With no elected incumbent, trio of village candidates vie for slots on spring election ballot
The last time the Village of Fredonia seat on the Northern Ozaukee School Board was filled, voters had no say in the matter.
Last year, board members made the appointment to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Stephen Baumeister. William “Bob” Rathsack was chosen from a field of three applicants for the position, serving until the spring election.
On Tuesday, Feb. 16, Rathsack will face the other two applicants for the board seat during a primary that will set the ballot for the April 5 election.
Also vying for the seat are Patricia Barrie, 118 S. Milwaukee St., and Albert Klinter, 228 N. Wilson St.
Although Rathsack, 207 Meadowbrook Dr., has only been an incumbent since last July, he is a familiar face for local voters.
A 38-year resident of the village, Rathsack served 22 years as a school administrator, including six years as superintendent of the Northern Ozaukee School District.
Rathsack also served 12 years as Fredonia’s village president, three years as a village trustee and two years as a supervisor on the Ozaukee County Board.
Barrie, 118 S. Milwaukee St., a mother of one, has lived in the school district since 2009. She is making her first bid at elected office.
Barrie retired last spring after nearly 20 years with the North Shore Library and has worked for the Cedarburg Post office.
A graduate of Nicolet High School, she earned an associate degree in art from Cardinal Stritch University.
Klinter, 228 N. Wilson St., is also making his first bid at public office.
An 18-year resident of the district, he is a graduate of Ozaukee High School and has earned an electrical certification from Moraine Park Technical College.
Klinter, who is married and the father of one child, has worked for 10 years at Charter Steel in Saukville.
Open enrollment, especially the outflow of district students to other schools, is the hot-button issue in the election.
“I don’t think the district is doing enough to hold onto current students,” Klinter said. “Our current enrollment out is about 188 students. That is 20% of our total students.”
Perhaps an even more important number, he said, is the $1.2 million in lost state revenue linked to that outflow of students.
Barrie is equally concerned about the loss of students to open enrollment.
“There is not enough follow up on those who have left,” she said. “As the district shrinks, its hard to recruit outsiders when neighboring districts have more to offer.”
Rathsack said the district is not standing idly by and watching as local students opt to enroll elsewhere.
“The administration has been charged with the task of looking into what is causing our students to go to different school districts,” he said.
“It is something that is in the works, but I do know we have been losing students in significant numbers. I am interested in seeing what the administration comes up with.”
Tight budgets are a challenge all school districts have had to face, the candidates agreed.
“As buildings get older, they are going to need some maintenance. I was surprised to hear the schools are still using their original heating plants,” Rathsack said.
“I think our maintenance crew does a good job of taking care of our facilities, but we can’t put off projects indefinitely. When you do that, it only ends up costing you more money.”
Klinter said the district’s facilities are showing the affects of the budget crunch.
“Maintenance seems to be the first place to cut when funds are needed. I see the trend leading to continuous or perpetual referendums for facility care, due to poor fiscal responsibility,” he said.
Barrie agreed the district facilities need more attention, but suggested if the ongoing legal dispute with neighboring property owner Kendall Thistle had been handled differently “there would be a comfortable cushion to maintain the buildings and facilities.”
She said the district’s greatest strength is the support it receives from the community.
As for a weakness, Barrie pointed to “downsizing established athletics.”
Rathsack said the district’s small size is a blessing and a curse.
“Being small, we can’t afford a lot of programs larger districts can offer,” he said.
“However, our size allows us to offer a more personal level of learning. The measure of that approach can be seen in how successful the students are after they leave the district. Bigger is not always better.”
Klinter said there is plenty to like about the district, including its “safe environment, quality staff, strong community values and the virtual school has potential.”
The district’s greatest weaknesses, he said, are “a low fund balance and poor public exposure from inferior financial decisions.”
The top two vote-getters will appear on the spring ballot.
Although board members are elected to represent specific areas, they are elected by voters from throughout the school district.