Editor's note: In collaboration with the Rice Lake Chamber of Commerce and Rice Lake Community Media, we are sharing this questionnaire of candidates for City offices to help Rice Lake voters make informed choices. With threats imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage everyone to vote absentee. Request your ballot at https://myvote.wi.gov/
Mayor Mike Diercks:
- I believe I am representing the City of Rice Lake. One of the many things I do is I have served on the Barron County Economic Development Committee for nearly 4 years. I will continue this if re elected. We get together monthly to talk about the needs of the County and how Rice Lake fits in the bigger picture. I have developed a working relationship with the leaders in Madison who work for the Citizens of Rice Lake.
- What the City can do to encourage existing businesses to grow I believe starts and ends with housing. Labor, which I have been told by many a business is their number one problems, needs a place to live. I have been involved with several builders/developers who want to come into the city. We need to work with these people and give them everything, we can do to make them succeed.
- Once again, housing is the key. When I moved here in 1976, before I did anything else I looked for a place to move my family. I didn’t look for a school, shopping options or even a Church, I first looked for a home. We need to keep that idea in our heads.
- a) I would like to see C & M 4th phase of development come together soon.
b) I would like for the Movin Out development start to add nearly 50 units of housing
c) Our main street needs to be rebuilt. This is going to cause some short term struggles
for our downtown businesses, but once completed it will show case our vibrante businesses.
1. Why are you seeking the position of Mayor? During my business career, I led large groups of people and helped them achieve success through teambuilding and effective communication. I also managed multi-million dollar budgets, built alliances with customers and helped find solutions to complex problems. I have served on the City Council for nearly 3 years, and am on the Boards of the Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary, UWEC-BC Foundation and the Rice Lake Protection District. For the last 2 months I visited many homes in Rice Lake, asking residents for suggestions on how the city could serve them better and sharing my ideas for our future. I also spoke to a number of business people in the community who provided great input and suggestions. The many conversations I had confirmed that my top priorities were on target. Rice Lake needs to be good for families and good for business. As Mayor I would continuously seek community input and build on my career experience to help Rice Lake achieve a vision that is practical, achievable and fiscally responsible. I believe that my experience, communication skills and desire to serve Rice Lake would be a great fit for Mayor. As a city we are doing well but have great potential to do better!
2.What can the City do to encourage existing business growth and attract new businesses? The first priority for business growth should be to encourage and support growth of our existing businesses in their expansion plans. I have supported the strategic development of Tax Incremental Districts (TID) which have resulted in existing and new business growth in our area. We need to promote the city’s industrial park which would be a great choice for some of our current and new manufacturers to build their business. As mayor I would make building alliances with business owners a priority. In my conversations with young families, I was told multiple times that they especially appreciated the library expansion and the opening of businesses like Boardwalk and Poppy Popcorn. We must continue developing our downtown to encourage expansion and attract new retailers. That includes working in collaboration with Barron County Economic Development, Main Street Association and Rice Lake Chamber. I believe there is a new excitement downtown with several new businesses opening and more activities like the Halloween family event and Downtown Wine Walk occurring along with the continued development of favorites like the Holiday Parade and Aquafest. We must work toward having every downtown retail space serve the public and attract visitors, shoppers and new retailers.
3. What can the City do to attract a viable new workforce? Look in the weekly Chronotype or go online and it is obvious we have many good jobs available in the area. The Barron County Housing Study revealed that Rice Lake and the entire county have a shortage of affordable housing, in both rental units and homes for purchase. As a community this is a big concern and will require collaboration with the city, county, developers and realtors to find opportunities to develop or rehabilitate housing. Additionally, we need to find out if there are any burdensome ordinances in place that make it hard for housing development in the city and drive new projects outside of our community. We also need to keep developing the types of amenities that attract families for recreation and leisure like the Splash Pad, sledding hill and the planned pool/recreation center. At the same time, we must hold the line on taxes and develop new initiatives at an affordable pace.
4. What will be your top 3 priorities for the City of Rice Lake this year? Public Safety must be the Number One priority of every Mayor and community. I will continue to advocate for our professionals who assure our protection and well-being daily. I have been an avid supporter of our Police and Fire Departments, as well as critical infrastructure services provided by the Community Services Department (especially roads) and Rice Lake Utilities (electric, water and waste treatment). Secondly, we must expand support and services for our growing senior population. 28% of our population is over 60 years of age and it is projected that the 60+ group could reach 40% by the year 2040. We need to respect and support our seniors and help them thrive in our community. This includes finding ways to help them stay in their homes longer, supporting initiatives for affordable housing, assuring transportation services are available, supporting the Senior Center and providing safe access to all area facilities. Thirdly, attract youth and families to make Rice Lake their home. Over half our graduating high school seniors leave our community and don’t return, even though we have good jobs available and a lot to offer. As I spoke to young couples with kids, they asked for continued downtown development, more family-friendly amenities, and things to do for couples, like what they find in Eau Claire or the Twin Cities. As mentioned, a big part of the equation to draw people to our community is the availability of affordable housing.
Rice Lake alderman candidate questions
1. Why are you seeking the position of City Council member?
2.What can the City do to encourage existing business growth and attract new businesses?
