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Incumbent faces two challengers in District 7

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Mike Heine
February 15, 2008

An incumbent, a newcomer and a village of Williams Bay trustee look to represent the village, Geneva Township and parts of Delavan and Linn townships, which is the new District 7.


Sonja Berg-Schlesner


Age: 34.


Address: W3769 Locust Drive, Lake Geneva.


Job: Homemaker.


Education: Bachelor’s degree in conservation biology from UW-Madison. Graduated from Badger High School.


Community service: Geneva Township Park Commission member. Member of Emerge Wisconsin, a group for Wisconsin women in politics. Volunteers harvesting vegetables, which are donated to a local nursing home.


Elected posts: none.


Q: What is the biggest issue facing the county board today?


A: “The farmland development that’s happening. I think it is important for us to be preserving our rural integrity, especially since it is one of the hallmarks of why people come to this area.


“If we continue to develop it, we’ll be losing one of our attractions.”


On taxes, “We need to be looking at the budget closely and seeing where we can streamline or be more resourceful.”


Q: Should Walworth County continue offering non-mandated services such as a school for children with disabilities, a nursing home, county zoning, etc.? Why or why not?


A: Being new, she admittedly doesn’t have all the answers to this question, but says they seem like “wonderful things for our community to offer.”


“I’d like to look at the budgets and see what our options are.”


Q: What are some ways Walworth County can manage the burden on taxpayers?


A: Berg-Schlesner thinks there might be ways to save in the area of law enforcement, possibly by consolidation of services between communities.


“I hate to say hack-and-chop is the answer, but I’d like to get in there and take a look at the budgets to see if things can be streamlined.”


David A. Weber


Age: 68.


Address: 2789 Theatre Road, Williams Bay.


Job: President/CEO Mode Industries, Inc.


Education: Course work in manufacturing engineering. Graduated from Fenger High School, Chicago, Ill.


Community service: Vocational industries board. Represented Walworth County on tri-county Workforce Development Board. Delavan Development Council board of directors. M&I Bank South board of directors, Gateway Technical college advisory board.


Elected posts: Williams Bay trustee 1973-1981, Williams Bay School Board president 1983-1999. Walworth County supervisor 2004-present.


Q: What is the biggest issue facing the county board today?


A: Cost of government, Weber said.


Until recently, there hasn’t been a strong push for county employees to pay more for insurance like private sector employees, he said.


“I don’t think the citizens of Walworth County can continue to pay the full tab.”


Formalizing a plan for the Smart Growth initiative is also important, he said.


Q: Should Walworth County continue offering non-mandated services such as a school for children with disabilities, a nursing home, county zoning, etc.? Why or why not?


A: Weber supports them and expects the costs for running such programs to decrease after building projects are paid off.


“Lakeland School … we’ve had a 50-year history of providing that. Every time there is a study by the 15 (county) school districts, the analysis has been that it is the most cost-effective way to provide education for those most severely in need.”


Q: What are some ways Walworth County can manage the burden on taxpayers?


A: Weber said work is being done on that.


He said County Administrator David Bretl is finding efficiencies and noted how the county’s credit rating (AA by Moody’s) helps secure low-interest loans.


Old, inefficient buildings were torn down, and new buildings will be more efficient, he said.


“I don’t think we’ll be in the large, capital-dollar borrowing business for 15 to 20 years. We’ve done all the heavy lifting.”


James P. D’Alessandro


Age: 45.


Address: 60 Johnson Terrace, Williams Bay.


Job: Self-employed business owner.


Education: Bachelor’s degree in public policy and administration from UW-Whitewater.


Community service: Williams Bay Lions Club. Chairman of the Community Partner Advisory Group (UW Extension committee). Co-founder and vice president of the Williams Bay Business Association. citizen member of the Extraterritorial Zoning Board for Williams Bay, Geneva Township and Linn Township.


Elected posts: Williams Bay Trustee 1997-2003, 2007-current.


Q: What is the biggest issue facing the county board today?


A: For D’Alessandro, it’s tax increases.


“I think this is a great opportunity now for the county to go in a new direction, in a new mindset. We need to budget within the taxpayers’ ability to pay. I can bring that experience of 0 percent tax levy increases. I have never voted for a tax levy increase while on the village board in Williams Bay.”


Q: Should Walworth County continue offering non-mandated services such as a school for children with disabilities, a nursing home, county zoning, etc.? Why or why not?


A: “We’ve been obligated to have these services. What I’d like to bring is not eliminating them, but running them efficiently.”


“I think, if the county board walked in there with a new direction and mindset, the employees at the nursing home and at other services, they’ll get on board.”


Q: What are some ways Walworth County can manage the burden on taxpayers?


A: D’Alessandro said shared services and developing partnerships with private companies could lower the county budget.


Contracted or part-time workers save money by not having to provide full benefits, D’Alessandro said.


He also is looking at combining public services between the county and municipalities.


“In the long term, that will bring costs down by bringing in efficiencies.”



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