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Three in race for Howard-Suamico School Board, Suamico Village Board




HOWARD-SUAMICO – In the upcoming spring election, three candidates are running for two seats on the Howard-Suamico School Board, including two incumbents.

In the race for Suamico Village Board, three candidates, including one incumbent, seek two seats on the board.

Following are the responses to questions posed to the candidates ahead of the April 2 contests:

Howard-Suamico School Board

Pooja Bambha-Arora


Please provide your background, education and experiences that qualify you for the position:

I am running for Howard-Suamico School Board because I want to contribute to my community and put my background in education to work for local students, teachers, and parents. I have been very invested in education for the last 20 years being an adjunct professor in teacher education and shaping policy. I have a PhD in education from State University of New York, and I’ve worked as an adjunct professor at UW-Green Bay and St. Norbert College, and at NWTC since I moved to Wisconsin eight years ago. In 2019, I consulted on a new world cultures course that the Howard-Suamico school district was offering, which introduces students to a new country and its customs each month. It was such a positive experience putting my education to work for the community, it inspired me to do more. I have chaired the Racial Equity Committee for Brown County, was a part of the EDI (Equity Diversity and Inclusion) Taskforce at the Green Bay School District, and served on the DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) and Housing committees at the Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce. Running for Howard-Suamico School Board is an opportunity to get more involved in the community I call home and to serve and support local students, teachers, and parents with collaborative leadership.

What developments would you like to see the school make over the upcoming term:

My work in education always comes back to supporting students and teachers to facilitate success in the classroom. Teacher retention and student engagement after COVID-19 are priorities for the upcoming term. Leadership development opportunities in school can encourage students to be active in the community and support career readiness to ensure that they have the tools to succeed in their lives. I would collaborate with other board members and leadership to start productive conversations. We should be working together on data-driven and community-based solutions to make sure our students and teachers have the best resources available. Having taught at both two-year and four-year schools, I would also encourage students to find the talents that best suit them. Removing the stigma around two-year degrees in our society is important to make sure all students have access to the tools needed for career readiness. On my campaign trail, I have really appreciated hearing from teacher and student presenters at school board meetings. A voice of a teacher-educator who has worked in many types of schools could bring a lot of value to the discussion on the board.

What means would you use to further involve your constituents in the decision-making process:

I’m a very collaborative person who believes it is important for decision making to include listening to parents and community member perspectives. The best part of this campaign has been meeting neighbors and hearing their ideas — you can tell how much everyone cares about the students in our district. It is important that board members listen to community concerns and include them in decision-making processes. I hear from constituents that they want more communication from the board, so people can access school board minutes and agendas easily, stay informed on decisions, and answer surveys about school issues. Board members are accountable to the community for school policies and tax payers contributions so constituents want to stay informed. Preparing for new leadership and an upcoming school referendum in the next few years are opportunities to gather community feedback on spending priorities for the school district. Community-based solutions, such as town halls or other events are ways we can encourage constituent involvement in school decision-making processes. As a board member, I would ensure support for students, teachers, and parents, and I would work to get to know my fellow board members so we can work together well on behalf of the school district.

Gregory Klimek (Incumbent)


Please provide your background, education and experiences that qualify you for the position:

I am the current Howard-Suamico School District School Board President. I have served for over 10 years on the Howard-Suamico Education Foundation board and co-chaired two HSSD Referendum Community Task Forces.

I have managed and owned businesses in this community for 40 years. I am familiar with the challenges of recruiting and retaining employees, working in extremely regulated environments, managing large budgets, maintaining commercial properties and networking with state leaders. As current school board president, I have a proven track record of working with others to accomplish what needs to be done, which is critically important with a seven member board. Being retired, I have the time required to serve and represent the Board and community properly.

We have made great progress during my first term and I’m excited about continued opportunities for growth. I am passionate about the Howard-Suamico community and district and want to see both continue to thrive.

What developments would you like to see the district make over the upcoming term:

We are blessed in Howard-Suamico to have strong community support, forward thinking leadership and a dedicated teaching and support team. HSSD will be transitioning to a new superintendent and the Board will play an important role in ensuring this is a seamless transition. I believe that completing a successful transition to a new Superintendent without interruptions is a top priority. Additionally, while our School Board actively worked with legislators last year and made some good progress, It’s crucial the Board continues to advocate for reform of the Wisconsin school funding formula.

