Ever since Rep. Nancy Van derMeer (R-70th) defeated an entrenched career politician in 2014, Monroe County’s three Assemblymen should be considered awesome as they listen to, help solve problems for, and actively represent their constituents at the State Capitol. The Democrat incumbent that Van derMeer defeated listed her occupation as full time legislator and in the five years between her college graduation and her first election had been a legislative aide to a long-term Congressman and an Area Program Director for the Minnesota Farm Bureau.
Van derMeer joined then Representatives Lee Nerison (R-96th) and Ed Brooks (R-50th) in representing the citizens of Monroe County. Individually and together they were the prototype of what the Founding Fathers had in mind for the ideal representative at the federal and state levels. They each had successful careers before actively entering politics, were leaders in career related organizations, were leaders in local government or other community civic organizations; and had been active in their churches. All three representatives were farmers (or are married to a farmer) which is meaningful considering the economy of Monroe County.
Van derMeer is a former automobile dealer, small business owner, and married to a family dairy farmer. She has an extensive resume of community service. Nerison was a farmer, a board member of an oil & gas cooperative, and a long-term member and then chairman of the Vernon County Board. Brooks was a dairy farmer, had served in the Army Reserves, a leader in agricultural organizations, and a long term township chairman.
Then came 2018 and Nerison and Brooks both retired from the Legislature. Rep. Loren Oldenburg, a Vernon County dairy farmer with leadership experience in two co-operatives, a former township chairman and church trustee was elected to replace Nerison. It is remarkable how closely Oldenburg fits the same mold that Nerison and Brooks came from! Rep. Tony Kurtz, a Juneau County organic grain farmer that comes from a different background was elected to replace Brooks. Kurtz, originally from Ohio, is a retired active duty Army attack helicopter pilot. Towards the end of his career he was recognized for his expertise in aviation safety to the extent he was an aviation accident investigator. He also has experience in a variety of career and agricultural organizations. With Fort McCoy in Monroe County and Volk Field nearby, his military knowledge and experience is valuable to the legislative process in Madison.
While these three Representatives each represent a portion of Monroe County, together they also represent all or parts of eight other counties stretching from Crawford to Portage to include Juneau and Sauk. The three Assembly Districts combined include approximately 170,000 citizens. According to their campaign literature, they have similar priorities in working to support healthcare, prioritize rural Wisconsin, and fix Wisconsin’s roads. And while a vast majority of the 99 Assemblymen represent primarily suburban and urban populations, such as in the 95th District which is basically the City of La Crosse, those with a passion and expertise for rural and/or farm legislative issues are few and far between.
Help may be on the way. Kevin Hoyer, a professional agronomist and crop farmer from rural La Crosse County is challenging the almost ten year incumbent in the 94th Assembly District which is most (or all) of La Crosse County except for the City of La Crosse. Hoyer’s resume reads very similar to Nerison’s, Brooks’ and Oldenberg’s. Hoyer is a known leader in both community and agricultural organizations. He has had leadership roles in both state and national soybean organizations. He has worked on federal farm policy. He is on the Western College Agricultural Advisory Board and belongs to the Farm Bureau. Locally, he has served on both the Town of Hamilton and La Crosse County Boards of Supervisors. The incumbent is a City of La Crosse Attorney.
If you live in Monroe County, remember your awesome Assemblymen and vote to re-elect Van derMeer, Oldenburg, or Kurtz. If you live in the 94th Assembly District, vote for the challenger, Kevin Hoyer. Encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to do the same. Not only their constituents, but all rural Wisconsin depends on their effective and energetic leadership in the Wisconsin Assembly.