For the past two Dayton town board elections, Chris Klein has run unopposed for chairman.
This year, he faces challenger Dave Armstrong on the April 7 ballot.
Both candidates met with the Waupaca County Post and discussed their experience and what they hope to accomplish over the next two years if elected to the position.
This is the first in a series of articles on the race for Dayton town chairman and the four other positions contested in this election.
Klein studied business management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1972, then left school to work full time as a manager in the hotel industry. He worked at the Sheraton Inn in Madison, the Holidome in Stevens Point and the Holiday Inn in Chicago.
In 1981, Klein worked at a car dealership in Oshkosh. He moved to Dayton in 1985 and began working at Neuville Motors in 1986, where he is currently in charge of fleet and government sales.
Klein was first elected as Dayton’s town chairman in 1997 and served one term. He was elected to the position again in 2011.
Klein has been with the Civil Air Patrol since 2005, working as a national logistics adviser and as an incident commander on emergency and disaster missions. He works with the Fox Cities Squadron.
During his recent tenure as town chairman, Klein has established the Little Hope Lake District in an effort to save the mill pond there and expanded Dayton’s efforts to maintain town roads by purchasing equipment, building a storage shed and hiring road crews.
“I’m very aware of budgeting in both the private sector and the government sector,” Klein said. I’ve studied legal requirements and duties with the Civil Air Patrol and helped write regulations for that organization.”
Klein noted that most of Dayton’s current town ordinances were written while he was chairman.
“I’ve supervised town road maintenance and construction for six years and worked on the town of Dayton’s comprehensive planning for 20 years,” he said.
Armstrong grew up in Arlington Heights, Illinois, then attended Valparaiso University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1976.
Armstrong first worked as a shift foreman for U.S. Steel in Gary, Indiana, then moved to Grant City, Illinois, where he continued working for U.S. Steel in operations management and project management. He earned a master’s degree in business administration from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville.
“I worked the first two-thirds of my career in the steel industry,” Armstrong said.
He later worked two to three years with a consulting firm, then began working for United States Gypsum Corporation in 2004, first as supervisor of a design group, then as project manager and finally as general manager of capital products.
“USG was the first to come out with a new type of Ultralight Drywall,” Armstrong said, adding that his responsiblities included getting 15 plants ready to manufacture the new product.
Armstrong moved to Dayton full time in 2014, a little over a year after retiring from USG.
He noted that his family has a 50-year history visiting and vacationing on the Chain O’ Lakes. They have owned property in the area since 1999, and all of his children and grandchildren live in the Waupaca area.
“I believe that the skill sets I have could go a long way to help the township and resolve some of the issues that the town has had for a long time,” Armstrong said.
He points to his work in negotiating contracts for engineering, construction and professional services, developing budgets and controlling costs for projects worth $100s of millions, working with environmental agencies and municipal governments, and resolving conflicts.
“I started attending meetings in September of last year. The first one was a real rip-roaring session and a lot of them have been that way since,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said among his first changes if elected town chairman would be to improve communications with residents.
“Excellent communications from my experience begins with active listening,” Armstrong said. “When the audience speaks to you, you don’t just say, ‘Thank you … next,’ and move on or refute what they say. You ask follow-up questions to better understand what their concerns are.”
Armstrong said he would also strive to explain major issues with “facts and plain talk and guest speakers when required.”
Noting that Klein once justified building new bridges by suggesting that a school bus could fall through one of them if it fails, Armstrong said, “I would not approach that issue in that way. That creates conflict and animosity.”
Armstrong said he would read the reports, meet with the engineers and invite them to speak at a town board meeting about what they know from their studies of the bridges.
“From reading the reports, I think one of the bridges needs to be replaced now,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said he would also make an effort to visit with residents when there is an issue that directly impacts them or their property.
He suggested that the conflicts related to tree removal along the town’s roads could have been mre effectively handled by better communications.
“I believe that some trees need to be cut down, but I also want to protect the town’s natural beauty,” Armstrong said.
He suggested that when there is conflict, that the people who disagree with a proposal be invited to discuss the problem and help arrive at a compromise.
“Typically, the people who object to things are also people who enjoy participating in solutions,” Armstrong said. “I’m not saying that always works, but you need to try.”
“I think I have tried to be civil and answer every question asked of me as accurately and as fairly as I can,” Klein said. “Some people bring their own agendas to the meetings and refuse to be open minded about the laws and regulations that town officials must uphold.”
Klein said Dayton posts more information about its agendas, meetings, proposed ordinances and resolutions on its website than any other town in Waupaca County.
“Every single one of those are on our website prior to the meeting,” Klein said. “I don’t know of any other governmental agency in Waupaca County that does that.”
At the 2015 budget hearing, town citizens voted on a motion introduced by Armstrong to cut $345,000 from Dayton’s proposed transportation fund in part because they were not convinced Dayton needed three new bridges.
“There was a concerted effort by a group of individuals without enough information to influence town residents to somehow veto the town’s responsibility to maintain infrastructure,” Klein said.
“The people who were supporting that shortsighted position did not understand town budgeting or the state and county grants that would reduce the cost to town of Dayton taxpayers,” Klein added.
Klein said the resulting budget could result in the town losing grants that had already been awarded and increasing the deficit for 2015.
“I don’t believe that’s what the majority of Dayton residents want or support,” Klein said.
Klein said the state awarded the town the $180,000 grant to be used specifically for the West Road and bridge project.
“It requires that the town certifies that the road and bridge involved meet state minimum standards,” Klein said.
When asked if the third of two bridge projects could still be completed after the transportation fund was cut, Klein said, “I hope so. If not, the town of Dayton would have to refuse that $180,000 grant.”
Klein said he was proceeding with the bid process on the third bridge project.
“I hope we will be able to do it within the budget constraints, but it means other services will have to be cut,” Klein said.