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Feingold visits Hurley

Senate candidate kicks off statewide tour in Northwoods


January 6, 2016

Richard Jenkins/DailyGlobe

FORMER U.S. Senator, and current Senate candidate, Russ Feingold visited Iron County's University of Wisconsin Extension Office Tuesday as part of a kick-off for a statewide campaign tour. Among those attending the meeting were - clockwise from left - Feingold, Amy Nosal, Darrin Kimbler, Neil Klemme and Will Andresen.


Hurley - Former U.S. Senator, and current Senate candidate, Russ Feingold visited Iron County's University of Wisconsin Extension Office Tuesday as part of a kick-off for a statewide campaign tour.

Feingold met with four members of the extension office for approximately 30 minutes in an informal setting, with the extension employees discussing the work they do and Feingold asking questions about challenges facing the area.

Will Andresen, the department head and community resource development agent for the extension office, began by explaining that while many of the extension offices around the state have four general programming areas - community development, youth development, family living and horticulture - Iron County is fairly unique in its ability to integrate these programming areas to work toward the area's problems. Andresen explained his view that a significant issue for the area is the "rural brain drain."

"Basically we have a disinvestment in the community, people are moving away and investment isn't coming in," said Andresen. "... So we've decided the only way to address a complex issue like that is in a multidisciplinary way. There's a whole slew of reasons for (the brain drain) and if we only look at it through one lens, we are going to miss the boat. So we take all four program areas - instead of having four program areas doing different things, all important, our four program areas are all working toward the same common objective, which is to engage young people in creating a healthy community.

"... So that's kind of what's different about this office than most, is I think we have deeper issues. I think we studied them pretty hard, what the complexity of that issue is - the multi-generational brain drain quite frankly - and we can't just look at it through traditional job creation or economic development (lenses). Of course that's one leg of the stool but it's not the only leg."

Along with Andresen, Youth Development Agent Neil Klemme, Horticulture Assistant Darrin Kimbler and Interim Family Living Educator Amy Nosal talked with Feingold regarding their work.

Among the items discussed was Klemme's efforts to engage the county's youth and help them develop life skills by incorporating resumes and job interviews into various aspects of his programming to prepare them for the workforce. Kimbler and Nosal also discussed the development of the area's farmers markets and improving the community's food network.

Among the questions Feingold asked was about the area's access to broadband Internet, noting the importance Internet access had on creating businesses in rural areas such as Iron County by allowing people to work remotely.

The ensuing discussion brought up several small businesses in the area that are able to develop clients around the country through the Internet.

"By the end of this year, I want to know about all this stuff all over the state, because I don't think people realize it," Feingold said, regarding the online businesses. "There is a lot of fantastic stuff going on that I don't think people realize (is happening)."

The expansion of broadband capabilities will allow younger people who are attracted to the area for its recreational opportunities to stay longer, or permanently move to Iron County, the extension staff told Feingold.

"You don't need to pack up the car and travel 5 hours away to recreate, you want to have that recreation (in your backyard)," Kimbler said, referring to why some people move to the Northwoods.

"It's a lifestyle difference. Kids are figuring out where they want to live and then figuring out how to make it happen," Andresen added.

Andresen explained that ultimately, the key to the area's success is likely found in accentuating its strengths rather than trying too hard to fix its weaknesses.

"If our goal is to become an average county, we're not going to win. ... Our goal is to be the best at what we do, which is snow, trees, hills, trails and water," Andresen said. "That's not going to hit everybody. People who want to go shopping probably won't come to Iron County. But people who want those things will more and more as we go forward."

Feingold praised the office's efforts and promised to be back.

"This was inspiring, I mean it. I love what you are doing, I love your attitude. This is great," Feingold said at the end of the meeting.

He told the Daily Globe after the meeting, Tuesday was the first day of a tour of every county in Wisconsin, beginning with Vilas and Iron counties. He also toured the state last year after announcing his intent to run for the U.S. Senate.

The discussion Tuesday - and those had last year - tended to be positive, Feingold said, while acknowledging people were worried about the economy.

"What I'm finding is people are more optimistic than you would expect, given sort of the national politics. But the biggest concern is that middle-class and working families are feeling that they can't pay their bills, that the economic recovery hasn't come fast enough," he told the Daily Globe.

"I'm not picking up the same anger that everybody talks about, I find when I talk about the future in a positive way people want to hear that."


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