Two proposed write-in candidates for the Gays Mills Village Board, Paul ‘Jim’ Lomas and Craig Anderson, have agreed that if elected they would serve.
Another proposed write-in candidate for the village board, Delbert ‘Del’ Flitsch, indicated he would not serve on the board if elected for a variety of personal reasons.
All three men were proposed as candidates for the board by a current village trustee, John Johnson. The Village of Gays Mills has three open seats on the board in this spring’s election, but no one filed the necessary papers to appear on the ballot to run for those positions.
The Independent-Scout urged anyone considering a write-in campaign to identify themselves prior to the election to help voters understand who was available for the positions.
Johnson took it upon himself to put forward the three men as write-in candidates in an advertisement in last week’s edition of the Independent-Scout.
Although Flitsch said he would not be willing to serve if elected, both Lomas and Anderson confirmed they would serve if elected.
So, who are Paul ‘Jim’ Lomas and Craig Anderson? Both agreed to explain their interest in the village and in serving on the board during brief interviews with the Independent-Scout last week.
Anderson is probably a little better known in village politics, after having served as the Gays Mills Village President, serving from 2011 to 2013.
However, Lomas is also a pretty well known resident of the village. He is known to most as Jim Lomas preferring to use his middle name as his first name. He is 63 years old and lives at 609 Ten Hill Street in Gays Mills.
Lomas relocated to the new residence, up the hill from the Marketplace, following the floods.
Lomas graduated from Seneca High School. He grew up on Zintz Road not far from the Ben Logan farm.
Lomas served in the U.S. Navy as a cook or Chef’s Specialist it was called, aboard the USS Fulton, a sub tender.
“I served in the Navy for six years and I’m proud of it,” Lomas said.
Lomas also worked for his dad for two years hauling milk. His father, Paul Lomas Jr. owned several milk trucks.
However, Lomas worked most of his life in a tractor factory in the Quad Cities. The company that owned the factory changed names several times, but the work remained about the same. What began as JI Case became International Harvester and then Case New Holland.
Lomas retired from the factory in 2004 and moved back to Gays Mills, where he bought a house on Orin Street. After the house flooded, he relocated to a new residence on Ten Hills Street.
If he is elected to the board, it won't be his first experience in politics. Lomas previously served as the village president of Hillsdale, Ill. Hillsdale is a town of about 600 people located near the Quad Cities It was an enlightening experience for Lomas, who came to see some of the thankless nature of public service in the process.
Lomas was one of several people under consideration to fill a vacant position on the board last year, before the board decided to leave the position vacant until the upcoming election.
If elected, Lomas indicated that he would initially take time to better understand what was going on in the village presently.
“I’d just sit back and listen and learn and then I’d put my input in,’ he said. Lomas readily acknowledged there was a need for village trustees to fill the vacant positions on the board.
“You can’t have two or three people on the board when there should be five or six,” Lomas said.
One thing Lomas shares in common with Anderson is that both have served as village presidents. Lomas in Hillsdale, Illinois and Anderson in Gays Mills.
Anderson was elected village president in 2011, when he defeated the incumbent village president Larry McCarn. Anderson in turn was defeated by Pat Brockway in the next election, who subsequently stepped down for personal reasons.
The current village president, Harry Heisz, was elected as a village trustee and appointed to be president by the board after Brockway resigned.
Anderson, 61, lives at 17175 West River Road in Gays Mills.
The former village president received a bachelor’s degree from Macalester College in St. Paul and then earned a Masters in Social Work from the University of Minnesota.
Anderson is a retired clinical social worker and neighborhood organizer. He is currently a co-owner of the Hotel Fortney Building in Viroqua and owns several properties in the village of Gays Mills.
Anderson owned and operated a real estate business on Main Street in Gays Mills from 2003 until 2010.
In addition to being village president, Anderson served on the Gays Mills Public Library Board for six or seven years including being its president for five years. He has also served on the Gays Mills Plan Commission. Additionally, Anderson is the Vice President of the Crawford County Community Fund.
In acknowledging he will serve on the board if elected, the former village president referenced his previous statements about serving on the board.
“My position has been that if asked to serve on the board, I would not say no,” Anderson said. “The board had a couple of opportunities to ask me and chose not to. If I’m elected as a write-in candidate, I would take that as being asked to serve.”
Familiar with the situation facing the village from his time served as village president, Anderson sees “viability” as the greatest challenge facing the village.
It’s not just the challenge facing Gays Mills,” Anderson noted. “It’s the challenge facing rural America. To find a way to be viable after they’ve lost their economic reason for existing.”
“And, it’s not just keeping the village viable,” Anderson said. “We have to go beyond that, we need to keep the people we have and attract more. Tourism may be a part of that mix, but it’s not all of it. We need to find a value-added product to produce, perhaps an ag-based product.
On a bighter note, Anderson pointed out some of the village’s opportunities.
“We do have a business park and there’s certainly lots of potential here,” Anderson observed. However, he noted the village must take advantage of the situation to make it happen.