State Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt faces off against challenger Julie Schroeder on Nov. 3. to keep his 52nd Assembly District seat.
Thiesfeldt, a Republican and a former instructor at Winnebago Lutheran Academy in Fond du Lac, was elected to the Assembly in November 2011. Schroeder, a Democrat, also comes with an educational background as a speech-language pathologist in the public school system.
The 52nd District is composed of the towns of Byron, a portion of Calumet, Empire, Fond du Lac, Oakfield and Taycheedah, along with the village of Oakfield and the city of Fond du Lac in Fond du Lac County.
Members of the Wisconsin Assembly serve a two-year term and are paid $53,000 annually.
Candidates were provided a list of questions and limited to a 100-word response.
- Name: Julie Schroeder
- Address: 18 Streeter Court, Fond du Lac
- Age: 33
- Family: Married to husband Brian since 2012, two children
- Occupation and highest education level: I am currently a speech-language pathologist in the public school system, with previous experience in skilled nursing facilities. I have a Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology from University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point
- Relevant experience: My entire professional career has been an exercise in collaboration, communication and actionable solutions. I collaborate with students, teachers, parents and others. I factor in the goals that need to be met, consider the effectiveness of various methods, collect data, assess progress, and adapt as needed. I strongly believe that the people of the 52nd District deserve a representative who will show up to Madison ready to collaborate with both sides and work toward solutions. I am ready to further research the issues, hear from all sides, and make decisions based on evidence and data.
- Name: Jeremy Thiesfeldt
- Address: 604 Sunset Lane, Fond du Lac
- Age: 53
- Family: Married to wife Cindy, for 30 years, four children.
- Occupation: State legislator, Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education
- Relevant experience: 22 years of classroom teaching; 10 years of school athletic administration; 1 year as interim school principal; 6 years Fond du Lac City Council, 10th year representing 52nd State Assembly District; previous Chairman of Consumer Protection Committee; current Chairman of Education Committee.
- Accomplishments in office: Prolife Wisconsin Legislator of the Year; Mother’s against Drunk Driving Legislator of the Year; William Wilberforce Award from Wisconsin Family Council; Wisconsin League of Municipalities Legislator of the Year; Wisconsin Taxpayers Association Legislator of the Year
Why are you running for office?
Schroeder: I am running for office to change the discourse in politics, bring common sense back to the Legislature, and help give the power back to the people. Right now, every aspect of our society has become so divisive. I believe in opening up the discussion to all, and actively listening to all sides of an issue. There needs to be more listening to learn, not listening to respond. I believe in addressing the root cause of an issue instead of short-sighted solutions. I approach problems objectively and empathetically. This allows me to approach heated issues with a cool head and help find common ground.
Thiesfeldt: My entire adult life has been one of service to others. Whether I have been serving families in one of the four schools in which I have had the honor of serving, or serving my community on the city council and the state Legislature, it is important that we all give of ourselves to others in some way. Legislating requires a high level of engagement on a vast amount of intellectual territory, and I very much enjoy the challenge. I believe I still have much to accomplish for the good of our state, and I continue to learn new things every day.
What makes you the better candidate in this race?
Schroeder: First and foremost, I am not a politician. I have never had aspirations to hold public office. With how fast our world is changing, I see this quality as an asset. It is time for new ideas, a fresh perspective, and someone who has the willingness to stand up and lead. For example, when the governor calls a special session in the midst of a global pandemic, that is a time for both sides to come together and work on a solution. I am not interested in short-term political gains at the expense of the citizens of Wisconsin.
Thiesfeldt: Together, my team and I have accomplished much bipartisan work in the midst of our current challenging political atmosphere. So far this session, I successfully authored or coauthored eight bills that have become law. These laws and other bills I authored, covered issues such as human trafficking, municipal courts, clean water, charitable clinics, assistance for the disabled, racial achievement gap, school accountability reports, sexual assault victims, drunk driving, law enforcement, active military and veterans, medical assistance for homeless, and more. I have met with and listened to those who have asked, and when disagreement occurs, I always intend for every opinion to be respected.
What are residents telling you are their most important issues, and how would you address them?
Schroeder: Three issues I hear are: education, health care, and general uncertainty around COVID-19. With how widespread the effects of COVID-19 are, there are several areas for rapid improvement. We need to more efficiently pay out unemployment benefits, offer small business owners assistance to keep operating, and expand affordable health coverage so that people can take care of themselves and their families. Education faces its greatest challenge yet due to the pandemic, and now is a great time to offer more resources to our public schools so that they can afford the resources they need to adapt to a new learning environment.
