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Now’s the time

Twenty signatures. That’s all it takes to get your name on the ballot for most local office races (aside from mayor and municipal court judge, which require 50).

Now is the time to make that happen. For anyone looking for a New Year’s resolution, we suggest involvement in local government as one way to “give back.” It’s not always easy, and it often requires attending long meetings and making tough decisions, but it’s the foundation of our representative democracy, which demands involvement by regular citizens.

This year’s spring election, on April 7, will have at least two potential blank spaces on the ballot if one or more candidates don’t step forward in the next few days. The longtime president of the Abbotsford School Board, Don Medenwaldt, has declared that he will not be running for re-election after nearly 20 years serving on the board. Also, Diane Feiten of Colby has informed the county clerk that she will not be running for re-election as the District 9 supervisor on the Clark County Board, a position that represents portions of both Abbotsford and Colby.

These two outgoing public servants are to be commended for their many years of service to local education and county government. Both Medenwaldt and Feiten have been through tough challenges over the years, whether it’s getting a school referendum passed or facing a recall election. Medenwaldt could have left education behind when he retired as a teacher in 2001 after 35 years, but instead, he ran for school board the very next year. Likewise, Feiten agreed to return to the county board in 2017, as an appointed replacement for Dick Lange, even after she had previously been recalled years earlier.

It’s this type of dedication we’re looking for in our next generation of elected officials.

The Abbotsford School Board is blessed to have several involved parents serving the district’s voters, but with Medenwaldt leaving after April, the board will not only need a new member, but someone who can take the mantle of board president, which Medenwaldt has held since 2005.

The board is looking for at least one new member at a crucial time. A proposed FEMA-funded multi-purpose dome structure — discussed at length this past Tuesday — will certainly generate a lot more discussions and decision-making in the coming years. The district should know by June if a FEMA grant is approved, which will potentially pave the way for a major building addition that will require decisions by engaged board members. Even if no grant is approved, the board will still have to grapple with space issues going forward as the student population continues to grow.

The county board appears to be quieter territory right now, following the completion of a couple major projects, including the expansion at the Clark County Rehabilitation and Living Center and an overhaul of the county’s telecommunications system. Still, this area needs strong advocates to remind government officials in Neillsville that the northeastern corner of the county deserves attention. This section of the county is already well stocked with other representatives, many of whom have years of experience on the board, but come April, one more will be needed.

Of course, these two positions are not the only ones “up for grabs,” so to speak, in the spring election. Every local city council, village board, school board and county board has seats that are coming to the end of their current terms. If you aren’t happy with the decisions being made with your tax dollars, and you think you can do a better job, get your name on the ballot.

Time is short, though. The deadline for turning in signatures is next Tuesday, Jan. 7, at 5 p.m. Some deadlines may be extended if the incumbents don’t turn in their own papers, but potential candidates shouldn’t wait for that to happen. The time is now.

The Tribune-Phonograph editorial board consists of publisher Kris O’Leary and editor Kevin O’Brien