Letter to the Editor: Rep. Joel Kitchens Represents Our Interests

As a former Sturgeon Bay City Administrator, I enthusiastically support the re-election of Representative Joel Kitchens. During my many years of municipal management I had the opportunity to work with numerous elected officials. Doing so was often a very frustrating task. Fortunately, we in Door and Kewaunee County have a proactive, energetic and supportive representative in Representative Joel Kitchens. An example of Joel’s tireless work for us has been his support of Door-Kewaunee Legislative Days in Madison. The purpose of this grassroots initiative is to educate and inform our legislators and state agencies about our community and to seek their help to address some of our critical needs. With the help of the UW Extension offices our communities were surveyed to identify critical issues to bring to Madison. Survey results were tabulated, top issues identified and a seven-item Legislative Agenda developed to present to both legislators and state agencies. Approximately 100 resident and student volunteers traveled to Madison to present this Legislative Agenda.

Due greatly to the assistance of Rep. Joel Kitchens, Legislative Days achieved unparalleled success in achieving its goals. The seven issues and their current status are:

  1. Develop agricultural water quality standards and prohibitions unique to the Karst geo-region of Wisconsin. At the time, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp told the group that the department did not have the authority to do this. Through Rep. Kitchen’s efforts, DNR reversed course and are now in the process of rewriting these rules. They are being fast-tracked and will be complete in the fall of 2017.
  2. Provide funding for the Kewaunee sea wall and harbor project, which is so critical to the revitalization of the city. Rep. Kitchens introduced a budget amendment to fully fund the $4.2M project and, together with local citizens, successfully lobbied his colleagues for support. Construction is now underway.
  3. Restore funding for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, which had been defunded in the Governor’s budget proposal. Rep. Kitchens led a coalition that successfully fought to restore $33M annually to this program, which is so important to our area. For his efforts, he was named “Policymaker of the Year” by Gathering Waters.
  4. Restore full funding for the Harbor Assistance Program, which had been removed in the Governor’s budget. Again, Rep. Kitchens wrote the budget amendment and successfully lobbied for full restoration of the $13M program. Bay Shipbuilding was then successful in their application for a $2.4M grant for dock wall rehabilitation, which has created numerous local jobs.
  5. Provide a steady source of funding for counties to use for beach water testing. This was raised from $41,000 to $60,000.
  6. Reform regulations for distribution of wine to allow our local wineries to compete with small breweries and larger wineries on a level playing field. Rep. Kitchens has helped broker a deal between the distributors and winery owners. A resolution is likely during the next session.
  7. Allow local schools to address their technology needs outside the revenue limits. Rep. Kitchens will be a co-sponsor of the bill to provide a laptop to each student through state funding outside the revenue limits. This proposal is part of the Forward Agenda as a priority for the Assembly next session.

Everyone involved was thrilled with the results of our Legislative Days in 2015. It was a massive effort by many people, but Rep. Joel Kitchens deserves the lion’s share of credit for our legislative success. Clearly, he is responding to our needs and representing our interests extremely well in Madison. By any measure, he deserves an A+ for his achievements during just his first term in office and he deserves all of our support. All of this was achieved as a freshman legislator. I can’t wait to see what he does in the future!


Steve McNeil

Sturgeon Bay, Wis.


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