I believe it is important that we continue to keep class sizes low in HSSD and find ways to retain and recruit strong teachers. As a past business owner, I know how valuable loyal and quality staff are to the success of an organization. We also need to continue to focus on the ways we are supporting student’s social and emotional health.

The district has been able to add many new programs and positions as a result of ESSER dollars which have seen great success. I believe we need to identify creative ways to keep these successful programs going. The Board needs to work in tandem with the district and support continuous improvement in all areas.

What means would you use to further involve your constituents in the decision-making process:

As the Howard-Suamico School Board President, my primary goal is to ensure that the voices of our constituents are not only heard but actively involved in the decision-making process. This can be achieved through various means, including reviewing and understanding community surveys, frequent attendance at district events, and close collaboration with village leaders. Additionally, I prioritize responsiveness to constituents who reach out via phone or email.

I recognize the importance of working closely with our numerous community partners and civic groups, such as the HSBPA, Howard-Suamico Optimists, Howard-Suamico Historical Society, Howard-Suamico Education Foundation and others. These partnerships strengthen our engagement efforts and enrich our district’s programs.

The district’s Leadership HSSD program has been an incredibly successful community engagement program. As Board President, I’ve emphasized increasing communication channels, hosting more community linkages, and maintaining a commitment to transparency. By regularly meeting with various stakeholders, listening to all sides of an issue, and collaborating with district leadership, I can help to address community concerns and enhance our HSSD educational offerings.

A dynamic school district is essential for building a strong community, and I firmly believe that transparency and open communication are integral to achieving this goal. I’m grateful to live in a community where the district and its members work closely together to support our students.

Vanessa Moran (Incumbent)


Please provide your background, education and experiences that qualify you for the position:

Having been on the school board since 2018, I serve as our public policy correspondent, working to forge relationships with elected officials to advocate for beneficial policy and state law. In this role, I have played a pivotal role in securing increased per-pupil funding for our district.

I earned my bachelors degree in elementary education from the UW-Green Bay and hold a lifetime teaching license in the state of Wisconsin. Subsequently, I pursued my masters degree in educational leadership from the UW-Oshkosh, obtaining both principal and director of curriculum and instruction licenses.

My background and experiences uniquely qualify me to contribute effectively to the governance and oversight of our district. With nearly a decade of service as a teacher within our schools, during which time I was awarded the Golden Apple Award by the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, advocating for teachers’ perspectives was a primary motivation for my candidacy and remains a central focus today. This firsthand experience provides me with a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by educators and students.

Furthermore, my leadership experience in administrative roles, including dean of students, associate principal, and principal, has equipped me with essential skills in strategic planning, collaboration, and organizational management — critical for informed decision-making on the board.

Beyond my educational roles, I am actively involved in various volunteer initiatives within our community, including serving on the Partner Board for the Green Bay Feed My Starving Children MobilePack. This diverse engagement has broadened my perspective and fostered collaboration efforts beneficial to our staff and students.

Most importantly, my lifelong connection to our district and community drives my passion for its success. As a proud resident and parent, I understand the vital role our schools play in the prosperity of our community. My goal as a board member is to leverage my experiences and dedication to contribute positively to the ongoing growth and excellence of our district, ensuring that every student thrives and our community flourishes.

What developments would you like to see the district make over the upcoming term:

Over the upcoming term, I envision several key developments that I believe would greatly benefit our district and its stakeholders. Forging a new pathway with a new superintendent stands out as the primary focus. Though change may evoke apprehension, it also presents an opportunity to chart a course toward progress. Collaborating with staff, students, families, and the community will be pivotal during this period of change. Making collaboration a primary emphasis will ensure that diverse perspectives are heard and valued, fostering a sense of ownership and collective responsibility for the district’s success.

Addressing challenging student behaviors is also a key priority. I recognize the significant impact that this can have on the learning environment and overall academic success. My approach involves exploring and ensuring the implementation of proactive strategies to support positive behavior and create a safe, inclusive, and conducive learning environment for all students. This includes fostering partnerships with families and community organizations to support students’ holistic development.

Additionally, I aim to prioritize teacher recruitment and retention within our district. Understanding the pivotal role educators play in shaping student success, I am committed to implementing initiatives that foster a supportive and fulfilling work environment. This includes providing competitive compensation, professional growth opportunities, and a robust support network for our teachers. By demonstrating our appreciation for their contributions, we can cultivate a vibrant educational community that attracts and retains top talent, ultimately enriching the learning experience for all students.

