City Councilmen face off for presidency position

Two candidates present their campaign statements in a Q&A forum for city council presidency

Timothy Spierings

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Photo by Lauren Spierings

Based on a coin flip, Werthmann was the first to give his opening statements to those assembled for the forum before the question session began.

The Eau Claire City Council president position will be up for a vote on April 2. Two candidates from the council are running for the position.

On March 7, a Q&A forum was held at Chippewa Valley Technical College, organized by the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce, WQOW News 18, Valley Media Works, the Leader-Telegram and Wisconsin Public Radio.

The two candidates Andrew Werthmann and Terry Weld were given the opportunity to answer pre-set questions that were introduced by Gary Johnson of the Leader-Telegram.

Six questions were asked in total, with two questions being written by the candidates themselves. The Q&A session was followed by a meet and greet where the audience could converse face-to-face with the candidates.

Werthmann said he has 10 years of experience in the city council. He is the representative for District 5 and has been the acting president since June 2018, when former city council president Kerry Kincaid stepped down.

Weld joined the city council two years ago, in March 2017. Before announcing his candidacy for city council president, Weld took his place as a city councilman after replacing former member Eric Larson.

Werthmann opened the forum with mentions of the city’s progress toward adding jobs and increasing investments in the community over the past few decades. He also discussed what he believes to be the biggest issues in Eau Claire.

“Wages are not keeping pace in our community,” Werthmann said. “Our biggest community issue isn’t partisanship. It’s the fact that tonight, we will have people sleeping on our streets.”

Werthmann also discussed child homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in Eau Claire. He said the council president needs to make bold actions in order to build an Eau Claire that “lifts everyone up.”

Weld followed Werthmann’s opening remarks with his own, outlining his background in Eau Claire and his previous professions before joining the council.

“I’m running for city council president because I love this city and the life it has given me,” Weld said. “I’m running because I want to earn back the trust and confidence in our city council. I’m running because I believe in leading by example and simple common sense.”

Werthmann’s apparent lack of concern toward partisanship was not shared by Weld, who repeatedly mentioned the lack of non-partisanship in the local government over the duration of the forum.

“I think it’s important that, when the president is taking on this role and building a council that is going to be productive and healthy for our community, it’s important that they all are independent, and all don’t think the same and all don’t vote the same,” Weld said. “I don’t think that’s healthy for Eau Claire and I don’t think that’s healthy for any of us moving forward.”

Werthmann and Weld also fielded questions like those concerning winter parking laws, city budget adjustment and development. The last questions asked were the ones the candidates themselves had submitted.

Werthmann asked his question first. He asked the candidates to name and describe what three policies they were most proud of for having taken part in.

Werthmann listed his work with the policy to give equal benefits to same-sex couples in the city workplace in 2012, the marijuana fee reduction ordinance and, the one he said he is most proud of, the sustainability commission in 2013.

“That helped lead to our current goals,” Werthmann said. “Where all of the folks who helped work on that commission, they helped set forth our goal of 100 percent clean energy for our entire community by the year 2050. It’s a big deal, and something I’m incredibly proud of.”

Weld was next to answer. He cited his shorter tenure in the council as an explanation for why he felt he couldn’t answer this question as well, saying instead that he has served as a leader in the community for more than 30 years.

“As far as the initiatives I’ve brought forward to the council, there’s only one,” Weld said. “And that one is offering and encouraging and motioning for a lower income fare, or a bus fare, for lower income families or individuals with lower income.”

Weld’s question was focused on partisanship, asking how partisan loyalty could fail to foster free and independent thinking when addressing the concerns of all citizens. Weld responded with his belief that there should not be alliance building and voting blocks in Eau Claire.

“When our council was created, it was created with the idea of being non-partisan,” Weld said. “Today, the definition is still the same: it is non-partisan. But our council is not non-partisan, and we’re spending a lot of time and effort on initiatives that aren’t, in my mind, representing the entire community.”

Spierings can be reached at [email protected].