Shell Lake mayor contest: Dryden challenges incumbent Peterson

Danielle Danford | Staff writer
SHELL LAKE — The April 7 election for Shell Lake mayor is the only local election with a contest between two candidates. The candidates running for election are Matthew C. Dryden and Sally Peterson.
Dryden is a Shell Lake business owner and local high school graduate. Peterson has served as Shell Lake mayor for the past 10 years and served on the city council prior to that. Both candidates were asked the same six questions. Their answers to those questions follow in alphabetical order by last name.
Why are you running for the mayoral position? 
Dryden: I love Shell Lake. It’s my hometown. I want to see residents and businesses in Shell Lake be successful. I want to see Shell Lake offer business opportunities and more housing so others can enjoy what we already know to be true: Shell Lake is the best city in Wisconsin. Being involved in my businesses puts me in front of people all year long. One of the things I hear from nonresidents is, “I wish I could live here.” This is a profound statement that reiterates how great of an area we live in.
I have been very fortunate to have received so much support from this community since I returned in 2007 to open The Body Shop Fitness Center. Since then, I have been able to open and grow numerous business ventures that I believe have become an integral part for many of the local residents and visitors. Since the summer of 2019, I have been part of the Shell Lake Chamber and have worked alongside other community members and city officials to successfully fundraise, plan and promote local events. I want to be able to give back to the community that has helped me be successful in my work and family life.
I want to use my experiences to help the city of Shell Lake move forward in housing and business growth.
I believe one of the responsibilities of the mayor’s office is that he or she needs to be the chief representative of the city in relations with the media. Oftentimes with word-of-mouth communication, information can be miscommunicated, like the children’s game of “telephone.” With today’s local news sources including print, digital and social media, I feel we need to utilize the speed and multiple ways we can get accurate information out to our community to ensure they are well-informed.
Peterson: Shell Lake has been my home for many years, and I feel lucky that I was able to raise my family and put down roots here. I feel a great deal of joy and pride in being able to serve our community. As mayor of Shell Lake, I am excited to see current projects come to completion and look forward to what we can accomplish in the near future.
It has been very rewarding to see what our city government has been able to achieve over the past 10 years. There are various projects, both big and small, but some of the highlights include: Major road improvements within the city, including those made to Third Street, Eighth Avenue and Sand Road; the new ATV trailhead and campground, which will help promote continued tourism and recreation in our area; the new government center opening later this year, which puts more offices under one roof, bringing additional businesses to the community; and the new Shell Lake Clinic that is now open, offering an updated, modern health care facility for our residents and surrounding area.
During my tenure as mayor, I have enjoyed working closely with our citizens, as well as other city, county and state government officials, to determine the needs of our community and identify ways to continually make it a place where people love to live, work and visit. I look forward to continuing that commitment for another term.
If elected what are your goals for your term?
Dryden: Housing and business retention are priorities.
Housing: The city is currently working on expanded housing in Shell Lake, and some major projects regarding housing issues are forthcoming. I have had the opportunity to search out and speak with individuals involved with our current senior housing projects and the needs that they are dealing with, as well as hearing from our local community residents on the lack of affordable housing. With this information, I have spoken to some individuals that are currently or have been previously involved with successful Tax Incremental Districts such as Andy Eiche, Chuck Levine and our local state representative, Romaine Quinn.
As mayor, I will continue to look to others who have had past experience and successes in such areas when we design and implement these programs. These programs, when designed correctly, have a large impact reducing the tax roll for the residents of the city in which the TID is located.
Business growth: As mayor, having the opportunity to be involved with the creation of a TID, I look forward to the chance to bring in new businesses to the area. It is currently written that the TID will have a portion of area designed for industrial growth. With every new business we move into town, we have the opportunity to help build resources for our city and our residents.
Peterson: One of the top concerns for many residents, including myself, is the continued protection of our lake. Monitoring lake conditions, providing invasive species inspectors, and helping everyone comply with and understand regulations related to the lake are a top priority. Additionally, we will focus on lake level control so that we are prepared if measures for water diversion would ever need to be considered.
Continued improvement and maintenance of our roads and infrastructure are also a top priority. As mentioned, there have been a number of road and infrastructure projects completed in recent years that I feel have greatly helped improve the everyday needs of residents.
More broadly, I will continue to voice my concerns at the city, county and state level regarding the availability of housing, whether it be for families, individuals or the elderly.