What means would you use to further involve your constituents in the decision-making process:

To enhance constituent involvement in decision-making, I propose a comprehensive strategy centered on transparency, accessibility, and community engagement. Leveraging digital platforms like interactive forums provides a convenient avenue for constituents to share perspectives and contribute ideas. Regular updates via social media and print publications, such as our quarterly newsletter, ensure ongoing communication and encourage participation.

Additionally, I believe in strengthening our board’s Linkage Meetings, which serve as face-to-face forums for engaging with various stakeholder groups. These meetings offer constituents the opportunity to voice concerns, ask questions, and provide input on critical issues facing the district. Continuing to make these meetings a priority will lead to increased dialogue between constituents and board members. One improvement I would advocate for is to publicize these events more widely to increase attendance. It would also be prudent to implement some form of post-session follow-up to reassure participants that their feedback has been heard and their concerns understood, ensuring that actionable items are appropriately addressed.

By integrating online platforms with community Linkages, we can create a collaborative decision-making framework that ensures constituents are actively involved and their voices are heard. This inclusive approach fosters trust, accountability, and transparency within the community, ultimately leading to more informed and effective decision-making on the school board.

Suamico Village Board

Andy Congdon


Please provide your background, education and experiences that qualify you for the position:

A quick background of me, and who I am, starts with my family. I have a wonderful wife with two boys aged five and four. Going into politics was always tied to them in that I want to help shape their community to be a safe and happy place to grow up in. I am a doctor of optometry and run my own private practice, which requires compassion for patients and financial responsibility. Taking care of my patients comes second to family, but it is a passion of mine. My experience in politics includes one year on the board of appeals (2016), currently serving on the planning and zoning commission since 2017 and ethics board. Working on the planning and zoning commission has given me a lot of experience on how government operates, how meetings are conducted, and how to respect other’s opinion. I have watched my fellow commissioners and I try to emulate their respect of each other and the public with their comments. Being able to look someone in the eye and listen to their concerns is what I do every day as an optometrist, and I want to extend that ability to the village board. I ask for your vote to the board as I am experienced in our government, and in business which I think can benefit Suamico. I am not doing this on a whim and have planned on running since 2017. Serving on the planning and zoning was my choice to put in the time to decide if this job would be something I could handle and would enjoy doing. I think that being a Trustee isn’t something that is easy and learning on the job would have taken valuable resources from you the taxpayer.

What developments would you like to see the village make over the upcoming term:

The upcoming term will oversee the Comprehensive Plan, which is the blueprint for what Suamico will grow into for the next decade. I am for smart targeted growth in areas, such as the 41 corridor, that would add customers to our water utilities without disrupting the makeup of our village. There are two paths Suamico can take, increased property taxes and water utility costs, or we can grow our tax base. We don’t have to start building apartments everywhere, but we do need to start thinking about what developments we can build that will improve the revenue the village takes in. Every year costs go up, either with payroll, fixing roads/utilities, and materials. Either we pass that cost onto you, the taxpayer, or we find new revenue streams. Lack of growth has led to increases in your taxes and utility costs. If someone claims they are trying to save you money, serve on the board for over a decade, and your costs have only risen, it may be time to try a new approach. We have talked at the planning and zoning level on the need to determine what Suamico will become. There is so much to offer here and we can maximize things like the NEW Zoo and our water access to Lake Michigan. I ask for your vote to grow Suamico, without changing the small town feel and rural character.

What means would you use to further involve your constituents in the decision-making process:

Ultimately my job as Trustee would be to serve the residents of Suamico. The best way to understand what the people want is to be able to hear their concerns. Currently, at my optometry office, I pride myself on my accessibility to my patients. Communication can be difficult between government and people as we all have lives that pull us in every direction. The best way to communicate in this generation is by phone or digitally. Texting is always an easy and quick way to communicate, which is why I have my phone number available — (920) 940-8488 — I will try to answer the call or you can leave a voicemail, and best yet, you can text your concerns anytime. If you want a yard sign, just send me a text! I have a Facebook (Congdon 4 Trustee) that I am active on and will respond to messages and comments. If I am lucky enough to get your vote onto the board, I will have an issued email, which I will be diligently responding to any concerns. I promise not to inject national politics into local concerns as I do not affiliate with any one party. Identity politics in local, non-partisan, elections is irresponsible in my opinion. My goal is to be as moderate as possible and really keep what is best for Suamico at the top of my mind. I thank you for your vote this April 2.

