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SHEBOYGAN - In a primary election next month, voters will narrow down the field of candidates running for the Sheboygan County Board District 3 seat.
Two of three candidates will advance from the Feb. 15 primary to the April 5 general election.
Incumbent Kathleen Donovan is running for re-election, opposed by challengers Jessica Huss and Lisa Salgado.
County Board Chairman Vern Koch appointed Donovan to fill the empty seat in December, after Vicky Schneider resigned in anticipation of moving outside of the district.
County board members serve a two-year term and are paid an annual salary of $2,100. They meet with the full 25-person board monthly and also serve on one or more of the following nine committees: Executive, Finance, Health & Human Services, Health Care Center, Human Resources, Law, Property, Transportation, or Planning, Resources, Agriculture & Extension.
The Sheboygan Press asked all three candidates why they're running and what their priorities would be if elected. Here is what they told us.
Name: Kathleen Donovan
Occupation: Educator at Bookworm Gardens in Sheboygan
Education: Bachelor's degree from California State University, Sonoma
Relevant experience: I am the County Board Supervisor for District 3, appointed in December 2021. I also serve on the Human Resources and Health & Human Services Committees.
Name: Jessica Huss
Occupation: Deputy finance director for the City of Sheboygan
Education: Master of Science in Leadership and Development from Lakeland University
Relevant experience: I worked for Sheboygan County for over five years. During this time, I was given the opportunity to support most county departments in some degree. I am familiar with the county’s legislative process, ordinances and many of the services they provide. I now work for the City of Sheboygan, which has given me a full-scope view of our local government.
Name: Lisa Salgado
Occupation: Registered medical assistant
Education: Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. I have also completed a Human Resources Management, Supervision Course, and a Team Building course through Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. Along with Essentials of Leadership and Leadership Series-Coaching for Improvement through St. Norbert College.
Relevant experience: I have worked as a medical assistant in numerous outpatient clinics for the past 29 years in over 25 medical specialty departments in Appleton, Green Bay, Sheboygan, Oostburg, Kohler and Plymouth. I have experience as a supervisor running a medical clinic and as an employee health nurse, in which capacity I attended Green Bay Health Department meetings. I am currently serving on the Ellis Historic Neighborhood board. Originally from De Pere, I have enjoyed living in the beautiful city of Sheboygan for the past five years and meeting the welcoming and friendly people in the area. I have planted roots in Sheboygan by starting a small local business here.
Why are you running for a seat on the county board?
Donovan: I was approached by a neighbor about filling the vacancy and saw this as another way to contribute to my community. As the spouse of a retired Army officer, I’ve lived in many places, but no place else has felt as much like home. We moved here in 2014 and chose to live in downtown Sheboygan because we wanted to be part of this vibrant community. Now, we truly know our neighbors and appreciate the sense of community. But I feel an important part of being in a community is giving back — since moving here I have volunteered with Mead Library and as a Big Brothers/Big Sisters Lunch Buddy at Grant Elementary School. I provided year-round field and game day assistance with the Sheboygan A’s (Sheboygan Athletic Club), and I also served as their public relations representative at the Sheboygan County Chamber. I am currently serving as a deacon at First Congregational Church and was the financial secretary for our capital campaign. I also serve on the board of the League of Women Voters and have assisted as a poll worker. Being on the County Board is another way to continue to support my neighbors.
Huss: I have dedicated most of my adult life to serving others. I am non-partisan and possess the ability to set aside my own opinions. With my knowledge and experience, I can, and will, advocate for my neighbors in District 3. Professionally, I see opportunities where the county and city can pool resources and collaborate more. By being involved in both organizations I can help to keep the lines of communication open. Personally, I was always proud to work for Sheboygan County and support the good work that they do. I would like to be a part of it again.
Salgado: I want to serve my community, especially with health and human services. As a medical assistant float in the surrounding area, I have really enjoyed getting to know the residents and understanding their needs. The county board is where people come together and get the work done in committees. My biggest priority is for people to have their needs met and enjoy the community in which they live. I consider myself a humanitarian who respects all people, and I feel that everyone has something to teach us. I have volunteered at the Brown County Jail’s Celebrate Recovery program, St. John’s Homeless shelter, have been a foster parent, and am TEFL-certified to teach English as a second language.
Three people are running for the District 3 Seat. What makes you a good candidate in this race?
Donovan: First of all, I think it’s great that we have such interest — that’s necessary for a functioning democracy. We shouldn’t just rely on career politicians to perform our civic duty for us. When I applied to fill this vacant seat, I was surprised that there were five other applicants. We were all interviewed by the chair and vice chair, and I was humbled to be selected for the appointment. In addition to being an educator and a volunteer, I also have over 10 years of experience in the construction industry with an emphasis on financial management. I understand what it means to stay on budget and complete a project on time. Mayor Ryan Sorenson leveraged my construction experience and appointed me to serve on the city’s Board of Review. I understand the value of working together in a non-partisan way to achieve the county’s goals of delivering services and programs while being fiscally responsible.
