SOLDIERS GROVE - For those living in the Village of Soldiers Grove, the April 6 ballot will offer four choices for three open positions on the village board. Incumbents Steve George, Vicki Campbell and Jerry Miller will be joined on the ballot by challenger Howard ‘Homer’ Arndt.
Paul Nicholson, who is currently serving as village president, is also seeking re-election to that position and is running unopposed. Nicholson is the owner, operator and chief mechanic at Nicholson Motors. Nicholson has led the village through the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, been instrumental in securing a $914,000 grant from the Community Development Public Facility Grant program to upgrade the village’s aging sewer system, and helped up upgrade systems for park rentals and camping in the village park.
Howard Arndt, or Homer as he is known, owns and operates the Old Oak Inn in Soldiers Grove, along with his wife Debbie. The two purchased the business and moved to Soldiers Grove just as the ‘Safer at Home’ order went into effect in March of 2020.
Responding to this challenge, the two launched a series of ‘On the Veranda’ concerts. Patrons were able to gather on the lawn to enjoy a socially-distanced outdoor meal and concert. Arndt stated that the series will continue in 2021, with musical acts booked from May through September.
Arndt grew up in Janesville, where he worked for General Motors. After the plant closed, he and his wife Debbie moved to Hillsboro because of her employment. Arndt worked at Fort McCoy, and retired from that job in August of 2020. He earned an associate millwright degree from Blackhawk Technical College and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Upper Iowa University.
“I am running for the board because, as a small business owner, I would like to see the community thrive – especially in these tough times,” Arndt explained. “By serving on the board, if elected, I hope to be a part of developing the community.”
Arndt says that he has attended a few meetings of the village board, and thinks the village “has a good base to go on.” His goal in serving will be to keep the community and the businesses working together.
Major opportunities for the village, according to Arndt, lie in expanding options for tourism in the village.
As far as how the village should spend the $50,000 in funding coming from the ‘American Rescue Plan (ARP),’ recently passed by the U.S. Congress, Arndt would like to see the Myrtle Lake clean-up project go forward along with further development of the village campgrounds, and see lighting in the village improved.
“Soldiers Grove is a pretty awesome place,” Arndt said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to go fishing in Myrtle Lake.”
Steve George has served on the village board on and off since he was in his early twenties, a total of 15-20 years he estimates. George is a lifelong resident of the village and a North Crawford graduate.
George worked in assembly and fabrication at S&S Cycle in Viola, and is now retired. He is active with the Soldiers Grove Big Buck Rod-n-Gun Club.
“I have served and am running again, basically, because I want to serve my community,” George said. “I like my community, and want to be able to help it grow.”
George sees the biggest challenge and opportunity for the village as bringing more businesses there.
“If we can bring more businesses back into town, then our residents will stay here,” George said. “If people can’t find jobs, then they will choose to live somewhere else.”
As far as how he envisions spending the ARP funds, George said that it would help the village with their cost share for the grant received to upgrade the sewer system, and generally with upgrading infrastructure in the village. He would also like to see the funds spent for advertising to promote tourism.
“As far as the project to restore Myrtle Lake, it has been tried before, but hopefully this time it will work,” George said. “Restoring the lake would make the village more attractive for camping and tourists.”
George said that this time, perhaps, those working to restore the lake will have the benefit of more modern equipment and science. He offered his congratulations to the group of people that is working on the restoration, and said “it will be nice for tourists, residents and kids.”
Vicki Campbell has lived in Soldiers Grove her entire life, and has served on the board for the last seven years, and also one previous term.
She is an experienced businessperson, having owned and operated the Campbell’s One Stop gas and convenience store in the village, and a group of hotels in the area. The convenience store business is now owned and operated by Campbell’s son and daughter-in-law, Ryan and Krystal.
After graduating from high school, Campbell earned a degree as a Clerk/Typist from Western Wisconsin Technical College.
“I am running again for the board because I think that my input as a business owner is valuable,” Campbell said. “My background in finance is essential.”
Challenges Campbell sees for the village include getting the sewer plant up and running, and maintaining properties in the village.
“We need to stay focused on keeping the village clean and ensuring that properties in the village are maintained well,” Campbell said. “We have had problems with unregistered vehicles in the village, and when homes are not kept up, people who visit the village see that.”
As far as opportunities for the village, Campbell observed that it is always nice to get new businesses in the village. She thinks that the upgrade to the sewer plant will be a good thing for the village, and she is an enthusiastic supporter of the initiative to restore Myrtle Lake.
“I’ve always been for restoring the lake,” Campbell said. “I would really like to see it cleaned up so that the kids can canoe, fish and swim there.”
Campbell said that she thinks the ARP funds to be received by the village will likely be best used to work on the village’s roads. She says, though, that she wants to continue to serve on the board to make sure that the taxpayers don’t see their property taxes raised because of foolish spending.
Jerry Miller has lived in Soldiers Grove for almost 13 years. He grew up outside the Village of Viola, and has lived in the Kickapoo Valley his entire life. He is now completing his second, two-year term on the village board.
Miller left his job of 20 years as a welder at Nelson Global Products in Viroqua in 2019, and began work with the Trane Company in LaCrosse. He currently serves as vice president of the Big Buck Rod-n-Gun Club, and says that his goal in that work is “to make it a nice shooting range for members.”
“I find serving on the village board to be very interesting,” Miller said. “In the village when the board makes decisions, we are making decisions that affect us as much as they affect all the other residents of the village. Sometimes, we have to make some tough decisions.”
Miller sees the biggest challenge facing the village as the completion of the sewer upgrade project, which he says “will be a major undertaking.”
Opportunities for the village, according to Miller, are mainly focused around attracting more industry or businesses to the village.
As far as how the village will spend the ARP funds, he says that the board will have to put their heads together to determine the best use of the funds. He says that infrastructure projects such as roads and the sewer system will likely be top priorities.“I’ve enjoyed my time serving on the board, and am looking forward to serving for two more years if elected,” Miller said. “I hope that everyone will get out and exercise their right to vote on April 6, whether you vote for me or not.”