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Merrill's mayoral candidates identify housing, economic growth as top priorities

As the spring election approaches, several cities across the Northwoods have contested races for mayor.

One of those cities is Merrill, where the city’s former mayor, Bill Bialecki, is facing off against Steve Hass, a city council member.

Bialecki was mayor from 2010 until 2018. Now he’s a member of the county board and leads the Lincoln County Economic Development Corporation.

He says, if elected mayor, his top priorities would be housing, childcare and broadband.

“A lot of good things are happening in Lincoln County, but we still have a blight here,” he says. “One of my big plans as mayor is to keep that housing going, but we also are very deficient when it comes to affordable housing. We have affordable housing here, but not near enough for the demand.”

To address those issues, Bialecki says he’d like to continue the projects he started back when he was in office.

“I’d like to step back into office and just continue some of the projects that make Merrill a better place to live,” he says.

Steve Hass, who has served on Merrill’s city council for 13 years, also identified housing as a critical issue.

“Continuing the growth of the city, but in a more responsible manner, and trying to get our bond rating back, those are my two biggest issues,” he says.

Along with that, Hass says he hopes to retore civility in local government and encourage Merrill residents to get more engaged.

He also wants to focus on recruiting and retaining city employees.

“I plan on visiting departments when I’m elected mayor to restore morale that we’ve lost in the departments,” he says, “to reassure the workers that I’ll be there working for them and with them to make Merrill the best place there is.”

Both candidates encourage people to vote on April 5.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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