The most competitive town board races in Waupaca County are occurring in Union.
A proposed sand mine has divided residents and led the town clerk to resign.
Although Union has just over 800 residents, its public hearings over the past several months have frequently drawn more than 100 people.
Both in the town of Union and throughout Waupaca County, citizens are debating the sand mine’s potential economic and environmental impact.
A public hearing held Nov. 1, 2012, by the county Planning and Zoning Committee lasted more than seven hours.
On Nov. 29, the county committee postponed any decision on granting a permit to the sand mine, asking the town board to clarify several key provisions in its comprehensive plan.
The April 2 election will play a major role in determining whether the sand mine will open.
This is the first part in a two-part series on the six candidates running for the town board.
The first part will present the backgrounds of the candidates.
The second part will present their opinions on the sand mine and proposed changes to the town’s comprehensive plan.
Roger Henschel is a lifelong resident of the town of Union. His grandfather was one of the first settlers in Union, and Henschel’s youngest son runs a farm on the family’s original homestead near the Triple O Supper Club.
“It comes without saying that my roots run deep in the town of Union and I care about its future,” Henschel said.
Henschel has worked as a farmer his entire life; first as a dairy farmer and now raising cash crops along with a small beef cow/calf herd.
When contacted by the County Post for this article, Henschel was busy running his maple syrup operation. He normally puts in 1,000 taps every spring.
Henschel has been a town supervisor for the past 14 years. He also chairs the town’s Planning Commission.
He has served as an elder and as a member of the church council at St Marks Lutheran Church in Symco. He is a member of the Waupaca County Farm Bureau and an FFA Alumni.
“My knowledge of the town of Union government and the way it works will be extremely beneficial to continue the work we are doing,” Henschel said.
“I now work and communicate directly with the town road maintenance and reconstruction crews contracted to do our road work. I know which areas of our 48 miles of roads that can cause problems during adverse weather – heavy rain or snowstorms or even rapid thawing in the springtime. I know which of our town roads will need additional maintenance or even rebuilding in the very near future,” Henschel said.
He also noted his experience working on the town budget and negotiating garbage and emergency services.
“Our town residents know that they can call me at anytime with their concerns and that I will always be available to help them in any way that I can,” Henschel said.
Marcy Wentworth has lived in the town of Union for 12 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in agricultural engineering technology, then went to Kansas State, where she earned a master’s degree.
“My most recent work experience is right here in the town of Union where my husband Dan and I run a certified organic dairy farm with our four children,” Wentworth said. “I also grow and sell cut flowers that I market to florists and at the Downtown Appleton Farmers Market.”
Wentworth has been a 4H leader for 17 years, working at both the county and club level.
She has also held officer positions in two different saddle clubs, including president and secretary.
For the past seven months, Wentworth has been involved with Preserve Waupaca County.
“It was the start of my education. I have spent hundreds of hours studying the town of Union’s Comprehensive Plan, the Waupaca County Plan, as well as Wisconsin State Statutes relating to town law, open meetings, comprehensive plans, conditional use permits and more,” Wentworth said.
“The real eye opener was attending the town of Union meetings and Plan Commission meetings. My opponent who owns one half of the proposed sand mine site was probably hoping to get town approval before local residents knew what was going on. It almost worked that way, too,” she added.
Wentworth believes her attendance at town meetings and her study of state and local ordinances will help her do a better job as a town official.
“I’ve always been a good note taker and I could write a novel about what has happened since last August. If people hadn’t taken notice and started pointing out the protections in Union’s Comprehensive Plan this mine would already be operating. I’m going to do my best to follow the laws and protect the health, safety and welfare of the townspeople,” Wentworth said.
Bob Phelan and his wife built their own home and have been living in Union since 1998.
“We lived off the grid using solar and wind power for over 10 years so I have learned many things about alternative energy, owner-built, energy-efficient underground buildings and all the trouble shooting that goes along with such endeavors,” Phelan said.
He works with developmentally disabled clients and has been doing direct care work for the same non-profit agency since 1994, advocating for independence and less restrictive environments.
“My father taught me the importance of civic involvement,” Phelan said. “He was very active in our village of Kimberly and he taught me how to work with people, from the ball park to the Boy Scouts. He showed me the importance of treating people fairly.”
Gary Schoen was raised on a dairy farm in Union and has lived in the town for 33 years.
“I have been a property owner since 1968 and have been a town of Union taxpayer for 45 years,” Schoen said.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, Schoen worked in industrial and mechanical engineering for John Deere for 36 years. He retired as a manufacturing manager.
“My responsibilities included procuring tooling, factory machines and equipment along with supervising a salary staff and wage production people,” Schoen said.
After he retired, Schoen returned to the town of Union in 2000 and worked with an electrician and plumber.
Schoen has served as a town supervisor for eight years. His responsibilbities have included being secretary for the Plan Commission and chief inspector at town elections. He has also served on the Park Committee.
He developed and is now the editor of the town of Union newsletter.
Schoen has served as a member of the Board of Property and Church Council for St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Symco, director for Symco Trail Blazers Snowmobile Club, member of the Union Thresherman’s Club and volunteer at Little Wolf High School as a STEP participant. He is also a life member of the Wisconsin Bow Hunters and the Wisconsin Trapper’s Association.
“My experience as town supervisor and knowledge of road maintenance and reconstruction, civic organizations, and past involvement at John Deere dealing with labor and management has provided me with skills to deal with most situations,” Schoen said.
David Heideman has lived his entire life, 52 years, in the town of Union. He began dairy farming full time in Union in 1983. In 2002, he began working for the Farm Service Agency.
He is currently the county executive director for the Waupaca County Farm Service Agency while still operating his farm in Union.
“I was active with the town of Union in Smart Growth and the development of the Comprehensive Plan,” Heideman said. “I am a member of the town of Union’s Planning Commission. In 2009, I completed Leadership Waupaca County.
This past year, he completed Neck-Up, a leadership development program which was a follow-up to Leadership Waupaca County.
“Having lived and farmed in the town of Union my entire life, I am very familiar with the people, roads and land of the township,” Heideman said. “Leadership Waupaca County taught me the structure and procedures of local and county government. Through work and training, I have developed the leadership qualities necessary to be a town of Union official. I will listen to and work for the residents of the town of Union,” Heideman said.
Lee Werth has lived his entire life, 36 years, in the town of Union.
He is a farmer and owns a small welding repair shop. He is also a life member of Union Thresherman Inc. in Symco.
When asked how his experience would contribute to his ability to serve as a town official, Werth said, “Being a local will help me communicate with the people in the township.”