This will be an election unlike any other in recent memory for the Town of Osceola. First off, the town currently has three supervisors. After this election, the number will increase to five. Secondly, only two of the current three supervisors are running, meaning there will be at least three new members on the Board. Ten candidates have registered or via write-in have declared their candidacy. Incumbent Supervisor Brandon Whittaker is running for Chair, while being challenged by write-in candidate Bob Wright. The supervisors candidates are Jo Everson, Peter Wolf, B.J. Greene, Mike Wallis, Dale Lindh, Katie Bruns, Jon Cronick and Neil Gustafson.
Background information about yourself (age, career, family, if you are an incumbent)
KATIE BRUNS: I am a write-in candidate for Town Supervisor. I grew up in the Town of Osceola and moved back after college. I am a teacher at an outdoor school in Minnesota. My husband and I love exploring the outdoor experiences this area has to offer.
JON CRONICK: My name is Jon Cronick; I am running as a write-in candidate for a Supervisor position for the Town of Osceola. I’m 50 years old and was raised on a dairy farm in the Town of Osceola. I graduated from Osceola High School, and went on to graduate from WITC in New Richmond. I have been a machinist for 30 years and worked my way up from entry level to a supervisory role, leading and training my co-workers. Having lived here my whole life, I have deep roots in this community. A large portion of my family still lives in the area, including some who have returned to the Town to raise family or retire.
EVERSON: I am Jo Everson and am running for one of four Supervisor seats for the Town of Osceola. I have been married to my husband Ed for 42 years and was born and raised in the town. My professional career has included nearly 30 years of working for local governments. Beginning in 1991, I was the Clerk-Treasurer for the Town of Osceola for 8 years followed by 19 years in the same role for the Village of Taylors Falls. Currently during the past 18 months, I have been a volunteer Interim Clerk and Election Co-Chief Inspector for the Town of Osceola. I have extensive knowledge and experience in local governments and the various issues that face rural communities.
B.J. GREENE: I am 47. I have lived here my whole life. Born in Osceola. I currently work at Polaris Industries. I previously worked at the local John Deere dealership in Osceola for 19 years. I am married and have a 17-year-old son from my first marriage and a 10-year-old stepdaughter from my current wife Lainie. Both children go to the Osceola Schools. I am not an incumbent.
NEIL GUSTAFSON: First and foremost, I am a Christian and a Conservative. I was born and raised in the Town of Osceola, I am 36 years old and a 2002 graduate of Osceola. I attended Madison Area Technical College, where I received an associate degree in Agricultural Equipment Technology and began my career as a Service Technician at the local John Deere dealership. I gained knowledge and experience in that position over a period of six years before becoming their Service Manager, a role that continued for the next ten years. Three years ago, I took my mechanical knowledge and management experience and began a new career as General Manager at Benck Mechanical in Somerset. I have been married to my wife Rebekah for 16 years and we have been blessed with three beautiful daughters: Olivia (13), Allyson (11) and Caroline (9). Together, we have a small farm, raising hay and Registered Hereford beef cattle. I also still work with my parents on our family farm raising corn and soybeans. We strive to be good stewards of the land and believe strongly in conservation farming practices. We began no-till farming practices over 20 years ago and have been all no-till for 14 years now. My roots run deep in agriculture and preserving that industry in our community.
DALE LINDH: My name is Dale Lindh and I am running for Town of Osceola Supervisor to be an impartial representative for the community. I grew up on a dairy farm in northern Polk County. I have been a resident of the Town for over twenty years in which I have raised a family in this beautiful area. During that time, I have served my community by coaching youth soccer and volunteering at church and community events. I have served two years recently on the Plan Commission getting a better understanding of the issues affecting our Town. My career as a Design Manger for a large commercial contractor has trained me to think outside of the box to handle multiple projects and tasks at a time. My career forces me to find creative solutions that align with local and state codes. From experience, I know what worked yesterday may not work effectively tomorrow.
MIKE WALLIS: I am an incumbent for Town Board Supervisor that brings a decade of experience to the Board. I have called Polk County home for most of my 50 years and have lived in the Town of Osceola since 1997 after my wife and I built our home here. Our two children attended Osceola Schools with one in his final year of high school and the other finishing up college. With a B.S. in Forestry from the U of M, I currently manage timber production on a 21,000-acre property in western Polk and Burnett Counties. There I bring economics, stakeholder interests, and the logging community together to actively and sustainably manage taxpayers’ natural resources. I also have over 20 years of experience in fighting and managing wildfires in multiple states. I have served my community in a number of ways over the years. Currently I am a coach for the Osceola youth shotgun sports team at the Osceola Rod and Gun Club, a 4-H Project Leader, and I help coach the Osceola High School Ice Fishing Team. I have served on the Town Plan Commission, and as a Town Board Supervisor, I chaired the Town’s ATV Route Committee and was a member of the Dresser/Town of Osceola Boundary Agreement Committee.
