Three to face off in District 22 primary

Redistricting led to an area without incumbent
Kevin Passon

A vast majority of seats on a county board often only see one candidate – the incumbent – running for another term. Races are hard to come by for supervisory positions.

For residents of District 22 on the Shawano County Board, they not only have a race on their hands – they have a primary to boot.

Redrawing of the boundary lines of districts led to the formation of District 22 without any incumbent for the 2024 election cycle.

R. Raymond Rigsby, Anne L. Smith and Jerry Ahlers threw their hats in the ring, and a primary will be held Feb. 20 to narrow the three candidates to two. The two winners will square off April 2 in the general election.

How rare is it to have a primary or even a contested race? Of the 26 other spots on the county board, only six have contested races this year.

District 22 includes the Town of Morris, Ward 2; Town of Seneca, Ward 1; Town of Grant, Ward 1; and city of Marion, Ward 4.

So, who are the candidates for District 22?

Ahlers is retired after decades of being self-employed, first as a farmer and then as the owner of Ahlers Seamless Gutter (which his son now operates).

He also spent about 20 years on the Tigerton and Marion school boards, having finally stepping aside a few years ago.

“I care about taxpayer dollars,” he said. “I don’t really have any complaints on how the county is being run. I don’t have any personal agenda. I’m just for the people.”

He said communication can help solve a lot of issues. A lot of people get angry over certain issues, but if officials are up front and talk about the issues, much of that anger disappears.

“I don’t want anyone to be afraid to talk to me. I want them to call me and talk to me. I don’t care what it’s about,” he said. “I can always direct them to the right person if I don’t know the answers.”

Rigsby is originally from Alabama and served 24 years in the U.S. Army.

After moving to Shawano County, he did some substitute teaching, then served a few years in permanent teaching jobs. The last two years, he’s been a full-time teacher of fourth- and fifth-grade special education students in Gresham.

Remarried now, he has three children from his first marriage, and they are all teenagers.

He’s spent nearly a decade as the town clerk in the Town of Seneca.

“I enjoy the board, working together to help the community,” he said. “I enjoy learning about local government in Wisconsin and how it works.”

Rigsby is a big believer in giving back to the community. He’s also a member of the Gresham Lions Club and commander of Gresham’s American Legion Post 390.

He’s also a big believer in governments working together to solve problems, whether that’s teaming up for grant applications or joining forces to improve the quality of life for residents.

“I’m 57 years old, but I don’t want to slow down,” Rigsby said. “I’ve had a lot of fun with the people I’ve met.”

He knows both of his opponents, and he said if he is not voted in as supervisor, he would look forward to working with the person who is chosen.

Smith, a Town of Morris resident, is a retired teacher, having spent 24 years in the Bowler School District. She then worked as a substitute teacher in the Wittenberg-Birnamwood School District and served eight years on the Bowler School Board.

“My two main reasons … fiscal responsibility and learning about our communities,” she said about running for the board. “I can stay involved with my communities, learn more about government, and there’s a need out there.”

Smith is married to Tom Smith, who grew up in Caroline. They have there daughters, three sons-in-law and 11 grandchildren.

She has two major themes as her focus.

“To be fiscally responsible for any vote I cast while knowing the reasons for and expenditures the board is responsible for. As taxpayers, we also care where our tax dollars are going,” Smith said. “To be knowledgeable and informed about our communities and the needs of the people in them. There are many things that can be overlooked at times, and hopefully, I can address some of those needs.”