Rice, Braun vie for mayor’s chair

Oconto Falls Mayor Brad Rice is seeking his seventh two-year term in the April 2 election, facing a challenge from Clint Braun, co-owner of the PROCAR automotive repair shop in Oconto Falls.

They responded to an invitation to tell voters about themselves.

Clint Braun

Background and qualifications? At the age of 12, I worked on local dairy farms and continued farm work throughout high school. Being on the farm taught me the invaluable skill of “work ethic.” Too hot out, too cold? Didn’t feel good? It didn’t matter; on the farm, work had to get done. After high school, I spent a decade as a master automotive technician, worked my way into sales, finance and upper management. I spent four years as an automotive instructor at NWTC, and am currently in my fourth year of owning a business, right here in Oconto Falls.

The most significant issue you would like to work on? I am eager to get the word out about what our town has to offer. From our school system, the hospital, Oconto River, golf course and beautiful beaches, these are just a few locations that define our charm. I want to put Oconto Falls on the map while building our community in this big, small town. My main area of focus, Main Street Downtown Oconto Falls, I’d like to bring back the vibrant life that it once was. Encouraging small businesses, boutiques, small shops, etc., to attract our neighboring tourists and those who travel near and far to visit Northern Wisconsin.

What is the most significant issue for residents? After speaking to many residents in the area, I notice a common theme, asking for change in our beloved small town. We feel that our city growth has decreased significantly over the years, and we are anxious to see Main Street thrive. The disappointment I hear from residents in regards to the various vacant buildings on Main Street continues to be one of the hottest items moving forward in 2024.

Why do you think voters should choose you over your opponent? I constantly challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone. I completely understand that having every single person on board with my vision is unrealistic. However, I am committed to growing as an individual, hearing concerns from our community, engaging in productive discussions in regards to our community, and open to receiving the feedback from our people. I may not have experience working in politics, but I do have experience in collaborating with the community and understanding several perspectives.

Brad Rice

Background and qualifications? I am a lifelong resident of the city of Oconto Falls, retired after working for 37 years at Peterson Ford. I served four years in the Air Force during the Vietnam Conflict. I have served as alderman on the City Council for nine years, and I have been serving as mayor for the past 12 years. I also serve on the board of directors for the Oconto Falls Senior Center. Over the past years, I have been able to help get valuable projects completed. These include improvements to streets and infrastructure on Flatley Street, Oakland Avenue and Adams Street, improvements to the Senior Center and a new fire station.

The most significant issue you would like to work on? One issue that I want to see accomplished is to revitalize the Main Street district, to eliminate or cut down on first-floor housing along that corridor and to bring in new business to the area and community. A TID (tax incremental district) has been created to help encourage potential new business. This is a very important issue and a difficult one, but it is being worked on right now, and it will continue to be a priority if I am mayor. I also want to encourage new industry and/or manufacturing to the Industrial Park, and I continually work and advocate for street and infrastructure improvements. Currently, we are set for a full replacement of Columbia Street in 2025 with the help of a grant of about $25 million.

The most significant issue for residents? I think residents in the city of Oconto Falls really want to receive services provided that meet the cost of their taxes and meet their needs. I am always open to hear comments and complaints and I will work to address them. I know that many residents want to see improvements or added services that are so valid. I would like to accomplish those things for them and yet keep our city fiscally responsible. It is no easy task. Right now, the City Council and the city staff work every day to find a way and I support them. I am in favor of keeping our city taxes low.

Why do you think voters should choose you over your opponent? I feel that the experience of my 21-plus years in city government is what I bring to the table as mayor. I live here and, like so many of the residents here, I want to see our community thrive and grow. I want the same things as our community wants, and I will strive to make those things happen. I feel the importance of family and I want to continue to make the city of Oconto Falls a place where families can thrive, grow and live happily.