BRANDON WHITTAKER: I’m 32 years old and married to Stephanie. We are blessed to have Clayton and Callie, who are twins and keep our lives busy. I’m a national sales manager for the world’s largest fire truck manufacturer and have worked there for over 15 years. I grew up in St. Croix Falls and have lived in Polk County for almost 20 years, moving to the Town of Osceola 10 years ago after I met my wife. I was raised in a family business and learned at a young age to work hard for everything you have and to never give up. I believe in transparency and working as a team.
PETER WOLF: My name is Pete Wolf; I am 38 years old and a resident of the Town of Osceola. On April 6, I am running for a supervisor seat on the town board. I was born and raised on a hobby farm in Marshfield, Wisconsin in a family of 10. We were taught to say grace, work hard, set goals and be resourceful. I credit all my successes to my faith, parents, and family. I graduated from UW - Stout with a Bachelor’s in Manufacturing Engineering. While in college, I met my wife, Jessica, and we have been married 15 years! Our 6-year-old son, Porter, makes me a better person every day! I started my engineering career with SMC, in Somerset, WI. After 3.5 years with SMC, I worked as a Senior level Engineering manager for Boston Scientific. About 5 years ago I began to acquire a regional, molding manufacturing company; though deeply rooted in the Mid-west, we have sales throughout the world.
BOB WRIGHT: I am a write-in candidate for Town Chair. My family has lived in the Town of Osceola since 2004, when we built our house. Our kids, now grown, did their entire K-12 schooling it the Osceola School District. I currently work as an IT Specialist for the state of Minnesota. I’ve worked a lot of temporary jobs, so building our house made me feel like I was finally home. And I wanted to start giving back to my community. I served almost four years on the Town Board and over 12 years on the citizen Plan Commission, until it was dissolved in February. I have also been active in other endeavors in the community including serving on citizen committees for the school district and leading 4-H projects.
What were some of the factors that led you to run?
BRUNS: I have become increasingly interested and aware of the importance of local government. In the past two years I have seen the decline in the positive atmosphere and decision making process and the negative impact that has on the residents. I want to be an accountable and responsible representative that the town can rely on.
CRONICK: I was asked to run as a write in candidate by several friends and neighbors. Some of the candidates running for this position have only attended one or two meetings in the 1.5 years. I have attended most of the meetings and understand the short and long-term issues that are facing our community. More than that, I have strong ties to the community, an understanding of the town history, and a desire to remain actively involved in shaping my community.
Everson: For the past several years, the majority leaders of the Town Board did not have a good reputation for transparency or a cooperative nature in working with taxpayers, groups or even other government entities. With the transition from a 3-member Board to a 5-member Board, I believe new supervisors can provide significant opportunities for improvement. I am well organized and believe in following good policies and procedures. The Town in the past was lacking both. You will find me a truthful and forthright person and I will tell you how it is - which may not necessarily be how you want to hear it! I am not a politician, but I sincerely believe in transparency and the importance of it in a government needing improved public trust and support.
GREENE: I am running for Town Board because I don’t agree with the poor leadership and bad practices of some members of the current board. I am a new member that has never run before.
GUSTAFSON: I have always felt strongly about doing my part to serve the communities that I live in and have a long history of leadership and doing so. This is a trait inspired by my Grandfather, Hilary, a long-time and well-respected past Supervisor in the Town of Osceola. I have previously served as a Trustee in the Village of Dresser, a member of the Dresser-Osceola-Garfield Fire board, a Planning Commission Member in the Town of Osceola, Chairman of the Cooperative Boundary Agreement Committee between the Town of Osceola and the Village of Dresser and volunteered as an Interim Clerk/Treasurer for the Town of Osceola. I currently serve as a deacon and secretary in my church and as the Producer Leader of the Horse Creek Farmer-Led Watershed Council, a group of local farmers working together to improve soil health and water quality in the Horse Creek and Squaw Lake watersheds by promoting and educating our peers on conservation farming practices. With the addition of two more positions on the Town Board, I felt that now was the time to step up and do my part once again to serve my community and the Town of Osceola.
LINDH: I want to continue to serve my community as I have done for many years. While serving on Plan Commission, I have witnessed the frustrations of individuals with our Town, when they feel their voices are not being heard. I also have seen that the Town Supervisor’s own individual biased opinions that have swayed Town decisions. These choices will have impending effects on our families and businesses.
