Iron County residents hungry for change

By KBJR News 1

April 2, 2014 Updated Apr 2, 2014 at 9:52 PM CDT

Hurley, Wis. (NNCNOW.com) -- The Iron County Board elections over the years have been typically uneventful as many of the seats have gone uncontested.

However, with issues such as mining dividing the county, Tuesday's elections indicate that some people are hungry for change.

Ten of the 15 members on the Iron county board faced opponents in Tuesday night's election, which some say is a rare occurrence indicative of these more divisive times.

"I think that was an indication that people in Iron County were not exactly happy with the status quo," said Victor Ouimette, who was elected to fill the the District 11 seat.

Ouimette beat out incumbent Jim Lambert of Mercer 106 to 89.

One of the main issues dividing the county is mining. Recently a flyer bought and paid for by "American's For Prosperity," a group funded largely by the Koch brothers, claimed Ouimette is an anti-mining radical.

"I'm not at all opposed to responsible mining, I never have been, but the key word there is responsible," said Ouimette.

It is uncertain if the flyers did anything to persuade voters, but it may have brought more attention to the issue.

The Koch Brothers own Koch Industries, the second largest privately held company in the United States with billions in assets, and many are wondering why they are involved in county level politics.

"I think people are beginning to ask questions, and one of the questions I hope they ask is why are billionaires trying to tell us how to vote," said Jim Limbach. He currently lives in Steven's Point, Wis., but is making plans to move to Ashland, Wis.

Ouimette says he intends to ask a lot of questions of Gogebic Taconite's proposed Iron Ore mine, which others say is what the board needs.

"Now they will get a couple voices on the board, hopefully it's more than one that might ask those questions, and it might loosen things up," said Limbach.

Other issues Ouimette hopes to work on is making sure the actions and resources of the Iron county Aging Unit are fairly and equitably distributed.

He says besides the proposed mine, Iron County needs to look at other sources of economic growth. Ouimette says tourism and attracting retirees to the area have untapped potential.

The other two new members on the Iron County Board include Karl Krall of Saxon and Brad Mattson of Sherman.

Posted to the web by Kati Anderson.