Thiesfeldt: The most frequent category of communication to me has been pandemic-related. Far too many have struggled with the Department of Workforce Development’s (DWD) inability to process unemployment benefits in a timely fashion. The DWD is under the governor’s control, so we work with the agency to try to remove roadblocks, improve communication, and offer suggestions and resources to accelerate the solution.
The governor’s emergency health orders continue to be a focus of the district’s constituents. The Legislature met and passed a series of bills in April to assist with the challenges of the pandemic, and I am open to doing more.
What are the top 2 issues the Legislature should address?
Schroeder: The two biggest issues are education and social justice reform. We are facing unprecedented challenges in our public school system. One area to improve would be transparency in voucher system funds. Currently the amount of voucher money is increasing exponentially with little oversight on how these public funds are being spent.
Governor Evers called a special session on Aug. 31 to address a package of bills that was introduced by the Black Caucus in June. That session lasted less than 30 seconds. We can support our brave officers by giving them the tools and resources they need to do their jobs effectively.
Thiesfeldt: Education is one-third of the money spent by state government. Our student reading scores have been slowly sliding for 30 years, and our once lofty national ranking has dropped from third to as low as 34th. Fond du Lac students have not been immune from this decline. Of particular concern is that our state has the worst racial achievement gap in the nation.
Projections are that the current state budget will possibly finish without a deficit in spite of the economic struggles brought by the shutdowns. However, the state must prepare for a projected large decrease in revenue for the 2021-23 budget.
What should the Legislature be doing to help address the COVID-19 pandemic?
Schroeder: Right now our Legislature needs to be focusing on extending relief to the people and businesses in Wisconsin, while forming a long-term plan to address the effects of COVID-19. Now is the time to ensure that people have job security, access to health care, and are able to receive unemployment benefits in a timely manner. There is too much at stake to just sit back and wait for the federal government to shoulder the entire burden. At the state level, we are able to act faster and better meet the needs of Wisconsinites.
Thiesfeldt: The biggest step would be to encourage the governor to work with the Legislature to craft reasonable, bipartisan legislation. Much was done last April when a series of laws were enacted to assist businesses, schools, health care facilities, government, etc. Additionally, I would like to see liability protections for all institutions taking reasonable measures to contain the virus while maintaining the ability to perform their core functions. Funding for frequent public service messages to maintain proper hygiene and healthy habits will assist in educating the public. We also should ensure the equitable availability of medical supplies across the state.
What can it do to help those affected by the pandemic?
Schroeder: The Legislature has the responsibility to represent the needs of the people. This can be accomplished by expanding COVID-19 testing, working to clear the backlog of unemployment payments, considering a smaller stimulus payment to supplement federal aid, and considering an expansion of BadgerCare to offer more people access to essential health care services. These are just several ideas that come to mind, and I would like to see the Legislature meet sooner rather than later to begin the discussion and take action before it is too late.
Thiesfeldt: Health care institutions are obviously vital during this time. If pandemic-related government interventions cause hospitals to become financially unstable, availability will decline for those in need for all health issues, not just COVID-19. However, the pandemic does not only affect those who contract the virus, but has wide-ranging negative affects caused by lost jobs, closed businesses, inadequate education, isolation, untreated health concerns, etc. Actions undertaken by any level of government, must always respect that constitutional liberties, including the ability to sustain yourself and your family by engaging in gainful employment. Extra assistance and protection is best applied to those who are most at-risk to the virus.
In your view, how big of a problem is racial injustice and discrimination and what should be done about it?
Schroeder: I am passionate about this issue, and cannot fully address it here. I held a listening session in July to discuss racism and diversity, and heard the stories that community members have experienced. Racial injustices are deeply rooted in our systems and can be difficult for those not affected to understand the scope/impact. Racism extends beyond the good/bad binary of individual people and permeates our society, ranging in disparities from education, to microaggressions, to our criminal justice system. The first step is being willing to have difficult conversations.
Thiesfeldt: The vast majority of Americans are caring people who desire equality for all. The role of government is to establish and enforce laws that equally protect the rights of all the citizens, and promote institutions that peacefully seek solutions. There is not a law to solve every problem, and since government intervention cannot change hearts, it cannot solve this problem. Solutions begin in the home where parents and grandparents set examples for their children, and in schools and churches that assist parents in educating their children. The decreased relevance of religion in our society has inhibited progress in immeasurable ways.
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