Michelle Eckert (Incumbent)


Please provide your background, education and experiences that qualify you for the position:

I’m your current village trustee and a Suamico Public Works and Utility Commission member. My education is an associate degree in physical therapy from NWTC.

My husband and I married 28 years ago and moved to Suamico. We raised our adult daughter here in the Howard Suamico school district. As a member of St Benedict’s Catholic church, I’m also a parish council member.

On warm summer nights you will often see my husband and I biking around various neighborhoods or kayaking down the Suamico River. I’m a gardener, reader, chicken keeper and a fish keeper. I’m wise with household finances and village spending.

What developments would you like to see the village make over the upcoming term:

It isn’t about what I would like to see. It’s the reality of the issues that come in front of us that we must deal with.

Lineville reconstruction will occur in 2024 and 2025. We must all remember Suamico businesses and continue to patronize them even while the county reconstructs this road.

As the capital sewer debt charge comes off of our sewer bill, a new water tower and well financing will need to be discussed.

I’m the trustee with experience that will deal with needs without extravagance. Throughout my time on the board, you can see I’m the person that is not obsessed with government wants and luxuries.

What means would you use to further involve your constituents in the decision-making process:

I encourage constituents to watch our meetings on Facebook. When committees have openings, it is a good way for residents to give the village the value of their experience.

So often newcomers move here and try to turn Suamico into the place from which they fled. I encourage people that have a concern about overdevelopment to get on the committee to update our comprehensive plan. We need fiscally responsible people on this committee or the updated plan will turn into a “big government wish list.”

Mark D. Stevens


Please provide your background, education and experiences that qualify you for the position:

Highest Education: bachelors degree in architecture.

Accreditations: architect, finance and business strategy – Templeton College, Oxford England; Lean Six Sigma Black Belt; improvement specialists – Villanova University. Current employment: 21 years as principal of manufacturing and distribution consulting for 19th largest accounting firm — providing people, process, equipment and technology solutions nationwide. Relevant experiences: advising manufacturers and distributors for 40 years; architect designing complex industrial and commercial buildings; business process engineering; working with large complex organizations; visionary with advanced critical thinking skills; business technology solutions and data analysis.

What developments would you like to see the village make over the upcoming term:

A steady path of completion for the 2024-26 strategic initiatives including open communication on progress and setbacks.

Multimedia listening and updating sessions:

In addition to the current in person sessions, provide an option where participants can join remotely using possibly Microsoft Teams to freely ask questions and hear updates on the village’s strategic initiatives.

Because effective communication is so important to us, I believe it would be helpful for the village president to do monthly podcasts sharing exciting news and progress on our village’s strategic initiatives. He may even consider inviting others to join him.

Sensible growth while protecting the charm of our community:

I have heard during my campaign conversations; property taxes are increasing too fast and the importance to reduce them. I agree we need to be extremely cautious with escalating costs. Equally we must consider the possibilities for economic growth to offset inflation, required infrastructure and community investments.

I will turn my attention to understanding how we spend money today, look for options to manage costs and make our tax dollars go further. I will also target increasing economic growth by attracting businesses that match our village culture and residential development that increases our property value and keeps our rural community appeal intact.

Adequate infrastructure, facilities, equipment, and staffing:

Infrastructure and village operations represents the largest portion of expenses and investments and is full of outside opinions of where to spend and invest. I will focus on building a deeper understanding of the business rationale behind the water supply investments and proposed infrastructure (water and sewer) expansions.

I will couple my experiences including listening to community perspectives and begin evaluating the business rationale behind large expenses and investments and be the voice of alternatives.

What means would you use to further involve your constituents in the decision-making process:

I have accumulated decades of business experiences that align well with our 2024-26 strategic areas of focus. With so many strategic initiatives in progress my business rationale experiences, advanced problem solving, group consensus building, and project management skills will help us achieve quicker and more efficient results.

Problem Solving and Consensus Building:

My contributions as an architect designing facilities and a Process Improvement Expert reengineering business processes has resulted in high performance businesses with effective processes inside. I have accumulated practices that combine people, business processes, equipment, technology, and buildings into special places.

Possibility Thinking:

I have traveled to and experienced other similar communities that I moved businesses to. I have witnessed unique features that make communities stand out and believe from these experiences we can explore more possibilities as one group.

Technology Advancements:

For the last 21 years I have led a manufacturing technology consulting practice for the 19th largest accounting firm helping hundreds of manufacturers grow through people, process, and technology solutions. These experiences will help increase our village’s productivity through the use of technology.

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