Candidate for Town of Somerset BoardBill Lawson, 1917 County Road I, Somerset
1. Would you please tell us a little bit about yourself and why you're running? I have lived in Somerset since 1950. I went to school in Somerset, then on to the University of Wisconsin, Madison and eventually graduate studies at the University of Minnesota. I married a Somerset High School teacher, Rita Lindemann, in 1972, and built a house here in 1977. I started Laser Machining in 1978 in Somerset and Rita and I sold it in 2002 and it is now named Preco. We have two children, Marty and Robin, and our first grandchild on the way.
2. Have you ever held any public office previously or do you have any previous experience with community development and civic engagement?
I was on the Somerset school board from 1985 to 1996 and was a member when the high school was built. At the present time I am on the Town of Somerset Parks, Recreation and Planning Commission. I am also involved in the effort to expand and improve our public library to meet the growing needs of the area.
3. What experience, if any, do you have with overseeing large budgets?
As the majority owner of Laser Machining, I oversaw its growth to a company of 200+ people at the time we sold it.
4. Sometimes we ask candidates questions that are divisive in nature so this is sort of a two-pronged question...What do you feel set you apart from the other board candidates? AND what do you feel you have in common that might enable you to work with current board members in a really good way?
I think every candidate brings personal experiences and capabilities so I do not think I am better but perhaps I bring a different set of experiences to the board. I am in favor of managed growth for the Town and working to achieve the goals that are in the comprehensive plan of having managed growth that preserves the rural character of our town while still allowing development that promotes open space and provides the land owner and developer a reasonable return on their efforts and assets. I think this is a common aim of the present board and hopefully I can help achieve those goals.
5. In your opinion, what are some things that the board does already or could do to earn and keep the community's trust? (Question submitted by Town of Somerset citizens)
As far as what can we do to keep the public’s trust, we can continue the actions I see on the present board to have an open process where the public is free to observe and comment. One thing the public can do is keep informed about what is happening in our government. Rita and I have attended most of the board meetings for the last few years and we normally see only a few people there. The meetings are only one night per month and that is where everything is discussed. When there is some contentious thing on the agenda we see 30 or 40 people there but that should be how many people are there every meeting. The comment is “they didn’t tell us about this” but we usually have heard about the action for several meetings and in public hearings plus the discussions were in the minutes. (which are available on line.)
6. Which projects or future projects are you in favor of or against with regard to infrastructure, upgraded buildings, and services provided for this millennium...and...what top three things would you like to see the Town Board accomplish while you're in office, should you be elected? (question submitted by Town of Somerset citizens)
A major problem we face is that local control has now gone to Madison. The local Town board has the best view of what the Town needs and wants (and is willing to pay for) and they should be responsible for doing what is necessary to maintain the Town. The problem right now is that the taxing ability is so limited by Madison that we really cannot maintain our roads let alone improve them. The comment I have heard at the Town board meetings is “we can only afford to rebuild a half mile or so of road each year and Somerset has 60+ miles of roads”. The present board has done a good job of keeping our roads in good shape with limited resources but you can see some roads that have heavy traffic are having problems and the Town cannot afford to to do very much to prevent the deterioration.
7. As a whole, as the Somerset community continues to grow, what roles & responsibilities do you feel the Town Board should play in creating and building on that "smart growth"?)
I think the biggest change I would like to see is how our present zoning rules force development in the Town. Right now development is typically done in 3 acre lots turning the land into a three acre parcel version of Woodbury. We need to promote zoning that allows a lot of common open space to be preservedby reducing the lot size to fit the appropriate use but using the rest of the 3 acre average to provide open space located close to each lot. With this plan the dwellings will be closer together but each parcel will have direct access to the open space at least on one side of the lot.
8. If elected what do you feel your top 3 priorities would be?
Primarily I plan to be working to achieve the goals in the comprehensive plan to grow the population while maintaining the rural character, provide more and better access to the lakes and rivers in our town, and provide good access to the open areas by developing trails, walking and bicycle riding paths, etc.
9. Do you have any last words or thoughts you'd like the taxpayers to know?
Living in Somerset has been a good experience and I feel I should do my part to help it move forward. I feel also that people that live here should do what they can to be informed and help the Town be what they would like to live in.