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Monroe school official to run for Assembly job

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Mary Jane Grenzow/Monroe Times
January 17, 2008
— John Waelti resigned from the Monroe School Board on Monday to begin his bid to win the 80th Assembly District seat away from Rep. Brett Davis.

Waelti said he plans to make a formal announcement of his candidacy at a public event at 3 p.m. Jan. 27 at Turner Hall, 1217 17th Ave., Monroe. A retired economics professor, he will run as a Democrat and face at least one other challenger, Kris Wisnefske, a Monroe nurse, in a September primary. Davis, R-Oregon, has not yet announced a re-election bid.


“I’ve been critical of politicians. Now it’s time to put myself on the line. It’s time to walk the walk,” Waelti said.


In his letter of resignation to the school board, Waelti wrote he hoped to be able to address the state revenue caps imposed on school districts at the legislative level. Those spending limits force school districts to turn to referendums in order to keep programs and staff.


A more stable formula is needed for school funding, Waelti said.


“I don’t have the answer, but it needs to be addressed,” he said.


He also wants to see the Legislature take a closer look at health care. It should be addressed at the federal level, he said, but in the meantime, states should be looking at health care.


“If handled right, it could be an economic development tool,” Waelti said, explaining it could be an incentive to small businesses not to have to provide health insurance.


He also mentioned campaign finance reform as an issue he would like to address if elected.


One of his strengths, Waelti said, is his variety of experiences, ranging from being a “78-buck-a-month teenage Marine private” to being a Ph.D. student at the University of California-Berkeley to teaching agricultural economics to working with state-level government.


“I can talk with a variety of people,” he said.


He grew up on a 220-acre dairy farm just north of Monroe, the grandson of Swiss immigrants. He graduated from Monroe High School, and after three years in the Marine Corps, UW-Madison.


After earning advanced degrees in Arizona and Berkeley, he spent more than 30 years as an economist at the University of Minnesota and New Mexico State University. He also served as visiting professor at the University of Nairobi and Sultan Qaboos University in Oman.


After retiring, Waelti returned to Monroe in June 2005. He was appointed to fill a vacancy on the school board that December, and ran for election when that term was up the next April.


Waelti also has been an unpaid freelance columnist for The Monroe Times.


Gov. Jim Doyle appointed Waelti to the Southwest Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. Waelti also is a member of the New Glarus chapter of AmVets.


Daphne Newman Stassin of Brodhead will serve as Waelti’s campaign manager. Former Evansville mayor and 2006 candidate for the 80th Assembly District Janis Ringhand will be his campaign treasurer.


Waelti lives in Monroe with his wife, Sherry. He has two adult children: Kara is a registered nurse in Madison, and John Jr. is a corporate communications professional.



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