Huss: My experience with Sheboygan County. It can take a full year or longer to learn the county’s operations. Since the term for a County Board Supervisor is two years, this leaves a small amount of time to get the work done. I have the knowledge to hit the ground running. I have a lot of life experience, mainly due to my military service. This has left me with a unique perspective that has served me well. Finally, I have a personal interest in Continuous Improvement, which I began learning more than a decade ago. I believe having the ability to streamline and add efficiencies will become increasingly valuable to Sheboygan County in upcoming years.
Salgado: My training and work experiences in the field of health care have provided me with qualities that give me the ability to work as part of a team to solve problems. I have strong leadership skills, experience with working within budgets, running a small business, working with the residents of Sheboygan County and listening to what their needs are.
I have organized medical mission trips of my own, with a team of area nurses, to Guatemala and Honduras to provide free medical clinics, food and supplies to the indigenous people in several rural villages. I have also volunteered at an orphanage in India and have sponsored several local fundraisers to provide them with a water filter and beds for the children. This work provided unforgettable experiences, which led me to become a strong advocate for health care equity issues. I have also had the opportunity to enjoy leisure travel to over 20 countries and have learned a lot about many different cultures. My travel experiences have greatly heightened my awareness of cultural, racial and religious diversity. I believe that diversity strengthens and enhances our community and am an advocate for promoting equity and inclusion.
What are two top issues you think the county should address?
Donovan: As a member of the Health & Human Services (HHS) Committee, I believe one of our top responsibilities for 2022 and beyond is to oversee the implementation of the HHS Strategic Plan. This department accounts for 29% of the county budget and includes Economic and Child Support, Public Health (including COVID-19 response), Child and Family Services, Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC), Elder Services, and Behavioral Health programs. While work has already begun on many of the Strategic Plan objectives, this plan will guide the agency over a period of three to four years.
Another priority I would address is our county workforce. In my position on the Human Resources Committee, I recognize that our county employees are our most valuable asset. In 2022, we have 19 departments and approximately 850 employees, a reduction of 35% since 2000. This helps keep property taxes in check (property tax rates for 2022 are down for the sixth year in a row). However, it will be a challenge to keep up with rising wages in the private sector while maintaining the quality of delivered services.
Huss: My top concern is our labor shortage. The Baby Boomer generation is making a mass exit from the workforce and the generation entering it is much smaller. This has left us with a surplus of jobs. I believe all businesses and organizations will soon have to learn how to function with less resources.
The second issue is the connection between mental health and public safety. Drugs and violent behavior have become more prevalent in our community and I believe mental health is a main driver behind it. I would like to see the county put more focus on creating programs that proactively address mental health before these individuals become a statistic, or end up in our detention center.
Salgado: First, Health and Human Services makes up the majority of the Sheboygan County budget, and I think rightly so since health and well-being are key to promoting the happiness and quality of life of the members of our community. Health goes beyond COVID-19 in our community, such as Rocky Knoll, Vista Care, residential treatment facilities, veterans and food insecurity. As a former foster parent, foster care programs, such as Sheboygan’s child welfare system innovation project, would also be of particular interest to me.
Second, currently, there is a childcare shortage, which needs to be addressed so we can get parents back into the workforce and fill the many job openings in our area.
What should the county do to help address the COVID-19 pandemic?
Donovan: The Public Health Division of the Sheboygan County Health & Human Services Department is our lead agency to coordinate with state and local officials to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the fluid nature of this pandemic, with new virus variants, revised CDC guidance, vaccines and boosters, etc., I believe our county has set an outstanding example of providing accurate and timely information to our citizens. In 2021, the HHS Department saw another year of strong service within budget and despite pandemic challenges. We must continue to partner with state and federal agencies to ensure that Sheboygan County residents take advantage of new programs, such as acquiring test kits and FDA-approved anti-viral treatments.
Huss: In my opinion, Sheboygan County has a done a great job educating the community on the risks of COVID-19 and coaching us on ways to stay safe. Now that we’ve been coexisting with COVID for close to two years, I believe the county needs to address the emotional toll COVID has taken. Health care workers are understaffed and completely exhausted. As a community, we have been living in limbo, which has impacted mental health, caused anger and created division. Sheboygan County needs to recognize and address the emotional injuries that resulted from COVID-19 and offer more support, empathy and hope for the future. By appealing to the problem, both logically and emotionally, I believe we could see increased compliance and, eventually, a reduced number of cases.
Salgado: As a health care provider working on the front lines with patients, I have a strong sense of the wide-ranging problems that the pandemic is creating in our community. I believe we need to stay informed and flexible with the constantly changing needs and issues of COVID-19 that affect not only our health, but businesses, supply chains, schools and many other areas in our community.
How to vote
To vote, people must be registered and present a photo ID. People can register to vote online at myvote.wi.gov or in person at the City Clerk's office in City Hall at 828 Center Ave., Suite 103, in Sheboygan.
Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the following two sites:
Ward 5: First Congregational Church, 310 Bluff Ave., Sheboygan; and
Ward 6: Fountain Park Methodist Church, 828 Erie Ave., Sheboygan.
People must vote at the polling location of the ward they live in. Due to redistricting, some wards may have changed. People can determine their voting location at myvote.wi.gov or by calling the City Clerk's office at 920-459-3361.
This article originally appeared on Sheboygan Press: Sheboygan County Board District 3 candidates share priorities