Voters head to the polls April 2 to decide nonpartisan seats for Supreme Court and local council races.
The mayor of Superior, Jim Paine, is also on the ballot, but running unopposed for the seat he's held for two years.
Even-numbered Superior City Council seats are also on the ballot. Tylor Elm in the 6th District and Esther Dalbec in the 10th are running unopposed.
Three candidates have stepped forward to challenge incumbents in the 2nd, 4th and 8th districts this year.
Councilor Jenny Van Sickle is wrapping up her first term on the Council this spring. She is facing a challenge for the seat she's held for two years from longtime Parks andRecreation Commissioner Tom Wondolkowski.
"I made Superior my home 30 years ago and have been an active community member," Wondolkowski said. "I have followed politics for a long time. My background in social work and finance have strengthened my listening skills to better understand a variety of individual and organization perspectives and make decisions that impact both individuals and groups."
Van Sickle said her primary motivation in running for re-election is people.
"Every phone call, email, cup of coffee and policy has brought me closer to the people of Allouez, Itasca and East End," Van Sickle said. "Residents are asking for a voice and progress. We've shoveled out crosswalks and fire hydrants together. Like the shoveling, legislation is tough work. What I see very clearly is the people of the 2nd District have really welcomed a strong voice willing to fight for an equal share of tax dollars, improvements and beautiful parks like anywhere else in town."
Van Sickle, a native of Alaska, said she offers a fresh perspective and determination to get things done.
"Because I was an active duty military spouse for 15 years, I've been blessed to have lived all over our country," Van Sickle said. "I've seen so many different communities and I am lucky to bring ideas forward that I've seen work. One example of that is Kids Don't Float; a program that partners with our business community to provide free life jackets at our boat launches which can now be found at Loons Foot and Arrowhead landings."
In addition to Parks and Recreation, Wondolkowski serves on the city's Historic Preservation Committee and Superior Public Library Foundation. He is a member of the Superior Rotary and Chamber of Commerce and is a founder of a Night Without a Home, a volunteer-driven effort to collect donations for organizations that assist the homeless.
"I have good communication and interpersonal skills," Wondolkowski said. "I have an ability to reach out to and respectfully talk to people of all backgrounds and diverse viewpoints. I understand that I won't agree with everyone, but I will respect their opinions. I have had the opportunity to work with people of diverse cultural backgrounds and have learned that although there are differences we share common values."
Wondolkowski said one of the biggest challenges for Superior is to increase growth, but its best opportunities lie in the city's natural resources.
"The city forest, the lake and the river have potential for development to increase recreational activities for residents and visitors," Wondolkowski said. "By doing so the tourism tax base can increase."
Van Sickle said one of the big challenges for the city remains innovative and forward-thinking rather than accepting the status quo.
"This year, I proposed and passed a complete repeal of our outdated parking ordinance," Van Sickle said. "This change helps facilitate retail opportunities and removed unnecessary regulations on potential small businesses. We need to do a better job of building better spaces for people."
Councilor Jack Sweeney first joined the City Council in 2013 after serving five years on the Douglas County Board. Born and raised in Superior's East End, Sweeney's background prior to government service is in accounting and business administration.
"I feel my skill set is unique with my business background," said Sweeney. "Continually, I strive to make the best decisions, long term, for the city. In order to be successful, a city must have strong financial roots."
This year, he is facing a challenge from Superior School Board member Laura Gapske. A resident of Superior since age 5, Gapske's background is in sociology and she's worked for 15 years advocating on behalf of women and children in crisis, addressing poverty, and domestic and sexual abuse.
"I want to expand that role to care for the broader community," Gapske said. "I want to address the East End/Old Town District to bring more retail and shopping options to our neighborhood."
As a program director for First Witness Child Advocacy Center, Gapske said she seeks input from staff on major decisions, something she plans to do if elected to serve on the City Council.
"I would make outreach to constituents and our community leaders a priority and find our common goals for the district and our city," Gapske said. She said in knocking on doors in the district, she is amazed by the great ideas citizens have to offer.
"My special interests and passions are health and safety for all citizens and employees and infrastructure," Sweeney said. "It is very important to have a strong skill set in communication and working together with citizens, other City Council members and administration. I think I have a deep knowledge of the operations of city government based on my years of experience."
Sweeney, who has worked with budgets in for-profit and nonprofit sectors in addition to government, said the biggest challenge facing the city is balancing revenue streams with long- and short-term expenses.
"The best opportunity is to use the vast talent base of city employees and elected officials who are all committed for a better Superior," Sweeney said. "This and a positive attitude will take us forward."
Gapske said the city faces many challenges including mental health and drug addiction, infrastructure and transportation issues, and aging homes.
"Our biggest opportunity is our people," Gapske said. "We have young, dedicated community leaders like city councilors and entrepreneurs that have brought forward fresh ideas. I'm 100 percent on board with restoration projects like Barker's Island and Wisconsin Point that will keep our skilled trades-people working, improve the local ecology and add to the public spaces we have in Superior."
First-term City Councilor Craig Sutherland is facing a challenge from a Superior business man, Matt Osterlund, for the 8th District seat.
Since taking office almost two years ago, Sutherland said his priorities have focused on increasing transparency in local government, changing policy to better serve the community and developing all-terrain and utility-terrain vehicle routes to allow recreational riders to access amenities in the city.
"I've been busy," Sutherland said, adding that his first two years on the Council have made him more passionate for the city where he co-founded the resurrection of Billings Park Days and #WeAreSuperior, which highlights local businesses and industries, before he joined the Council.
Osterlund, whose family has lived in Superior since the 1870s, said he's thought about running for City Council for several years before he decided to run this year.
"I do love Superior and see a lot of potential," Osterlund said of the city where he grew up.
Osterlund was the owner of Ink on Tower Avenue, and is about to finish a teaching degree after taking a break from his education at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Owning a business taught him about spending wisely to bring value to the community, he said.
Sutherland said he's not afraid to make a difference in the community, but he's not a rubber stamp either. Over the last two years, he said he's spent a lot of time with senior administrator and finance director, Jean Vito, learning what it means to be fiscally responsible and learning the long-term ramifications of the financial decisions the Council is responsible for making.
Among the issues Sutherland advocated for during his first term in office is restoring three firefighters in the Superior Fire Department after grant-funded positions were eliminated.
Among the challenges facing the city is attracting large businesses that provide good paying jobs, but Sutherland said the city is gaining traction with the Better City Superior initiative, which will help put the city on the right course.
"It's a great opportunity for our city right now," Sutherland said.
Osterlund said there is no silver bullet to address the city's challenges, such as its housing deficit, but with the right investments, great opportunities lie ahead - the city just needs to take the lead.
"We're surrounded by the Great Lakes, forests, lands to utilize for outdoor recreation," Osterlund said. "It's a great mix."