I believe that our Town Supervisor’s need to perform the proper research to make knowledgeable decisions for our community. I do not assume to know what is best for all the people of Osceola. The people of this Town know what is best. I hope to serve this community by listening to and learning from the people to make informed unbiased decisions on issues brought before the Town Board.
WALLIS: Our community needs professional, levelheaded, trustworthy leadership. With strong knowledge of and respect for Town processes, I will work to streamline those processes while bringing consistency, reliability, and experience to the board. I will continue to let my solid morals and values be my guide to making decisions that bring value to Town residents. There is no room on the Town Board for political maneuvering and bickering. I have been a positive leader for the Town and want to continue to bring that influence to the table. The Town needs leaders that make informed decisions after doing their homework and considering all aspects of an issue. All taxpayers of the Town deserve to be represented, not just those that attend meetings regularly, own a lot of land, or have lived here a long time.
WHITTAKER: I feel constituents need someone who will listen. We need a chairman that makes educated decisions and uses facts regarding the growth of our town. Roads and tax control should be our number one priority – not personal agendas. We should be focusing on agenda topics that we the town have control over and avoiding what is actually within county or state jurisdiction.
WOLF: Osceola is an amazing community that is rich in natural resources, lakes, rivers, wildlife, and forests. The water quality in our township is very important; it takes stewardship, dedication, and a long-term vision to protect the waterways in our community and preserve them for generations.
WRIGHT: I had not intended on running for Town Chair, but I care about my community and decided that Town of Osceola voters deserve a positive choice for leadership. We must put an end to the shouting matches, lawsuits, and revolving door for employees that the Town has become over the last two years. My opponent’s recent votes to dissolve the Plan Commission and Ethics Committee are shortsighted decisions that make Town government less transparent and less accountable to the residents and taxpayers. They deserve dependable, accountable local government and a welcoming environment for both themselves and employees. As a Town Supervisor and Plan Commission member I helped guide the Town through some pretty contentious issues. I know how important it is to budget wisely, listen to everyone, make informed decisions, and protect our rural character. As Town Chair I will bring responsive, competent, and civil leadership back to Town of Osceola government
What are the challenges you see for the Village over the next five years and the solutions to them?
BRUNS: The first major challenge will be bringing civility and respect into the town meetings.
The budget on the town needs continuous work and a group of representatives that will make informed decisions. This will also require keeping a treasurer/ clerk position that involves decent pay for the amount of work involved.
Roads will be a big challenge and continuous work on finding grants and allocating government funding.
CRONICK: Osceola townships greatest challenges moving forward are budgetary and growth related. The cost of building and maintaining roads will continue to rise, and we need a strong tax base to support the towns maintenance needs. In addition, our town has failed to stay on top of grants to help boost the maintenance budget.
The ties directly to our second challenge, growth. We need to promote growth within the community, while respecting all property owners.
EVERSON: The financial position of the Town will always be one of its greatest challenges. Since the cost of road maintenance is the largest expense for the Town every year, a good management plan is imperative. And that plan must be used and not placed on a shelf collecting dust. There also should be Board involvement in updating and implementing our plan and working closely with the Public Works Supervisor. This is the Town’s front-line defense to control the ever-increasing cost of road maintenance and improvements.
I believe the Town should be encouraging public input and involvement at Board Meetings. That will necessitate improvements in its social presence on the Town’s web site for those who cannot always attend meetings in person.
GREENE: We need to get the budget figured out as soon as possible. And restore the community’s faith and trust in its board members.
GUSTAFSON: Challenges I see the Town facing over the next five years includes proper road maintenance, continued urban sprawl, employee retention and professional operations. Road maintenance needs the utmost fiscal responsibility in order to get ahead and stay ahead. This includes strategic planning, budgeting and pursuing every grant available to fund beyond just local tax dollars. This has not always been accomplished in past years. In 2019, the Town needlessly suffered a tax levy decrease from its own constituents due to careless management of the budget. I believe in fiscal responsibility and government transparency. With our proximity to the metro area, urban sprawl will be an on-going concern. I approach this with an open mind and equal rights. We need to welcome new neighbors and business for the increased tax base. Correct processes, wise land use, and preserving our rural community and existing landowners’ rights are however, paramount. Under the former chairman and a combined supervisor vote, the Town has experienced an unprecedented turnover of employees, especially among the office staff. Though we have been able to hire and retain an excellent Public Works Supervisor, we have struggled to fill and maintain the positions of Clerk and Treasurer. I accredit this turnover to the poor previous majority leadership, an unprofessional work environment and unrealistic expectations in job duties and compensation. I will use my experience in hiring and managing employees to assist in selecting the right candidates, better managing their job duties and provide market competitive compensation. I support the creation of a new Personnel Committee to aid in professionally managing employees. The Town has been operating under long term Board members and has been very disorganized and unprofessional. Regular Board meetings have been a free for all and a mockery. I want to ensure respectful meetings that maintain order, follow parliamentary procedure and are chaired professionally. There also needs to be advances to the Town’s website, Town supplied email addresses for staff and Board members, improvements in the meeting place accommodations and a more consistent presence of legal counsel. In many of these shortfalls, the Town has been tripping over dollars to pick up dimes for years at a greater cost to the taxpayers and a tarnished local reputation. With your vote, myself and other like-minded conservatives as chairman and supervisors, will bring back the governance my grandfather embraced.
