After running unopposed in his previous two elections, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson will face two primary challengers as he seeks a fourth consecutive four-year term in office.
Outagamie County Board member Justin Krueger and former board member Kevin Sturn will face off against Nelson in the Feb. 21 primary. The two candidates with the most votes will advance to April 4 election.
First elected as county executive in 2011, Nelson is seeking a fourth term to continue supporting county projects from his tenure, such as the Appleton International Airport expansion and the county landfill’s renewable natural gas processing facility.
Sturn, who served on the county board from 2012 to 2020, is looking to bring new leadership into the executive seat and emphasize public safety in county departments.
County Board member Krueger wants to bring his local government and business experience to help the county’s high employee turnover.
The Post-Crescent asked each candidate to fill out a questionnaire before the primary election explaining why they are running. Candidates’ responses are listed in alphabetical order.
For information about registering to vote and polling locations, visit the MyVote Wisconsin website at myvote.wi.gov.
- Address: Combined Locks
- Age: 41
- Occupation: CEO and owner of Your Neighborhood Living Inc.
- Highest level of education: Bachelor’s degree in psychology, Leadership Training Curriculum from St. Norbert College
- Relevant experience: 16 years on Combined Locks Village Board, eight years on Fox Valley Technical College Board, six years on Outagamie County Board
- Campaign website and Facebook page: www.Kruegerforexec.com, Facebook.com/KruegerForExec
- Address: Appleton
- Age: 46
- Occupation: Outagamie County executive
- Highest level of education: Master of public administration from Princeton University
- Relevant experience: Outagamie County executive (2011-present); state Assemblyman (2005-11), Assembly Majority Leader (2008-10)
- Campaign website and Facebook page: www.NelsonForCountyExecutive.com, Facebook.com/NelsonForWI
- Address: Greenville
- Age: 49
- Occupation: Cash grain farmer
- Highest level of education: Associate degree in printing and publishing from Fox Valley Technical College
- Relevant experience: Management of a grain farming operation. Eight years on county board from 2012-2020. I did not seek reelection in the spring of 2020. While on the County Board, I served eight years on the Finance Committee and four years as Finance Committee chairman. Further service included East Central Regional Planning Commission, UW-Oshkosh/Fox Cities Campus Board of Trustees and the Outagamie County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. I also served as vice-chairman of the Space and Security Needs Oversight Committee.
- Campaign website and Facebook page: www.ElectKevinSturn.com, Facebook: Elect Kevin Sturn
Why are you running for county executive?
Krueger: This is a great place to live. People are friendly and crime is relatively low. I want to support current businesses and attract new businesses and people to our community. I want to ensure that infrastructure and services meet our current needs and plan for the needs of the coming generation.
Nelson: Experience. The county needs a steady, experienced hand. We have major projects coming down the pike like the airport expansion or renewable energy projects at solid waste and recycling. We have key initiatives in the works to attract and retain top talent to continue delivering top-notch services. We shouldn’t change horses in midstream.
Sturn: I am running for Outagamie County executive to serve the people in this community. There is a dedicated team of employees currently working hard who are looking for guidance and support. I’m not a politician and I won’t be seeking higher office. It is time for a change in leadership.
What makes you the better candidate in this race?
Krueger: I am the only candidate to start a business from scratch. County services have the greatest impact on our populations in need like the elderly, adults with autism and behavioral youth. I have served these populations my entire adult life.
Nelson: Totally committed to public service; it’s in my DNA. I’ve made 70,000 door-to-door visits; worked thousands of constituent cases; fought for mill workers when Appleton Coated almost shut down; professionalized, modernized county government; doubled the economic activity of the airport to $700 million per year. I have a proven track record.
Sturn: My work ethic, board service and management experience. I understand the community and business needs of both the rural and urban areas of Outagamie County. I am focused on building Outagamie County and not building a political resume. Please feel free to speak with the people who are endorsing me.
What are residents telling you are their most important issues, and how would you address them?
Krueger: Fix employee issues within the county. The most valuable asset of county operation is the well-trained, tenured employee. Outagamie County was once a sought-after place for a career. I will institute a “people first” culture and a “people first” budget.
Get politics out of the executive’s office: I want everyone in Outagamie County to succeed. County services are utilized to champion those efforts.
Reconnect county to local government: Our 35 municipalities know our residents but aren’t aware of opportunities that cut costs for the taxpayer. I will call every municipal administrator twice a month to discuss local needs.
Nelson: General malaise. People are sick and tired of politics in Madison and Washington and are looking to local government to put politics aside and do the right thing. At the doors, voters are floored that there’s another election in one month.
Continue our work. I’m proud of all the good things we have done at the county; built an international airport that supports 3,000 jobs, pioneered criminal justice reforms that have saved money and made our community safer, balanced budgets, attained a triple-A (Aaa) bond rating, cut the tax rate and fully funded crucial public services.
Sturn: Public safety is a top priority for citizens, school districts and businesses. People want to live and work in a safe community. I intend to improve public safety by cooperating and collaborating with the Sheriff’s and Health and Human Services departments. Together we’ll work to protect children, veterans, seniors and those in need of mental health services. To provide these services to residents, I will focus on staffing and technology. I will also initiate and encourage communication and cooperation between departments, municipalities, neighboring counties, community groups and businesses. Working together will increase the efficiency of providing county services.
Sophia Voight is a local government and politics reporter. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @sophia_voight.