Two men are running for mayor of Chetek; current mayor Jeff Martin and resident Dave Phillips. Both candidates have been interviewed by The Chetek Alert and their profiles are featured below.
Chetek voters will choose either Martin or Phillips in the election on Tuesday, April 7. Gov. Tony Evers said the election will not be canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Residents may request an absentee ballot, which will be mailed to them. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Thursday, April 2. Absentee ballots must be mailed or returned to your municipal clerk by 8 p.m. on April 7.
For more information on deadlines to register and how to vote in person or via absentee ballot, visit https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/VoterDeadlines.
Meet the candidates
Dave Phillips, a longtime resident of Chetek, is a widower with three adult children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
He started a business, Dave Phillips Company, in the 1980s, which installed pneumatic tube conveyor systems for hospitals, clinics, banks and municipal facilities. He has operated his business for around 40 years and is now semi-retired. He previously served as Chetek’s airport manager for about six years.
Jeff Martin has lived in Chetek since 1991. He and his wife, Linda, have four adult children.
He serves as pastor at The Refuge church in Chetek. He was elected mayor in 2016 and was reelected in 2018. He also served on boards for the former Knapp Haven, Chetek Youth Center Project (The Garage) and Chetek Food Shelf. He was also the president of the PTO and the local Salvation Army representative.
Both candidates were asked the same questions—including questions submitted by residents—during separate interviews. Their answers follow:
• Chetek Alert: Why are you running for mayor?
Phillips: “I managed my own business for 40 years. It can’t be that hard to manage the city,” Phillips said.
Martin: “I like being a part of the conversation,” Martin said. He’s only voted twice to break ties on the council, but “the mayor sets or influences the tone.” So while he can’t take credit for council decisions, he has been a large part of the conversation. “I enjoy representing the community,” he said.
• Alert: What makes you qualified to be mayor?
Phillips: Phillips has run his business for 40 years and it has given him plenty of managing and supervising experience, he said. He also worked on municipal wastewater treatment plants in Bloomington, Minn., years ago, which is useful as the city looks at building a new wastewater treatment plant.
Martin: “I think I have good people skills, good listening skills and good communicating skills,” he said. “This is our home, not just a fun gig. It’s how I can help serve the community I call home.”
Right now, the council members share different views and Martin felt it is his job to listen and moderate.
• Alert: How do you intend to be the city’s spokesperson?
Phillips: Phillips said that he would promote growth. “You’re going to have to do whatever we get industry in here,” he said. There were plenty of ideas that could be sought out. While he wasn’t sure of what might be the best idea, he was open to all options.
Martin: Martin noted he has written around 66 posts on his mayor’s blog. He focuses on events or questions he gets from citizens. He also holds coffee with the mayor meetings at Meadowbrook and meets with residents at The Center’s Friday salad bar. He also makes his personal number available.
He said that keeping people informed of the issues and why they were relevant was important to getting things accomplished.
• Alert: Some residents are concerned about the city spending too much. What do you say to this?
Phillips: “I think [the city] could spend their money in different ways,” Phillips said. In his view, he did not think the city had was spending taxpayers’ money wisely, especially if a new wastewater treatment plant had to be built in the coming years.
Martin: “A plan to do nothing is not a plan,” Martin said.
Some residents were upset when the city bought the former Chetek Cafe building, but Martin looked at as an investment for development the city that allowed a local business to grow and expand. This project didn’t raise taxes but came out of outlay accounts—funds already set aside for city building projects. Outlay funds were also used to purchase the former Jennie-O property for future development.
Asked if outlay funds should be “returned” to taxpayers to lower their taxes, Martin said that would be a short-sighted thing to do.
• Alert: How do you intend to keep city spending in check? If cuts needed to be made, where would you make them?
Phillips: Phillips was not sure. He didn’t think cutting the public works department would be a good idea because they were already stretched thin. He said savings would have to be found by relying on repairing equipment and deferring new equipment purchases.
Martin: “I think spending is in line,” Martin said, adding city tax rates had been flat and recently went down. “I think we are being prudent and progressive.”
But if cuts had to happen, Martin trusted City Clerk/Treasurer Carmen Newman, to look at the city’s budget and make recommendations to the council. Ultimately, it is up to the council to decide the budget, Martin said, and the answer would be clearer, if that time came.
• Alert: What are your views on improving city infrastructure, such as sidewalks or parks?
Phillips: Phillips said the wastewater mains and laterals were in poor shape and needed to be improved.
If a public dock is expanded at the Stout Street landing, the city must be cognizant of the neighbors on either side.
Martin: Martin was focused on the Gross-Wen pilot study for a new phosphorous filtering system at the wastewater treatment plant. He hoped it would work.
He said a new dock at the Stout Street landing will likely be approve, but it was important to take the concerns of the landing’s neighbors into consideration.
Also, he would like to see a farmers market at Main Street Park, more parking for The Center on the former Jost property, a pickle ball court at Gotham Park and improvements at the pavilion at Airport Park to add overhead doors and a kitchen.
• Alert: There is a housing shortage in Chetek. Should the city play a role in solving it?
Phillips: If the city were to develop the Jennie-O property itself, it would cost too much, Phillips said. Also, he didn’t think the current wastewater treatment plant could handle the capacity of a new housing development on Knapp Street.
Martin: “I know so,” Martin said of the housing shortage. If the city were to take a Laissez-faire approach and wait for a developer build houses, “that 39 acres would sit out there forever.”
The city had to “sweeten the deal,” Martin said and the city had $300,000 in an outlay fund specifically for affordable housing projects.
• Alert: Should the police department be governed by a police commission again?
Phillips: The police commission didn’t seem to work out before and that’s why it was disbanded, Phillips said. The current situation, with the council overseeing the police department, appeared to be working. There was a good, working council, he thought.
Martin: No, Martin said. He and the council has a good rapport with the police chief, Ron Ambrozaitis. A police commission filled a need at one time, but it was not needed now, he said.
• Alert: A reader asked about slowing speeding drivers on Lakeview Drive. What is your solution?
Phillips: He disagreed that there was a problem with speeders on Lakeview Drive and had not witnessed such a problem, even during the bass fishing tournaments in the summer.
Martin: He didn’t doubt drivers were speeding on Lakeview Drive. All he could offer was communicating it to officers. He did not think that speed bumps on the road or closing off the section along the city beach was a solution.
• Alert: What are your biggest concerns for the city right now?
Phillips: The cost of a new wastewater treatment plant was a concern to Phillips and sewer rates were high enough, he said. He wanted to see more information from consulting engineering firms.
Martin: The development of the former Jennie-O property had to move forward, Martin said. It was taking longer than anticipated but having everyone agree was better in the long run.
He said the city would have to reconsider the subsidy paid by the city and townships to the Chetek Ambulance Service.
Martin said the wastewater treatment plant would be figured out eventually, and he’d like to see a timeline for city parks improvements.