by CHRIS ROGERS, ALEXANDRA RETTER, and CESAR SALAZAR
Campaign season is back. While voters headed to the polls for a special congressional election in southern Minnesota on Tuesday, candidates have been signing up to run for local office in the fall, including numerous seats on the Winona County Board, Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Board, and Winona City Council.
Winona County Board
Winona County Board of Adjustment member and former Planning Commission member Bob Redig signed up to challenge incumbent Marcia Ward in a race to represent District Five (central and southern rural Winona County). Ward also filed for re-election.
Meanwhile, former County Board member and longtime high school teacher Dwayne Voegeli and former Winona County Veterans Service Officer Jerry Obieglo will compete to represent District Two (western Winona and Goodview) on the County Board, a seat currently held by Marie Kovecsi. As of Tuesday, Kovecsi had not yet filed for re-election.
In his statement, Voegeli continued, “I served on the County Board from 2002-2010. I will strive to listen to all views, to be fair, and to serve others. If you have any questions, or if you might like to help, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Ward said in a statement, “It is a privilege and an honor to serve the citizens of Winona County District 5. I hope to continue to work for the goal of fulfilling my motto to make it a great day for all my constituents. I truly love working for the taxpayer and I hope I can maintain their support.”
Obieglo and Redig were not immediately available for comment. As of Tuesday morning no one else had filed to run for County Board.
Winona County Sheriff, A-T, Attorney
Longtime Deputy Charles Rolbiecki filed to run for sheriff, along with incumbent Sheriff Ron Ganrude. Meanwhile, Winona County Deputy Auditor-Treasurer Chelsi Wilbright was the only one as of Tuesday morning to file for the position of auditor-treasurer, incumbent Karin Sonneman was the only one to file for county attorney, and incumbent Bob Bambenek is the only candidate to file for county recorder.
In a statement, Ganrude highlighted his involvement in starting construction on a new jail. After decades of study, “We are finally building it,” he said. He wrote, “Once our jail is open, we will be able to implement all the programs that my team and I have envisioned, especially for those inmates dealing with mental health issues.” He added, “I am very proud to be the Winona County Sheriff … I have worked hard to improve the working relationships with all the other agencies in Winona County. I want to continue to build on those to keep Winona County a safe place to live and work.”
Rolbiecki said he was running to create “a more helpful, friendly sheriff’s department.” He said in a statement, “I believe that in order for our Law Enforcement Center to move forward in today’s world and effectively serve our citizens, we need a hands-on sheriff that focuses on such items as mental health collaborations, community policing, and public safety that includes transparency. I believe that my values, skills, and leadership style make me the ideal sheriff to implement these changes and ensure that our county is best served by a more helpful, friendly sheriff’s department.”
In a statement, Wilbright said of her decision to run, “I have worked for Winona County as deputy auditor-treasurer since mid-November 2020; this will provide valuable continuity. I am an Air Force veteran. I hold a B.S. in finance from Winona State University. Aside from temporary duty locations, I have lived in Winona County my whole life. I look forward to continuing to serve Winona County.”
WAPS School Board
Four seats on the WAPS School Board are up for election this fall: two at-large seats currently held by Nancy Denzer and Karl Sonneman, respectively; a Second District seat held by Michael Hanratty; and a First District seat held by Steve Schild, who announced plans not to seek reelection.
As of Monday afternoon two incumbent School Board members had filed for reelection.
Denzer is running for the at-large seat she now holds. In an emailed statement, she said her career as a school counselor and principal provides her with a helpful perspective on education. She added that she also brings her perspective as a lifelong Winona community member who attended WAPS. “Having served almost four years on the School Board is just the beginning of the work that I’d like to continue dong in providing viable and equitable curriculum, hiring strong and highly qualified staff, having a balanced budget, building relationships with the community and continuing to address areas of growth in diversity, equity and inclusion,” she wrote. “It has been an honor to serve the community on the school board and I would like to continue serving should the Winona area community support my candidacy.”
School Board member Michael Hanratty is running for his current Second District seat. “I continue to stand for educational equity for all students, school safety, improving the mental health of our students and staff, advocating for our community schools and having a focus toward the future of our district,” he said in an emailed statement. He continued, “My hope is that we can continue to focus on the educational needs of our students and leave the partisan politics out of our district and this election. I am proud of my accomplishments and voting record during my first term, but I know my work is not done and look forward to campaigning for the opportunity to continue the positive change in Winona Area Public Schools.”
Winona City Council
Three City Council seats are up for election in the fall: A seat representing the Second Ward (west-central Winona) currently held by Eileen Moeller, a seat representing the Fourth Ward (eastern Winona) currently held by George Borzyskowski, and an at-large seat representing the entire city currently held by Michelle Alexander.
Alexander announced during a City Council meeting that she plans on rerunning for her seat. “For the last 13 and a half years it’s been an honor and a privilege to sit here,” she said. “I’ve worked with three different mayors, four different managers, and a variety of different council people and I can say that without exception, this has been one of the best council rooms to be in.”
Longtime Winona Daily News columnist Jerome Christenson also signed up to run for the at-large seat. “After nearly four decades of professionally observing, analyzing, reporting and commenting on local public affairs and policy, circumstance has offered the opportunity to move from the press table and public gallery to the council table to translate ideas and observations into positive civic action,” Christenson wrote in a statement. He added, “In the coming months I’m looking forward to talking with folks about plans, ideas and visions that will better the life, preserve the liberty, and aid everyone in our community in our daily pursuit of happiness.”
A resident of Winona’s Second Ward for over 25 years, Jeff Hyma filed to run for Second Ward City Council seat to focus on a better utilization of parks and playgrounds within his ward and the city. He also believes Winona should move forward in a progressive, logical manner. “I’m looking forward to working with the city,” he said.
Borzyskowski announced during a City Council meeting that he plans on rerunning for his seat. “I’ve been serving on the City Council for 23 and a half years and having these positions at this table are an honor and a privilege,” He said. “[It’s] an honor and a privilege that we are elected by our wards and there is no higher honor than being elected by the people.”
The filing period for Winona County, WAPS, and city of Winona candidates is open through the end of the month. Keep reading the Winona Post for more updates on local elections and candidate filings.