Educator and community volunteer Melissa Lemke is battling Republican Thomas Weatherston, who has a background in engineering, for the newly created 62nd Assembly District seat.
The Democrat, Lemke, is a public health educator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who also describes herself as a volunteer for such projects as a community garden and church programs. She lives in Racine.
Weatherston has a background in industrial engineering and is a military veteran. He is also a Caledonia village trustee and works in manufacturing.
The 62nd District seat has new boundaries this year in the wake of redistricting prompted by population shifts in the 2010 census. The district includes Caledonia and one ward in Mount Pleasant. (See map)
Wisconsin state representatives serve two-year terms and earn $49,943.00 annually. They also receive a per diem of $88 per day for each day they work in Madison.
How will you work to bring jobs to the area?
Tom Weatherston: I have a three-point job plan and I think any politician these days should be talking about jobs. Two of the simple things are: we have some of the highest business taxes in the world: we need to make sure that our taxes are appropriate and attractive compared to other states. We also need to go through legislation and make sure that it’s favorable to business development in the area. And the third part is that we need a more skilled workforce. Right now we push our kids out of high school with no experience and no knowledge of all of the skilled trades that are out there. And I’d like to work with both sides of the table begin to develop a program where we have high school kids begin to learn about some skilled trades and then they can take that into life with them.
Melissa Lemke: After knocking on 10,000 doors, I got to talk to the owners of several small and medium businesses in the area. I think there are two different things we can do – address the skills gaps… I think we need to develop from inside and I think we should have tax breaks including start-ups and small businesses.
Is the current system of school funding working and if not, how would you fix it?
Tom Weatherston: School funding as far as tax rates, I consider the tax rate fair. However, I’m not always sure the money is properly spent. I think we need good teachers and I think we need incentives for good teachers. We need to find ways to keep our young people in school. We lose a lot of kids at the high school level and if funding could be driven toward new technical programs, or helping students stay in school, then I think it’s appropriate. But I think we need to balance those issues and I think we need to balance the drop out rate with the tax rate.
Melissa Lemke: I think I’m uniquely qualified to answer this question given that I work in health care and education. I think we have a lot of great teachers and I have the unique perspective of having spent half of my youth in private school and half of my youth in public school. I am a big supporter of private school and I’m a big supporter of public school being that I have benefitted from both. I’ve seen qualified teachers in both sets of school systems.
I am very concerned with the voucher tax that we have. I don’t think the Racine County area is suffering economically and I don’t think the citizens of the 62nd District can afford another voucher tax. And while I’m supportive of private schools, I think they need to be funded with private dollars. I’m supportive of public schools and I think they need to be supported with public dollars and I refuse to tax the people with another voucher tax on top of the taxes that are already paying.
- Republican Thomas Weatherston.
- Democrat Melissa Lemke.