3. What can the City do to attract a viable new workforce?
4. What will be your top 3 priorities for the City of Rice Lake this year?
1. Why are you seeking the position of City Council member? I am running, again, for City Council because I care about the City of Rice Lake. Rice Lake is a great place to live and I want to help maintain that. I have been on City Council for 2 terms, now running for a third term, and I see the impact the City Council can have on the growth and vision for Rice Lake. I believe that Rice Lake has been improving since I moved here in 1993. I felt that my first term as an Alderperson involved just learning about how the City Council functions and how the City operates. This current term, I feel more comfortable in my decision-making process and look forward to a third term, provided the citizens of Rice Lake feel that way too.
2.What can the City do to encourage existing business growth and attract new businesses? I believe that it is important to get information to existing businesses about resources that are available to help them grow their business. A great resource for businesses is the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) which is Wisconsin’s statewide economic development network that offers businesses and communities programs and resources that spur economic prosperity in Wisconsin. At a more local level, we have the Barron County Economic Development Corporation. And right here in Rice Lake, we have the Chamber of Commerce and The Rice Lake Economic Development Corporation (RLEDC) as resources for business. As far as attracting new businesses to the area, the City has used Tax Increment Finance districts and builder agreements to spur development in Rice Lake.
3. What can the City do to attract a viable new workforce? To help attract new workers to the area, the City needs to promote more, what a great place Rice Lake is to live and work in. We have a very good school system, from K-12 to 2 colleges in Rice Lake. We have a growing downtown area with a number of new small businesses adding to our retail base. The downtown helps with that small-town feel that many people appreciate. Rice Lake has numerous recreational opportunities too, from a connected bicycle/pedestrian path system, to fishing piers, to ski trails and hiking trails. Rice Lake also has numerous parks and playgrounds throughout the city.
4. What will be your top 3 priorities for the City of Rice Lake this year?
- I would like to see more affordable housing become available to our current citizens and affordable housing would be helpful in attracting the viable workforce mentioned in question #3, above.
- I believe the first 3 questions that I answered above, are all inter-connected and are important to the development of a viable workforce. I have had the opportunity to tour area businesses and talk with the key people in these businesses and they all express that the sheer lack of people available for hire is a hindrance to their growth. The City of Rice Lake needs to help attract people to live and work in Rice Lake.
- One item that could be helpful in attracting people to live in Rice Lake is to promote the recreational activities/opportunities that surround Rice Lake. Within 1 hour of Rice Lake, there are a multitude of recreational activities for people to participate in. Cross-country ski trails, hunting land, beautiful lakes, snowmobile/ATV trails to name a few. I think I can best sum this up by stating, that after my wife, kids, and I moved to Rice Lake from Minneapolis in 1993, our relatives back in Mpls. would ask “how is Rice Lake?” and I would answer, “many people come here to be on vacation, and we get to live here”.
#1 To continue to serve our community as I have for the last 5 years. I’ve always prided myself in giving back to the community that has been so good to me, my Father, who served in the military for 26 years, Mother, and my family throughout the years. It was important to my Father to live in a community he felt good about and I feel that way also. I’ve been a councilman for the last 5 years, I volunteer to deliver meals on wheels, I have served on the pool committee, the library committee, and helped with the warriors varsity baseball team for almost 9 years. I believe in our city and am thankful to live here.
#2 We need more affordable housing, that will help fill the gaps in the labor shortage that we currently have in our area. I am actively involved with the Wisconsin Realtors association at the local, state and federal level and meet with and encourage our legislators to support efforts to help curb this problem we are having locally and at a national level. Every year “except this one because of the virus” I go to Washington DC to lobby for issues that will benefit all of us. In addition, I was the President of our local Realtor Association in 2018 and we worked very hard to support efforts to encourage affordable housing at all levels.
#3 The housing shortage is the key to this situation. I voted to support the new Moon Lake addition and that has been a huge benefit to Rice lake with many new homes added and a new tax base which will generate over 10 million dollars in new tax revenue which will help us all pay for day to day operating expenses and repayment of debt services. In addition, we need to make sure our community is a safe one to live in, that’s why I’ve always voted to make sure that we have a strong police force in Rice Lake. This benefits everyone.
A) I would like to see us do a better job on the snow removal each year, I know we can do it. I voted to change the way we do our snowplowing, sadly, I didn’t get any support but hopefully this year things will be different.
B) I would like to see work done on Main St. we all know it needs help and I want to bring it along. Our tax payers and visitors and Main St. Businesses deserve much better and I want to see it through.
C) To continue on with the Moon Lake project with C & M builders, they are doing such a fine job and I’m proud to have voted for this project. They will move on to other phases of this project and hopefully a new one, which I would support.
1. I want to be part of the decision making in the city, to move us forward and to not get stagnant. I believe there are ways for the city to grow without just raising taxes.
2. The city needs to look farther down the road and not just short term. All departments need to work together, which does not happen now. Some need to realize the customer is the city taxpayer. The city needs to work with the County and the School District .
