APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Monday was a busy day for both candidates running for Outagamie County executive.
The incumbent Tom Nelson is running for his fourth term as Outagamie County executive. Voters first elected him to the position in 2011. His challenger is Kevin Sturn who has served as a county supervisor and as the chair of the county’s finance committee.
Both men have campaigned hard in the final days ahead of the election.
“One day away and I’m just going to keep on knocking on doors until the very end,” said Sturn.
“We’re coming up on 4,000 (doors knocked) just for this election alone,” said Nelson.
Nelson said he really enjoys getting to talk to constituents when he’s campaigning and it gives him an opportunity to learn what issues matter most to the people of Outagamie County. He said he’s had his foot on the gas the last four months campaigning for the county executive position.
“You always campaign, just like if you’re playing basketball or some sort of sport you always hear that you want to play like you’re 10 points behind, even if you’re 10 points ahead or 20 points ahead so that’s been my strategy that I approach the entire campaign with,” said Nelson.
Nelson has run unopposed the last two times he’s run for county executive. Last year, he ran for Wisconsin’s U.S. senate seat as a candidate for the Democratic party. Nelson dropped out of the race in July before the primary. He has received criticism for running for a partisan office while simultaneously holding the county executive position.
He also received criticism after an anonymous group produced data through a freedom of information request with the county showing how much time Nelson had spent in his work office while he was campaigning for the U.S. Senate seat. His detractors argued that the lack of time spent in his office showed he wasn’t committed to doing the job of the county executive.
“My record speaks for itself, we have a declining tax rate, an Aaa bond rating, and an airport that supports 3,000 jobs in our community,” said Nelson.
Nelson has also said the executive position is a job where you’re constantly traveling around the county making time spent in a work office irrelevant.
Nelson also helped to prevent a Fox Valley paper mill from getting sold to an industrial scrap dealer saving many jobs, adding miles of walking and biking trails to the county, and allocating millions of dollars of American Rescue Plan Act funds to area small businesses and nonprofits to help them make it through the pandemic.
He said on Monday afternoon that if re-elected the county executive job would be his top priority.
“I’ll do everything I can to make sure that this county remains in solid financial standing, that we continue to have the best possible services at the lowest possible price to our constituents,” said Nelson.
Sturn spent his Monday afternoon going door-to-door talking with voters and handing out some of his campaign literature. He said getting to do this is one of his favorite parts of campaigning.
“This is the part that I like, you get to meet people, people tell you how they’re feeling,” said Sturn.
Sturn is a farmer, school bus driver for the Hortonville school district, and plow driver. He was the county’s finance committee chairperson for four years and was on the county board for eight years.
He’s earned endorsement from county board chair Jeff Nooyen, sheriff Clint Kriewaldt, and clerk of courts Barb Bocik among other leaders in Outagamie County.
“It comes down to business experience,” said Sturn. “The fact that I want to keep the politics out of it. When I chaired the finance committee I had people who I worked with on both sides of the aisle.”
Sturn said he’s proud of his campaign and said he’s been trying to keep things positive and avoid unnecessary attacks on his opponent. He said running for this position showed him how nasty people can get on social media.
“I want to talk about me, my qualifications, and the people who endorse me and know me and are backing me up on that,” said Sturn. “That’s the way I was raised (to be positive and not attack others), do unto others as you would want done onto you, and I’ve lived my life that way.”
Both candidates tell Local Five News that they will spend election night at their homes with their families. Sturn and Nelson said they’re taking nothing for granted, although both said they’re proud of the campaigns that they have run so far.