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Candidates: Door County Board, District 4

Kara Counard

Counard, 38, has one teenage son and deep Southern Door roots. She is a UW-Green Bay graduate with a degree in English/creative writing and a minor in art and communications. 

Relevant Experience/Civic Engagement

I have been a registered voter since I was 18 years old. I take local and national politics seriously, researching issues and casting my vote in accordance with my values. I volunteer in schools and assisted-living homes.

Jon Koch

Jon Koch, 65, is retired from the Door County Sheriff’s Department. An Algoma High School graduate, he is married with two adult children and has an Associate’s Degree in applied sciences and police science from NWTC, in addition to numerous continuing education courses.

Relevant Experience/Civic Engagement

I have over 40 years of public service in Door County.  The past six years I have served on the County Board for District 4 covering portions of the Town of Gardner and the Town of Nasewaupee.  I retired from the Door County Sheriff’s Department after 30 years. I have served as the Gardner Town Chairman for six years, and I am a proud United States Marine Corps Veteran.  After retirement, I also served on the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Board.

What attributes and skills do you bring to the county board?

Kara Counard (KC): I am compassionate and honest. I have integrity and small-town roots. I am hardworking, grounded and empathetic. I think I bring a voice to the most vulnerable because I look beyond myself and my needs. I am loyal and transparent. And I am not afraid to show up for things I believe in. I will show up for you.

Jon Koch (JK): I bring 40 plus years of Leadership, knowledge, and experience having worked with many of Door County’s businesses, citizens and tourists during my tenure as a Deputy Sheriff and County Board Member.  I am currently seeking to serve a fourth term on the Door County Board of Supervisors for District 4. I currently serve on the following county committees: Public Safety, Resource Planning Committee, Risk Management Committee, Communications Advisory Technical Subcommittee (chair), and Technology Committee.  I have been instrumental in the new B.U.G. Fire Station and the adjoining Emergency Services South Sub-station. I also have been involved in the new ADRC, Community Center, and Emergency Services Central Facility.

Do you believe the county is doing enough to ensure groundwater quality? If not, what more should the county be doing?

KC: Clean water is the biggest and most underlying issue facing our county. More can be done to ensure that we protect our natural resources, our neighbors and our small farming communities. Comprehensive mapping and education of residents is important. More engagement in well testing is needed. We have knowledge that the industrial-agriculture model is not sustainable for much longer. As others much wiser have said before me, we must get the water out of the waste.

JK: Door County has a very capable and necessary Soil and Water Conservation Department.  This service includes the preparation of conservation and construction plans for landowners to address the conservation and environmental needs of their land and uses.  The SWCD serves as a source of information about soils, topography, geology, water quality and other natural resources to assist in landowner’s better management of the natural resources of the County.

Rural broadband internet access has been cited as a problem by residents and businesses throughout Door County. What should the county do to increase broadband access?

KC: Access to broadband internet should be as readily available as access to electricity or any other necessary utility. Broadband internet brings citizens a number of economic benefits – it is essential to innovation, gathering information, job creation and industry competition. Internet access and reliability are also important for school-aged children who depend on the internet for educational advancement. The lack of broadband access in rural areas such as Door County is a problem that must be addressed at the local and state levels. It is a priority for me, and I look forward to being a driving force on this issue.

JK: As technology continues to advance in leaps and bounds, it has become an integral part of societies lifestyle.  Door County with its unique shape, length, and bedrock features, creates limited situations for laying ground services such as internet.  In recent meetings of the Resource Planning Committee, there has been discussion with Door County citizens who are concerned about limited access to internet and are asking the county to re-evaluate the tower sitting policies currently in place.  This discussion will continue, and I believe consideration should be given to review the current policy on size restrictions, setbacks, type of equipment, tower styles, and other issues that stand in the way of providing quality internet service to Door County. 

Affordable housing continues to be an issue in Door County. Should county government play a role in addressing the shortage of affordable rental units and homes for purchase, and if so, how?

KC: The lack of affordable housing is closely connected to core societal issues, including low wages, child care and even clean water. To manage short term, our community must ensure that rentals are run by neighbors, not by investors. New Orleans requires platforms such as Airbnb to contribute to affordable-housing funds. Implementing creative strategies such as this will help to alleviate stresses in the lack of affordable housing.

An examination of our current zoning laws is another way we can innovatively address the affordable-housing crisis, such as allowing homeowners the autonomy to modify their properties: We give citizens the right to improve their homes to include multiple units, garage apartments or stand-alone cottages, giving homeowners additional income and lessening the suffering of severity of rent costs. We can also incentivize year-round rentals for second-home owners.

JK: Discussion for affordable housing continues  at the board level and a cooperative effort between the County, City, and the DCEDC have been undertaken to turn the old Westside School site into a 40-unit affordable housing development.  This development has recently been approved by the City of Sturgeon Bay. Door County has also transferred five parcels of property obtained through foreclosure of tax liens by action of in rem to the City of Sturgeon Bay for the purposes related to affordable and attainable housing.  Door County continues to look at affordable housing as a need for those working and living in Door County.

What other issues do you hope to engage in as a member of the county board?

KC: I want to be a representative for the needs of the voiceless. I would love to be engaged in issues that affect all people because government should work for everyone. I would love to increase engagement in local-level politics among all constituents through communication, excitement and energy. I want to protect natural resources and work on connecting available services to the hardworking people who continue to struggle to make ends meet.

JK: I seek to promote sound financial management working within the state-imposed levy limits while minimizing Door County’s property tax burden.  Also, I strongly seek to maintain Door County’s viable infra-structure such as Emergency Medical Services, Law Enforcement, Highway Dept., Clean Water, and our Natural Resources.  It’s a true balancing act in providing for the needs of the residents in Door County and providing for the growth of Door County in general. As supervisors, we are faced with the daunting task of understanding a myriad of county issues and implementing complex programs and services.  I believe in making decisions at the board level based on knowledge and facts and listening to constituents. I understand this must be done in ways that best meet the needs of Door County while holding the line on precious tax dollars.