compiled by V1 Staff photos Joel Pearish design Eric Christenson video Nick Meyer
Less than 48 hours before the dawn of 2020, we invited a group of 14 locals to sit down and talk about the decade ahead in Eau Claire. To this group, we posed four forward-thinking, community-focused questions covering what they’re excited about, what’s one thing we need most, what needs to be fixed, and what are their biggest hopes for the 10 years ahead of us.
The responses they offered say a lot about who we are now and what we might become – if we listen to one another, break down barriers, support our local community, and work together with renewed dedication. But their answers only scratch the surface. Watch the videos, read some of their words, and add to the discussion below with your own thoughts on what Eau Claire’s next 10 years should bring.
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“I think we need to look for more visionary leadership and people that aren’t afraid to take chances, and to try things that are maybe not as conventional as we’re used to here.”
Greg Johnson artist & business owner
“I think in this time of trying to raise a lot of money for different projects, I understand why it hasn’t happened, but I really wish we had a new YMCA, because so many people in the community use it.”
Nickolas Butler author
“It would be awesome to get an indie film house here & That’s my own little private wish.”
Jerrika Mighelle musician
“My personal biggest hope is that people are not afraid to be who they are. I see way too many people in different sectors of this community who just don’t feel like they are accepted as people.”
Mireya Sigala community advocate
“Creative thinking. The rise of the creative class in government, in the University, the arts, industry, entrepreneurship, all those kinds of things put together. There’s no substitute for big ideas.”
Brady Foust professor emeritus & entrepreneur
“You want to have people who just moved here feel like they’re home right away. And it's not that I think that we don't have that. I think we just can do a better job of being inclusive to everybody and allowing everybody to feel like they're safe, and that they have a home here.”
Sarah Jayne Johnson retail manager & writer
“When people start getting down and start using the drugs that are prevalent in the community — it’s not just methamphetamine, there’s heroin, there’s fentanyl, there’s all sorts of things that are out there — they quit having their ability to be employed, they lose their homes. There are other reasons why people become homeless as well, but those are areas we need to work on in order to make this community better.”
John Manydeeds judge
“I think we need MORE opportunities for people to gather outside.”
Vicki Hoehn community engager
“We’re only as strong as our business community is. As individuals and business leaders, if we’re supporting our local businesses first, we can only all thrive and grow from that.”
Tracey Smiskey bank leader
“It's incredibly important we think about the community as a region or ‘micro region.’ We have to be thinking of ourselves as the Chippewa Valley and not individual communities within it. We need to be able to market it and sell it and act and behave as if we are one local region competing against a much bigger world for a place that people want to live, work, and play.”
Dale Peters city manager
“I’m most excited for the food and beverage scene. I think it’s got a fantastic start and foundation here in the last few years. I’m most excited to see A.) where it’s going to go and B.) to see people really, truly embrace it.”
Jorja Vradenburg-Hall food & hospitality coordinator
“I think Eau Claire needs to expose the bigotry that does happen in this city, unfortunately. We see it everywhere. But if we really want to continue with being LBGTQ-friendly and being a diverse city, we need to invite people into our city and let them know that bigotry is not going to be tolerated here. So exposing that for what it is. Not ridiculing people and putting them on blast, but coming from a place of understanding and education.”
“Iowa City has this thing called a ped mall, and cars are banned downtown. Basically all the roads are shopping streets. Kind of like the Haymarket Plaza, but extending down to all of South and North Barstow … Instead of cars, I envision restaurants would have their seating outside.”
“… if we move into a space that we can live every day being an anti-racist person in everything that we do, we can really make this place a more safe and wonderful community for all of us to live.”
Brooke Jee-in Newmaster Artistic Director, Collaborator
Chime in below with your own thoughts on Eau Claire’s next 10 years. Share your own ideas and questions, or consider those we asked in the videos above.
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aBa is an associate professor of mathematics at UW-Eau Claire. You’ve likely seen aBa, a native of New York City, biking around town on his colorful, streamer-bedecked vintage bicycle.
Nickolas Butler is the critically acclaimed author of many works of fiction, including Shotgun Lovesongs and Little Faith.
Brady Foust is a geographer, entrepreneur, raconteur, and professor emeritus of geography at the UW-Eau Claire, where he taught for 38 years.
Vicki Hoehn has worked at Royal Credit Union for the last 38 years, and currently serves as Vice President of Community Engagement. She plans to retire in April 2020.
Sarah Jayne Johnson is a humor writer and the retail manager at Odd Humyns, an arts and apparel store in downtown Eau Claire.
Greg Johnson is the owner of Artisan Forge Studios. He’s a craftsman specializing in wood and metal, and an advocate for the arts.
John Manydeeds is an Eau Claire County Circuit Court judge and a former public defender. An enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, he previously served on the Eau Claire County Board.
Jerrika Mighelle is a singer and songwriter who lives and performs in Eau Claire. She hosts a radio show called Tunes from the Womb, which focuses on music made by women and the LGBTQ+ community.
Brooke Jee-in Newmaster, owner of Kgam Studios in Eau Claire, teaches traditional Korean dance and drumming in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Born in South Korea, she grew up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.
Dale Peters has served the City of Eau Claire in different administrative positions for over 30 years. He took over as City Manager in 2016.
Mireya Sigala is a board member of El Centro de Conexión de Chippewa Valley, a nonprofit that serves the Latino community. A native of Barron, Mireya works professionally as an adjudicator for the State of Wisconsin.
Tracey Smiskey is the Market President of Northwestern Bank in Eau Claire. She also serves as Life & Times Member Keeper for the Eau Claire chapter of Polka Dot Powerhouse, a women-focused business networking group.
TeawhYB is an alternative hip hop/R&B artist and activist based in Eau Claire.
Jorja Vradenburg-Hall is an Eau Claire native and Food & Beverage Coordinator for Pablo Group.