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Elections mean major turnover for St. Croix County Board

A campaign to elect several candidates to maintain county services for the elderly and disabled is apparently responsible for a shakeup on the St. Croix County Board of Supervisors.

Last week’s election -- in which five incumbents were upset by challengers -- will mean a significant change in the board, the group that sets county government priorities, provides financial oversight and adopts county laws.

Since another five incumbents did not seek reelection, 10 of the 19 supervisors will be new.

The five who were defeated are all from the Hudson/ North Hudson area and include current board Chairman Daryl Standafer, who has served on the board for 20 years, and former chairman Buck Malick, who has been on the board for 16 years.

Standafer, District 4, a retired banker, lost to Howard Novotny, a career service specialist for 3M. Malick, District 6, a retired attorney, lost to Stephen Nielsen, who is also retired and has not held public office before.

District 3 Supervisor Tim Hood, a retired pilot who has been on the board for two years, lost to Dr. Chris Babbitt, a clinical child psychologist, who also has not held public office before.

The fourth incumbent to lose is Fred Yoerg, District 5, a first-term supervisor who works in sales. He lost to Roy Sjoberg, a business and estate planning attorney.

In District 8, retiree Rich Ottino, a first-term board member, was defeated by Scott J. Nelson, an airport fire captain and military veteran.

In a half-page ad in the Hudson Star-Observer the week before the election, Friends of the St. Croix County Nursing Home urged voters to elect Babbitt, Novotny, Sjoberg, Nelson and Jill Berke.

The advertisement, which says it wasn’t authorized by the candidates, criticized the current County Board for reducing services at the Nursing Home and privatizing an agency that provides work for persons with disabilities.

The ad also chastised incumbents for allegedly establishing the county administrator position that “marginalized the authority and role” of the County Board and added to costs, allegedly giving significant raises to an “inner circle” of administrators while cutting income for line staff, allegedly selling county land in New Richmond for too little, and an alleged “rushed attempt” to sell or move the Agriculture and Education Center in Baldwin.

Four of the candidates endorsed by the ad affirmed some of those positions in their own statements.

Novotny said he supports the county’s “five-star nursing home” and Sjoberg urged improvement in addressing citizens’ medical and mental health needs and “respecting the rights and dignity of vulnerable adults.”

In giving his reasons for running, Babbitt expressed concern for “the way county government has been operating,” adding, “We need to return to the days when ‘we take care of our own’ was the motto of county government.”

Novotny, Sjoberg and Nelson asked for more openness and accessibility in county government and both Novotny and Sjoberg supported targeting additional county resources to fight the county’s “heroin epidemic.”

These six current supervisors outpolled challengers to keep their seats on the board: Dave Ostness, River Falls; David Peterson, rural River Falls; Ron Kiesler, New Richmond; Roger Larson, Star Prairie; Agnes Ring, Houlton; and William Peavey, Woodville.

Five of the current board members chose not to seek reelection. There were contests in all those districts with these results:

--Berke, town of Troy, who served four terms as county clerk, defeated Jeanette Kunz, a realtor, for the District 9 seat.

--Daniel Hansen, New Richmond, a food shelf volunteer, defeated Joseph Borst, New Richmond, a printer repair technician, for the District 12 seat.

--Paulette Anderson, Hammond, owner of Paulette’s Gardens, defeated William Gary, Hammond, a federal contractor, for the District 16 seat.

--Judy Achterhof, Emerald, a retired substitute teacher, defeated David Olson, Glenwood City, a construction superintendent, for the District 17 seat.

--Shaela Leibfried, Baldwin, a homemaker, defeated Lorraine Thompson, Baldwin, for the District 18 seat.

Three incumbents were unopposed on the ballot and were reelected: Travis Schachtner, Somerset, District 1; Chris Kilber, Hudson, District 7; and Andy Brinkman, rural New Richmond, District 14.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

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