By Joe Bachman
This will be an ongoing series of election briefs leading up to the 2016 common council elections in April, where we interview candidates on important issues that face the community. This interview is with Joe Zurfluh, who is running for District 1.
Why are you running for District 1 and what would you consider your qualifications to be?
I have a lot of pride in my community and have a genuine interest in the decisions that are made that affect the direction we are moving. I want to be a voice that reflects the best interests of my district and the city as a whole.
My qualifications include my residential tenure in this area. I am a lifelong resident of south Wood County. I was born at Riverview Hospital, raised in Port Edwards, and after my service in the US Army I moved to Wisconsin Rapids. I have been living in District 1 at the same residence for nearly a decade. I understand that the issues that affect my neighbors also affect me as a homeowner and a resident.
I also have experience in local government as I have been a sheriff’s deputy for over 11 years, and am currently assigned to the investigative division. My occupation has taught me patience and temperance for the opinions of others. I understand that there are a multitude of differing views over any one issue. I believe my strongest qualification to be my resolve to let reason dictate my decisions.
What issues face Wisconsin Rapids that you hope to address?
The riverfront project is an issue that has received a lot of attention lately. I also feel that Wisconsin Rapids could benefit from more industrial business and jobs.
As far as neighborhood issues that I would like to be involved in as an alderperson, the neighborhood watch and neighborhood cleanup programs are among those. Alderman Chad Wirl was much involved in getting these programs up and running in this district, and he earned a lot of respect from many members of the community.
Awhile back, I was talking to a neighbor who expressed concerns over the 17th Ave North road construction. He told me he had called Chad Wirl (then District 1 Alderman) and that Chad had come over to his home to talk to him about his concerns and walk around the property. Now I have never met Chad or had any conversation with him, but that’s the alderperson I want to be, one who is approachable and will take the time to visit with the people in his or her ward.
Do you see a trend of younger candidates running and becoming involved Wisconsin Rapids Government, and if so, do you hope the trend continues?
I do see this as somewhat of a trend. I believe Mayor Vruwink was the youngest person elected to that office in our City’s history. There was also a person I graduated high school with who ran for alderman about 5 years ago or so. Personally, I like seeing younger candidates run for local office, as it shows an interest in the community.
I certainly hope this trend continues. I had thought about running for local government positions in the past and thought to myself, “I’m too young, maybe in a few years”. What I realize now is that the voters should have a qualified pool of candidates to choose from, and age is not a factor in determining a particular candidates’ qualifications. I don’t think there is such a thing as being too ‘young’ or too ‘old’, as long as you are qualified and have a legitimate interest in the direction of your city.
Heroin is a continuing problem in the area, what do you think the city should be doing to address it?
Unfortunately this is an issue, and for one of this magnitude I think the city should consider the advice of the police chief and his department. From a law enforcement perspective, the policies that we can implement to combat this problem are best known by those who are enforcing the laws.
Trying to end drug addiction or prevent it in the first place is key if you want to put a dent in the problem. Activities for school-aged children or diversion programs for adults are some steps that we can take to prevent people from using heroin in the first place or rehabilitating those who currently use.
Another big project the city is developing is the upgrades to the riverfront. What are your thoughts on the scope of this project and its current progress?
$9.5 million is a lot of money, but this program is still in the works and I have not heard that anything definite as far as funding is ready to be put forward. I know that there is some testing underway regarding a wall and I have not heard that the results of that test are back yet.
I look at this project as an investment in our community. Of course at this point we are still waiting on more information.