How do you feel about the city of Shell Lake’s current position? (economically, long-term)
Dryden: Unlike many other cities, Shell Lake has a city administrator, meaning that the mayor exercises the executive responsibility indirectly by monitoring the city administrator’s activities as well as the various departments of city government. Thankfully, I believe our city is in good hands with our current city administrator, department heads and city council, as well as numerous committees that make important decisions regarding the day-to-day operation of the city. As your mayor, I do not feel that meddling or micromanagement of these positions is necessary as it can be detrimental to the growth of these individuals in their positions and the growth of the city. I want to instill in them the confidence they need to make these important decisions that they are faced with.
I have had the opportunity to get to know and work with the city administrator, department heads and some of the council and committee members in the past with projects within the city pertaining to my businesses, as well as being the vice president of the Shell Lake Chamber. I have never felt or experienced a time that I have spoken with these individuals or committees that a snap decision was made. I have found them to offer discussion, constructive criticism, and well-thought-out questions to make sure they do their best to see the near future, as well as the distant future of Shell Lake. These qualities ensure the decisions they make are in the best interest of the city. Good communication with the mayor is required in order to have the ability to plan and work with them on our projects to better the city.
Peterson: I believe we are in a good financial position, thanks to the current administration and staff that we have. I welcome anyone to visit City Hall, attend one of our Shell Lake City Council meetings or call me for a more thorough explanation. We always encourage and welcome public input.
As mayor, I have maintained that while it is important to continue to look to the future and anticipate how we will fulfill the needs of our city, we must do this in a way that is financially responsible.
Why should city electors vote for you?
Dryden: As your mayor, I will uphold the oath of office and serve the people of the city of Shell Lake with the same passion and hard work that I have for my own personal businesses and relationships.
I have worked very hard to make a good name for myself. Ever since I was young, my parents always taught me that my name would be the most important thing I would have. I watched my father work all day, then put on his uniform and work all night as a local police officer, just to come home for a couple hours of sleep. And the next day, he would do it all over again. He taught me that hard work, a handshake and a man’s word were more important than any piece of paper I would ever hold.
Outside of the accomplishments of my family, I have worked very hard to hold these values true for myself and I believe people can see this and respect me in my personal life as well as in business.
Shell Lake is not just a place that I do business in but a place I cherish and call home.
Peterson: As an elected official, I firmly believe making yourself available and informed is key, which is why you will find me at City Hall most days of the week. This is the best way a mayor can keep informed, as things change or come up on a daily basis. I will always put the city and the protection of its assets first while still working to come up with ways to see our city grow.
How would your being elected mayor improve the city of Shell Lake?
Dryden: As previously mentioned, communication and support are two of the biggest areas. Every day, month and year the city and other organizations working with and within the city have done some great things. However, so many times we don’t hear about their accomplishments. How many know that the community center just had a new beautiful white drop ceiling with LED lighting installed? How many people noticed that the Tiptown ball courts had been resurfaced and trees and shrubbery cleared from the fence lines in 2018?
As mayor, I believe we need to make sure the community stays updated on such accomplishments. Being a resident in our city should be about more than just paying taxes and getting through another day. It should also be about what opportunities we can enjoy within our city.
As mayor I would continue to support organizations such as:
The Shell Lake Chamber, as they work to help promote our current business owners and are looking for ways to improve and promote them to help them stay viable in our community. The chamber is always trying to find ways to have events that allow our residents and visitors to enjoy our city.
Shell Lake Lions Club and the Masonic Lodge invest money and time in many projects to help keep our city beautiful and accessible to everyone.
Without these organizations and other individuals who give their time and money, the city would be hard-pressed to do many of these projects on its own. The office of the mayor has to be open to possibilities to cross-promote and communicate with these organizations and others to help the city thrive in the future.
Peterson: My focus in the near-term will be on preventative maintenance. I think it is prudent that we allocate the budget to smaller-dollar projects that allow us to maintain important services and infrastructure within the city, versus waiting until there is a problem that requires a greater deal of time, money and resources in order to be resolved. Investing in the smaller projects now helps us improve upon what we have and prevent bigger issues going forward. This includes strengthening the city’s preparedness for emergency situations, which is top of mind for many people right now during these uncertain times.
Having the continuity of a strong leadership team going into this next term will be an asset for the city of Shell Lake.
Is there anything else you think city electors should know before April 7?
Dryden: I may not know the answer to all your questions, but I will find someone who does. I am not one to always sugarcoat things; I won’t mislead or lie to you just to make you happy. Ultimately, I will always do my best to keep our city’s traditions alive, support our community organizations, keep us moving forward in business growth and work on getting the housing we need.
Peterson: I have been mayor for the past 10 years and prior to that I was a Shell Lake City Council member and council president for eight years. I love Shell Lake and its residents and will always make decisions that I feel are best for our community.

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