LINDH: I foresee one major challenge that our Town will have is how to properly fund the maintenance and improving our aging roads. I would be in communication with our Public Works Team to hear what the current and future needs are. I would like to be able to address the road conditions in a timely manner before expensive corrections are required. We will need to find creative way to provide funding while using this money wisely to maximize each dollar spent.
The charm of Osceola has the mixture of rural farm setting with rural town fringe. I believe that the Town wants the best of both sides, which at time become hard to co-exist. I want to continue to collaborate with our Town residents to work on future zoning modifications to insure that future residential; farm or commercial ventures have positive financial and ecological impacts to our Town.
WALLIS: An immediate need is to define how the Town will be governed as we increase the board to five members. Establishing working committees so that Town processes aren’t compromised and more work can get done effectively and efficiently will be essential. There will be board members with little, if any, experience. It is important that new board members receive solid mentoring so that their statements and behaviors don’t lead to turmoil, bickering, and litigation.
Along with establishing working committees, it is important that the Plan Commission get re-established. When the board passed a motion by a vote of 2 to 1 to dissolve the Plan Commission, the Town lost its ability to engage in land planning. We no longer have the authority to conditionally approve land divisions or make updates to our Comprehensive Plan as a result of that vote. In a Town with the highest population in the County and tremendous growth potential, planning is important. We need to establish a process for informing Town taxpayers about proposed land use changes near them in order for the Town Board and Plan Commission to hear their valuable input. County zoning has worked well for the Town, however, there needs to be a better process for informing people about land use changes that affect them, prior to the Town Board making recommendations to the County.
WHITTAKER: Residential and commercial growth – Solution: Listening to you the taxpayer, working closely with the county since we follow county zoning, ensuring our comprehensive plan follows our vision and allows for the proper growth. Ordinance and policies – Solution: Review all policies and ordinances and make sure they are in line with our vision and future growth. Budget process. Solution: Listen to you the taxpayers and gather facts to make sure we’re being fiscally responsible.
WOLF: I also strongly believe in protecting the culture of our community. Farming, outdoor recreation, hunting and a solid faith foundation have shaped Osceola’s culture for generations. We need to capitalize on these values and utilize them to generate taxable revenue to support our schools, roads, and infrastructure. I can bring my business acumen to the town board. We need to develop a strategic, long-term plan that protects the culture of our community, while driving taxes down. I hope to use my leadership skills, logical engineering mindset, Christian faith, and genuine care for the people to ensure we make thoughtful data-driven decisions. I will be an honest voice for our residents and ensure that the projects we focus on gets results. If you are looking for a candidate that will listen to your needs, collect data, push for a strategy and get real results, then vote for Pete on April 6.
WRIGHT: The biggest challenge is to restore the civility and efficient government that the taxpayers and residents of the Town expect and deserve. Respect, a positive work environment and attractive pay and benefits are what kept our long-term employees here. Folks should feel welcome when they attend meetings and vote at the Town Hall. We should be able to discuss issues in a civil and respectful manner. We need to restore the Clerk and Treasurer positions back to a single position and offer decent pay and benefits again. When this was changed in 2019, we lost our Clerk/Treasure of 12 years and both positions have been a revolving door for employees ever since. This benefits no one. I believe we need to update the Town’s computer security system. The Town manages sensitive taxpayer information and hackers are only getting better. Improved security and clear policies benefit both employees and taxpayers. And of course, roads. Towns have a lot of roads and a not a lot of taxpayers so maintaining them is a constant challenge, especially with diminished state funding for the last 12 years. We must continue to focus on ways to be more efficient, capture grant money wherever we can, and be able to demonstrate to taxpayers that we are spending their money wisely.