3. Affordable Housing, we need to change some of our requirments for developments to make it more affordable. We have many things in the city we do not talk about and we need to, A sledding hill, a new pavillion at Roux Park, the Swim area and Pavillion at Narrows Park, Miles of paved walking and biking trails. Wolly and Rusty statues, Canoe launch area Spalsh pad and the indoor swimming pool, and the list goes on. Not to forget the Lake and the Red Cedar River. We need to sell ourselves better, be proud of all the hard working people in town and the area as a whole. Great schools, medical, avalible higher education, their are so many great clubs and to remind people / newcomers and forever Rice Lakers to become a part of the community and you can make a difference.
4. It is difficult to pick three as things come up and priorities change, Basic ones as always would be not to raise taxes, spend the money we have better and work to get more business and housing in the city. These are easy answers with very difficult paths to carry them out. I would like to hire a city planner / grant writer.
In regards to question #1, I am running for city council on the platform of positive, sensible, progression. As elected officials, it is our responsibility to make decisions for our constituents that positively and noticeably affect their daily lives. Not all of these decisions are easy, so compromise will be needed. I believe there is currently a lack of compromise in our city politics. Too many times, not compromising has led to a negative impact for the taxpayers within our city. If we are able to compromise and make common sense decisions, this will have a positive impact on our city and our citizens as a whole. Sensibility is also needed. We need to look at every dollar we spend and make sure it is going to work for the city. R.O.I. Return on investment. There are basic services that need to be provided, infrastructure, park maintenance, safety (police and fire departments), etc. Taxpayers expect these services. After we have budgeted for these expected services, we need to look at the money remaining and invest it in areas that will bring the most money back into the community. This leads me to progression. In order to progress, we need to find new ways to grow the tax base while also caring for existing businesses and citizens. This will increase revenue, which will continually allow us to make improvements and positively progress our city.
Addressing question #2, an effective way to grow new business and existing business (besides growing the tax base) is to sit down with the presidents, vice presidents, CEOs, and any other necessary employees of those businesses and ask them how we can help make their business flourish. As a city, we need to do this in order to insure continued success and future growth. Without asking those that are affected most, the city will not truly understand what needs to be done. We should go as far as reaching out to other communities that have faced similar challenges. We should be asking them what has worked for businesses in their communities to flourish and grow. Too many times this city tries to reinvent the wheel. If we would just ask the questions, most of the answers are already there. In addition to this, In order to attract new business, we need to cut out all unnecessary politics and red tape. We need to provide every avenue and incentive a new business needs in order to establish in our city. We need to take those businesses by the hand and help them in every possible way we can. There can be a lot of hoops to jump through, and it can be overwhelming. The easier we can make it on new businesses, the more likely they will consider our community. More business means more people, which helps to grow our tax base.
My answer to question #3 ties in quite a bit to question #2. To attract a viable workforce, we need to speak with those that are struggling to find workers. We need to listen to their concerns and their ideas. Oftentimes, they will have their finger on the pulse of their employees. We need to take time to sit down and ask those questions. Obviously, we need to do everything possible to attract and retain individuals into our city, but again, we don't need to reinvent the wheel. Many communities around our area have been successful in growing their workforce. Whether it’s a more vibrant, attractive downtown, more activities, more housing, just more things to do, etc, we need to ask in order to find answers. I understand what has worked for other communities may not for ours, but we can pick and choose from their successes and add to those ideas as we see fit for our community.
Lastly, regarding question #4, my top three priorities will be growing the tax base, improving R.O.I., and caring for our existing businesses and citizens while inviting new business and residents into the community. We need to make our city more attractive through responsible, positive, progression. We need to remove unnecessary politics that prohibit new business and exiting businesses from expanding. We need to make our community more vibrant by adding activities and amenities, while maintaining all of the great traditions our community enjoys. Improving the aesthetics and infrastructure of our community will help to attract new citizens, grow the tax base, and add to city pride. Again, we do not necessarily need to reinvent the wheel. Cities large and small have faced similar challenges and found resolve. Looking at surrounding communities will help us address our concerns. All of this can be done while responsibly and thoughtfully spending the hard earned dollars of our citizens.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions (715) 651-0931. I respectfully ask for your support on Tuesday, April 7th.
- To support the growth and well being of the Rice Lake community by helping implement both existing and new ideas from our community leaders and citizens.
- Many cities are grappling with this question. We must support continued growth of our existing businesses. Growth is the key to success in any community or venture. We need to market the city strengths to attract future citizens to relocate. We must provide amenities to further attract and retain both its current and future citizens. These two strategies used in tandem will lead to economic prosperity as businesses will follow its labor force.
- Attraction. It is not the same for everyone which is why we as a city must provide a variety of amenities to attract and retain a viable workforce. We can do this in a number of ways and stages but here are some examples of attraction for Rice Lake Wisconsin. ( Foundational structures are maintained for the safety of our citizens and the development of our children. Our "Curb Appeal" is addressed and developed meaning our buildings and structures are visually appealing. We must continue to grow our parks and trails. Our lake and waterfront must be further developed to appeal to everyone and we must grow our sources of activity and entertainment for all ages in Northern Wisconsin.)
- Public safety and education, the growth of businesses, and developed communication.