Alderman Nick Gunderson is facing former Alderman Jack Spierings in Weyauwega’s April 7 mayoral race.
Mike Kempf, the city’s current mayor is not seeking re-election.
He is seeking to return to the common council and is running against Timothy Edwards for the city’s Ward 3 seat.
Edwards’ wife Johanna currently holds that seat and is not seeking re-election.
In addition to running for mayor, Gunderson is up for re-election this spring in Ward 2.
Unopposed in that race, if Gunderson wins both the mayor and alderman positions, he gets to decide which one he wants.
In Ward 1, incumbent Keith Najdowski is running unopposed.
An alderman for five years, Gunderson is the current council president and is seeking his first term as mayor.
“I was asked to get back on the council by current and former elected officials two years ago because of the new city administrator. They felt that we had the potential for growth,” said the Appleton native. “City Administrator Patrick Wetzel and I wanted to make the city run more professionally and follow the policies and procedures established by previous councils.”
This year, current and former elected officials asked Gunderson to “take it to the next level” and run for mayor.
Gunderson and his wife Chris moved to Weyauwega in 1988 and raised four children here.
“If we’re going to move forward and grow, we need a new direction. We need to get citizens involved,” Gunderson said.
With 20,000 cars passing by the community every day on U.S. Highway 10, “it’s up to us to pull them off,” he said.
Gunderson served four years of active duty in the U.S. Army and then a couple years in the Reserves.
He works at Waupaca Foundry and has been employed there for 20 years. He is currently the Plant 1 mill room safety trainer.
He and Chris also own the Coffee Klatsch, in downtown Weyauwega. They opened it in June 2002.
“We moved here because it was a friendly town. We walked Main Street. Every business was full. It was a nice, quaint city,” Gunderson said.
Today, the community needs to find its niche.
“We need to set goals and a vision for the city and start with a mission statement,” he said. “I just want to say I have a vision. I want the city to succeed.”
When asked how he would approach the position of mayor if elected, Gunderson said, “In my opinion, the mayor is the face of the city.”
He believes it is the mayor’s job to build community, serve as a liaison between the citizens and council, and attend as many events as possible.
“It is not up to us to micromanage. That is why we set up policies and procedures,” he said. “The council should be setting goals for department heads.”
During Gunderson’s current term on the council, he started workshops related to the city hall project and as mayor, would encourage more workshops to set goals for the city and get input from citizens.
“My vision for the city would be to restore it to what it was 20 years ago when people mingled with their neighbors,” Gunderson said. “It lowers the crime rate when you know your neighbors. We have a good park system. I’d like to add a dog park. When people walk their dogs, you have friendly cities. People meet each other.”
He believes Weyauwega’s downtown can become vibrant again and sees the community center that will be part of the city hall project as being a way to bring people back downtown.
“Downtown is the heartbeat of the community,” Gunderson said. “If we rebuild and the city invests in itself, maybe businesses will reinvest in themselves also.”
In conversations with officials from area communities, he is learning there are different ways to build a community.
“Moving into the future, I want to work on building the community,” Gunderson said. “You don’t buy a house, you buy a home. You don’t buy a home, you buy a community.”
Spierings previously served on the common council for 5 1/2 years, resigning from his Ward 1 seat after moving into Ward 2.
Last April, he ran against Shani Appleby for the open Ward 2 seat. She won.
Spierings was elected to his first term on the Waupaca County Board last April.
He is a member of the Land Information Committee, Public Property Committee and is a graduate of the Waupaca Leadership class.
The Little Chute native attended the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and is a Vietnam-era veteran who served two years in the U.S. Army. He is a member of the American Legion and the VFW.
He said his father was Little Chute’s mayor for about 20 years and also served on the Outagamie County Board.
A resident of Weyauwega since 1978, Spierings served on the Weyauwega Fire Department for 28 years and was the manager of the former Ace Manufacturing for 17 years before driving truck for CHS Co-op.
He continues to be a part-time truck driver for the co-op.
Spierings has six children and eight grandchildren.
Spierings said he is running for mayor because he wants local government to be transparent so people know what is going on in the community.
“For a small town, we’re very fortunate to have six national companies doing business in this town,” he said. “That gives us an edge on employment, the tax base.”
Weyauwega has high-paying jobs for those who meet the qualifications of the positions, he said.
“That’s unusual for a town this size,” Spierings said of the industrial base. “I think it’s important to cater to the companies that are here. We also have several homegrown companies doing well.”
In addition, the community has room in its industrial park for businesses, and Spierings noted the fire department has the highest rating among area departments in the county.
With the remodeling and expansion of city hall and police department on the horizon, Spierings said the project includes a community center.
He believes that will be a nice addition to the city and said the city’s sewage treatment plant is also set to expand.
“All positive things are going on,” Spierings said.
When asked how he would approach the position of mayor if elected, he said, “The mayor can’t vote but has to get input. I would encourage people to go to meetings and not be afraid to ask questions. I would hope I could work well with the council as well as get input from the general public.”
Spierings said, “I’d like to be progressive and transparent, so people understand and know what and why something’s going on.”
His vision for Weyauwega is to encourage more retail in the community.
“The last citizen survey asked for suggestions for downtown,” Spierings noted. “I’d like to see more participation in meetings by the public. The biggest thing is to somehow gain more information from the public about their wishes and then do it, get it before the council.”
He also wants to see the city work with the lake group to help improve Lake Weyauwega.