The following individuals are running in uncontested races in Isle, Wahkon and Onamia and will be on the ballot Nov. 3, with the exception of the two Wahkon City Council write-in candidates.
Isle School Board race (choose 3):
Kate VanBuskirk (incumbent)
Biographical Information: Kate Van Buskirk, Isle; Family - children Max (20), Megan (17), and Mallory (14); Education - Graduated from Isle then received my BSN from Winona State; Occupation - worked as an RN since then; Years in district - moved back to Isle in 2005; and Community/civic involvement - became involved in volunteering in the school and a local 4- H club.
1. Why are you running for school board and what are your top three priorities if elected or re-elected? My family has always been dedicated to education which was the center of lots of Sunday discussions. Knowing we had a need on the school board, it felt like a way I could serve our community. Priorities include: providing quality education to our small town town kids, making sure they have lots of career opportunities in either trades or those fields requiring a degree and being fully aware our schools provide more than just education and meeting important social needs for our students. Our teachers and staff need to be equipped for both.
2. In your opinion, what are the three greatest challenges this district faces in the next three years? Budget, mental health issues for students and small class sizes.
3. What is the biggest challenge that your constituents have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic? The constant change or threat of change is hard on students and parents.
Jason Gallion (incumbent)
Biographical Information: Jason Gallion, Isle; Years in district - I have lived in the Isle community my entire life; family - am married to a wonderful woman named RaNae, and we have five children (Carly, Jacob, Abbie, Leila, and Allie).
1. Why are you running for school board and what are your top three priorities if elected or re-elected? My reason for wanting to serve on the school board has never changed. The Isle community (and the school district itself) have always been a huge part of my life, and they were a big influence on me when I was growing up. I feel that serving on the school board is one way of giving back to the community that “built” me.
I have no specific agenda. My job is simply to help ensure that we are being good stewards of taxpayer dollars, and while doing so, help ensure that all of our students get a quality education.
2. In your opinion, what are the three greatest challenges this district faces in the next three years? Aside from COVID, the biggest challenge we are facing is declining enrollment. We recently have seen a significant enrollment increase, which is a great sign. However, over the past several years, our enrollment has been declining. The biggest reason behind this seems to be a lack of family – sustaining jobs in the area. In order to address this challenge, it is imperative that we continue to work with our community partners to help the community grow. This will bring more jobs back to the area, which hopefully in turn will mean more students to enroll in our awesome school.
3. What is the biggest challenge that your constituents have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic? It is not one big challenge, but numerous significant challenges that all snowball together. Our families are struggling with everything from internet access problems to daycare accessibility to being a worker by day/assistant teacher by night. Our staff…GOD BLESS THEM. To say we are asking more from our staff than ever before doesn’t even come close to describing it. Yet, our families are persevering, and our staff is stepping up every single day. The community and school are working together to make the best out of a very bad situation. They all consistently show great examples of HUSKY PRIDE!
Nicholas Skogen (incumbent)
Biographical information: Nicholas Skogen, Isle; Family - wife (Jenny), one daughter (Ava); Education - Isle High graduate (1997), one year of post secondary; Occupation - printer for 22 years, pastor for 12 years; Years in district - Lifelong district resident; and Community/civic involvement - Chamber of commerce, food shelf and ministerial association.
1. Why are you running for school board and what are your top three priorities if elected or re-elected? I’m an Isle graduate myself and a parent of an Isle High student, so I have a vested interest in the success of our school. I believe we have the potential to be the best source of education in this area, an excellent workplace that supports its employees and promotes growth, and all while being fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars.
2. In your opinion, what are the three greatest challenges this district faces in the next three years? Student recruitment and retention is always a challenge, especially for a smaller district such as ours. A school is one of the factors involved in attracting potential families to our area, and if business and infrastructure is lacking, then the school really needs to stand out. One of the ways we can address that challenge is by tackling another - technology. I believe it will be important to stay up to date with the current trends and use every resource available in order to make the educational experience the best it can be. Addressing those issues, along with others, will allow us to retain top-notch teaching staff that will ensure our future.
3. What is the biggest challenge that your constituents have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic? Recent events have shown that one of the biggest challenges facing our district members is the lack of reliable internet. I am aware of broadband initiatives for the lower end of the county, but it’s definitely something that our area lacks. I would like to see a collaboration between the district and other agencies to make affordable, reliable internet available here if possible.
Isle School Board Special election candidate (choose one):
Robert Cooper (no responses returned)
Onamia Mayoral race:
Marge Agnew (incumbent)
Biographical Information: Marge Agnew; Family - husband Scott Agnew, children Jason (Brandi) Agnew, grandchildren Ione and Cyril, Melissa (Cory) Blanchard, Jenny (Josh) Keller grandson Leo; Education - BA in Social Work from SSU; Occupation - Co-owner of Agnew Hardware Hank; Years in City - 21 years; Community/Civic Involvement - City Government, Onamia Area Civic Association, Lake Mille Lacs Scenic Byway Council, and Onamia Area Friends of the Library.
