Longtime City of New Holstein Alderman Gene Woelfel is being challenged in the Tuesday, April 6 election by John P. Stephany.
The two are competing for the seat in Aldermanic District 1 which includes Wards 1 and 2 on the city’s far southeast side.
Following are the responses of both candidates to a questionnaire provided by the Tri-County News. The order in which their responses are printed was determined by a coin flip.
John P. Stephany
Stephany is retired from full-time employment but works as a breakfast cook at Badger Den in Kiel.
He resides on Mason Street with his wife of 19 years, Ilene. He has one son Kurtis and two stepsons JJ and Gary. “I have participated in numerous activities through the years in the community including coaching Little League, numerous New Holstein Jaycee projects, helping at the New Holstein Firemen’s Picnic, and brat fries at union functions.”
Currently, Stephany is an appointed member to the City of New Holstein Planning Commission. Son Kurtis was a local police officer for 18 years. “I chose to stay out of public office to avoid nepotism or the image of it,” John said.
Asked about his qualifications to be a good alderman, Stephany provided these points:
1. Supervisor in a local manufacturing plant for 10 years
2. Owned/operated the Red and White Restaurant and local catering business for approximately 12 years
3. Leader of bargaining committee at Tecumseh for approximately 5 years. “I was involved in two successful contract negotiations, involved in grievance procedures, and actively worked with employer to overcome workplace issues. I listened to employees’ concerns, investigated incidents, and worked with employees and company to find solutions when appropriate.”
4. President of the Local Union 1259 for four years
5. “When Tecumseh closed, I utilized the resources available to me and went back to college to obtain an associate degree in Business Management.”
6. President of New Holstein Jaycees
“In summary, I have experience in leadership, manufacturing, and small business which will allow me to be a great asset to the city, as a member of the City Council. I will strive to promote bringing in small businesses and supporting the existing businesses within our city.”
Asked to comment on issues facing the City of New Holstein, Stephany said, “We need to reestablish the Police Department and work for a new police contract. Elected officials need to continuously evaluate city services to control taxes and be fiscally responsible. The city needs to work harder to get small manufacturing businesses into the city. It is more realistic to get small manufacturing into the city and support them with the hope they will grow to larger employers/manufacturers. We need to continue to research and collaborate with the sharing of equipment with other cities to save money and be more efficient.”
Stephany added, “(The) city needs to continue to work to demolish Tecumseh and clean up the area for business and residential land use. The more business we promote coming to New Holstein, the more promoting people will do of existing businesses such as local restaurants, conveniences stores, and hardware stores. This will also increase the need for affordable housing. We need to change the label of New Holstein being a bed and breakfast city and put our ‘Open for business’ sign up.”
Woelfel is employed at Crafts, Inc., as the accounting manager.
“New Holstein has always been my home,” he said. “We grew up south of town on a hobby farm. I was eager to purchase my first house here after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with a degree in accounting. You can find me volunteering and participating in community events and organizations. Since high school I have been involved at the Firemen’s Picnic, first at the food stands then with grilling chicken. Such events allow me to engage with the citizens, see lifelong friends and appreciate the value of our great community.”
He added, “As a board member of the New Holstein Community Chest I serve as treasurer. This is a nonprofit organization that gathers then redistributes funds to local organizations that benefit children to adults in a variety of programs such as New Holstein Baseball Association, Youth Football, Police Explorers, First Responders and several more.
“I am also involved with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Sheboygan County. My little brother was 9 years old when we were matched. He graduated from the program when he graduated from high school. We still see each other on a regular basis. He is now 43, married and has three children. I also participate in the Bowl for Kids Sake. Over the past 32 years I have raised over $74,000 for the program. This year I volunteered to be on the Bowl for Kids Sake Committee to organize this year’s fundraising event.
“Another accomplishment that I am very proud of is the disc golf course in Kiwanis Park. After speaking with community members about their interest, I worked with a company to design the disc golf course. The design was approved by the Park and Rec Committee, then I contacted local groups and companies to sponsor a hole. I was able to raise enough money to purchase the baskets needed to complete the course with additional money left over for future maintenance. The tee boxes were later installed as an Eagle project by a local scout. It is great to see the course being used during the summer.”
Woelfel said he has worked for the citizens of New Holstein on the New Holstein Common Council. He has been a member of the Finance Committee, Utility Commission, Personnel Committee, Aquatic Center chairperson and council president.
Woelfel said, “I have always had a passion to help people and make a difference. Being on the council has a lot of responsibilities. We are dealing with people’s money, maintaining the streets and parks and providing services while maintaining taxes.
“We have been working on the Tecumseh Redevelopment plan since 2014. The city had to acquire the property and then apply for and receive grants to raze the building. This will occur in the spring this year. The next step is to develop the property. It is important to me to see this project through to the end.
“With more than 35 years of working as an accounting manager and controller of several companies, I know the budget process and what it takes to have a balanced budget and run a business. I have been developing and managing large budgets my entire career. It takes several years to fully understand the budget process and the operations of a municipality. I feel it is important to have someone with an accounting background and someone who stays current with the state legislation on the City Council. Having served on the Utility Commission I have a very good understanding of both the City and the Utilities operations.
“Being a good leader and teammate is important to me,” Woelfel added. “It takes the entire council to run the city. We must listen to the ideas, opinions and needs of the citizens, then analyze the information and make informed decisions.”
Asked about issues facing the city, Woelfel said, “There are several major issues currently facing New Holstein, the first being the rebuilding of the Police Department. This starts with hiring a new chief of police by the Police and Fire Commission. After the chief is hired additional officers need to be brought on.
“The second item is the redevelopment of the Tecumseh property. Over 10 years a lot of time and effort from many groups have been put into this project. With the razing of the building occurring this spring and the property being ready for a new life, the council needs to continue to work with the Community Development Authority to develop this property. The options are endless, so we need to keep an open mind and look at all options.
“Also, it is important for me to continue to create a community that will attract new families to New Holstein and find ways to provide housing to keep our aging residents here. I want to continue to find amenities and activities that we can provide to our residents to keep them socially active and engaged in the community. We have wonderful parks, an Aquatic Center that can be used by all ages and many local businesses to shop at. This goal can be accomplished by continuing to work with developers and showing them what land is available within the city as well as the available land in our TIF districts. This includes promoting the Tecumseh redevelopment area.”
Woelfel added, “I am proud to have been a part of a council that can continue to assist our existing businesses and new businesses. The city has helped Honeymoon Acres to abandon part of Ford Drive and purchase additional property for expansion. We have also utilized the advantages of our TIF districts by working with Michael and Patrick McCarthy at Metko, Inc. to expand their operations, and to provide new housing options at the Kennedy Drive Estates. The city also worked closely with Kwik Trip during the construction of their new store to ensure the building process went smoothly.
“I look forward to working on reestablishing and building up our downtown district. A person’s first impression of a community is by driving down the main street. It is time for us to look at opportunities to develop this area and to create new business opportunities to provide additional amenities to our residents.
“Thank you for your time and I look forward to working for you as your alderperson.”