plenty of locally owned restaurants and shops, music in parks, and families on Saturday morning trail rides. The events and infrastructure need to be maintained if we are to have a thriving economy that folks of all ages enjoy calling home. The City Council, with projects from Division Street to the downtown district, will have an opportunity to create desirable, economically thriving spaces. When voting about said projects, I will do so knowing that our financial future as a community is closely tied to our success in creating spaces that people enjoy spending time in.

Craig R. Tesch

Please share a brief biography of your education, background and life experiences that help you to take a leadership role serving as District 2 City Alder.

I was born in a small town in southeast Wisconsin. Upon graduating from high school, I joined the Marine Corps, serving two tours in Vietnam in infantry and security as a fire team leader. I am a disabled veteran and a Purple Heart recipient. On my first tour, I was shot in the knee while point on patrol.  

When I got out of the service, I worked my way through school through work study and foundry along with the GI Bill. I earned a BBA from UW-Whitewater with majors in Accounting and Finance, and an emphasis in Computers; and later, an MBA from UW-Oshkosh at age 44. I moved here in 1975 and first worked as a manager in systems accounting at Sentry Insurance for 11 years, then ran my own business for 33 years. I am a CPA and Certified Financial Planner and did taxes and financial planning.  During that time, I also bought and coordinated the renovation of commercial buildings which I then rented out and/or sold. 

My wife and I celebrated our 50th anniversary this last August. We have been residents of Stevens Point for 48 of those years and have one daughter who graduated from UWSP.

I believe a military background, working as a manager in a business environment and coordinating the renovation of commercial buildings instills leadership. Doing taxes and especially financial planning hones a person to listen to people and then working with them to accomplish their goals. Having to work hard and do the extra things I had to do to get the education and certificates I needed to fulfill a dream I had since junior high shows that I will work hard to get whatever I can for my constituents. And, most importantly, having a family with loved ones who have had more than their share of medical problems builds compassion. 

Why are you running for this office and what do you hope to accomplish?

My experience with local government has not been a good one. Going before the city council, I felt unheard, and I watched as other citizens were being treated the same way. I will be someone who actually listens. First, I want to establish regular office hours where the people of District 2 can meet with me and discuss any problems or concerns they might have, and then do my best to resolve them. Second, I will ensure that anyone going before the council would be listened to, especially when it affects a constituent of District 2. I will represent you!

Talking to people in the district, the largest complaint was the increase in their taxes for 2023 which hit people on fixed income especially hard. They’ve already had an increase in 2017 which the mayor categorized as “a temporary inconvenience” because “any project we do must generate enough taxes to pay for itself.” As a person who has worked with numbers most of my life, it’s something I would like to delve into. I also heard a number of complaints relating to the current lane set up for Stanley Street that I would like to address. Lastly, many people in the district tell me they like to bike, and I would like to set up a network of safe bicycle routes in the city. I have a Trek Hybrid I bought, used. I’m not very fast but it’s good exercise. I do the Green Circle but it’s also nice to just ride around town as long as you don’t have to worry about traffic.

What are the top three issues facing Stevens Point and how would you approach addressing them?

The top issues facing Stevens Point today are:

  1. The redevelopment plan for the Shopko Block. I attended the meeting on January 10th. Everyone wants to see the downtown revitalized. My concerns going in were: is this the optimal way of doing it, will it be a positive for the downtown businesses, will the project be entirely covered by Tax Increment Financing (TIF) (and not involve the taxpayers), and will this be sustainable for the foreseeable future (unlike the mall)? The presenters and the mayor were there assuring us of these points, but I feel this project is too big and too important not to be continually monitored and who does that monitoring should be decided by the common council. 
  2. The Business 51 project. A city-wide survey and the majority of constituents appearing before the council said the people want 4 lanes and no bike lanes while the council continued to insist on 2 lanes with a left turn lane. I have gone before the common council promoting a compromise 4-3-4 alternative: 4 lanes on the north and south business sections and 3 lanes on the residential portion so they have a boulevard as a buffer against traffic when they walk there. July 2023, the council decided to go forward with the 2-lane alternative throughout. What has bothered me the most about this process, however, is how the people residing or doing business along the road (the stakeholders) were treated – notification-wise, listening-wise and decision-wise. Terrible! We have to change the way our citizenry is treated and, if elected, I will push for that change!
  3. The homeless situation. Right now, facilities are limited. The Salvation Army is at capacity and Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church has stepped up, but they are also running out of room. Meals are available at Salvation Army and the Downtown Franciscan provides a drop-in center from noon to 3 pm.  But there are large gaps of time in cold weather, hence, the overflow into the library and Mid-State Tech. It’s about time the common council got involved!  I have a particular interest as there are many veterans that are homeless, I had a sibling that was homeless, my daughter ran the Salvation Army shelter here in Point at one time and she is currently a Case Manager for the Salvation Army in Madison.  We (the city) need to form a committee of interested parties and make this right for all concerned!

Cole Verbeten

Cole Verbeten has withdrawn from running for District 2, so he did not submit responses to the questions.