1. What will be your No. 1 budget priority if elected? Onamia has a history of being fiscally responsible. We are in a good financial position and want to keep it that way.
2. What will be your No. 1 program or service priority if elected? We are about to begin the construction phase of a major 2 phase water/sewer project.
3. What is the biggest challenge that your residents have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic? There have been many; business shutdowns/lay-offs and school closures/distance learning are the biggest challenges.
4. What is your assessment of the state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the governor’s use of executive orders and the Legislature’s actions? I believe the state government has been thoughtful in its approach to the pandemic. They have been able to flatten and extend the curve, giving us more time to plan and learn about the virus.
5. Why are you running for office? Through my involvement with city government and civic groups, I have worked to make Onamia a great place to live, work and play.
6. Why should you be elected to this position? I believe I have done a good job for Onamia and would like to continue to help improve our city.
Wahkon Mayoral race
Rhonda Bjornson (incumbent)
Biographical Information: Rhonda Bjornson; Family - ; Education; Occupation - I am currently a realtor and have been for 14 years as well as branch manager and associate broker for Century 21 Atwood-Mille Lacs; Years in City - Born and raised in the Wahkon area and have lived here most of my life; Community/Civic Involvement - I have been on Wahkon City Council for 16 years and served on other committees.
1. What will be your No. 1 budget priority if elected? To keep a balanced budget and not raise taxes while ensuring our infrastructure is running smooth.
2. What will be your No. 1 program or service priority if elected? To continue with our waste water/storm, sewer/water, meter project and planning for the 2024 redo of Main Street with MnDOT.
3. What is the biggest challenge that your residents have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic? Holding meetings virtually.
4. What is your assessment of the state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the governor’s use of executive orders and the Legislature’s actions? It has been detrimental to our small business.
5. What are your ideas for jump-starting commercial and residential development? I will continue to encourage the property owners of Main Street buildings to open them up or lease them out to business.
6. Why are you running for office? I am running for Mayor because I love this town and want what is best for our city and all of our residents that live here and visit here, and I made a promise to our wonderful late Mayor Sandy Reichel.
7. Why should you be elected to this position? I have been a City Council member for 16 years and just this year accepted the mayor position. I will be honored to serve our citizens for another two years as Mayor.
Wahkon City Council race (vote for 2)
Biographical Information: Brenda Buck; Family - husband Dennis; Occupation - Work for Fish & Richardson, PC; Years in City - .Moved to Wahkon in 2018
1. What will be your No. 1 budget priority if elected? Spend tax dollars wisely for the betterment of our community and citizens therein.
2. What will be your No. 1 program or service priority if elected? The reason we moved to Wahkon was the small town atmosphere and all the year-round activities available to our area. I have not picked one program or service priority to focus on - I will help wherever I can.
3. What is the biggest challenge that your constituents have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic? I would think health and economic uncertainty.
4. What is your assessment of the state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the governor’s use of executive orders and the Legislature’s actions? Honestly, I do not know what to think about the state government's response to the pandemic. I worry that the state will be reluctant to give up that power once the crisis is over, as has often been the case historically.
5. What are your ideas for jump-starting commercial and residential development? It appears to me that the Mille Lacs area has been put in a state of crisis caused by fishing regulations and this needs to change. I also think we need to promote the lake as a more "go-to-lake" for recreational activities, with fun things to do around the lake and places to shop during inclement weather.
6. Why are you running for office? I want to be involved in the community I live in.
7. Why should you be elected to this position? Running for council is all new to me, so I am in it to learn, get involved, help where I can, and be part of this great community. Being new has its pros and cons - Fresh ears and eyes, which means it will take some time for me to get up to speed.
Tony Button (no responses returned)
Wahkon City Council write-in race (choose one):
Christine “Pineapple” Jameson
Biographical Information: Christine “Pineapple” Jameson; Family - My daughter Anna lives with me and my son lives in Anoka; Occupation - I am the owner of Pineapple’s Place Trading in Wahkon and due to the Covid pandemic we have been open by appointment only; Years in City - Wahkon has become my home base for the last two years and am looking forward to many more; and Community/Civic involvement - As an early american reenactor, I have spent years teaching an old way of life specializing in the fur trade era.
6. Why are you running for office? I was asked to run. I have no political ambitions.
7. Why should you be elected to this position? Historically the government was intended to be a service to the community to help give order across the board so that folks can go about their lives following our Constitution: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No one thing will make everyone at all times happy. We can only do our best with what we are provided. I will do my very best for my home and my community and work towards a bright and vibrant future.
* Editor's note: Candidate chose only to answer numbers 6 & 7
Chip Frederickson (no responses returned)
Onamia City council (choose 2)
Randy Anderson (no responses returned)
John T. Sammis Jr. (no responses returned)