Written by Chad Dally
Though Jonathan Fisher and his wife, Gretchen, moved to Marathon County just 5 years ago, to speak with him is to speak with someone whose love for — and dedication to — the surrounding area is on par with lifelong residents of the county.
Fisher, 37, represents District 38 on the Marathon County Board of Supervisors, which includes Ward 1 of the Town of Berlin, the Town of Stettin Ward 4, and all of the Village of Maine. It’s the first elected office he’s held, and it’s a district he’s represented for less than 1 year, having been elected to the seat in April 2020.
In several ways, Fisher is the embodiment of the coveted “young professional” sought by cities and states across the country to bring fresh blood and new ideas to the table. In fact, Fisher shared that’s one of the reasons he decided to run for the County Board:
“One thing I did see a lot of [on the board] was kind of the standard ‘Well, we’ve always done it that way’ mentality. In my particular industry, that’s one thing, as soon as it comes out of someone’s mouth, it’s like ‘Ugh. That’s not what I want to hear.’”
The industry in which Fisher works is finance and accounting. He’s currently working (from home due to the pandemic) as a financial business director for Nationwide Indemnity, a job that includes financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting, and income statements, among other responsibilities.
Fisher grew up in the small northwest Pennsylvania town of Bradford — which has “more deer than people,” he jokingly said of it — and completed his Bachelor’s degree in Finance at Penn State University before moving on to complete his MBA at Cleveland State University. In addition, he’s currently halfway through coursework and testing to become a Certified Public Accountant.
Fisher believes there’s a place for the above-mentioned “We’ve always done it this way” approach when something has repeatedly been tested and needs no changes. But part of the approach he brings to the board is a willingness to “shake out the old ideas to see if they’re still applicable.”
Another reason Fisher decided to run for County Board Supervisor is his desire to give back to his community — something that began in his younger days as a Boy Scout and continues to this day. Fisher is currently an officer with the Wausau Elks Lodge 248, and not only is he a part of the Ski Patrol team at Granite Peak Ski Area in Rib Mountain, but he also teaches outdoor emergency care to new members of the team.
Fisher recognizes that a desire to pitch in around our local community is a common one in Marathon County:
“A great thing about the greater Wausau area, and across the county, is how often people are looking to see ‘How can I help? What can I do to help my community, help my town, my village, help my city?’ And you do see that a lot, and I do appreciate that.”
Fisher said he and his wife are also doing what they can to help the environment through their interest in sustainability and renewable energy. They installed a solar power system on their property and set up a geothermal heating and cooling system for their home, on top of composting and driving an electric car.
He’s also had some success in advocating for a cleaner environment among residents in his district when it comes to things like clean water, sharing:
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, yeah, we all need safe drinking water’ and they kind of leave it at that. But I’ve been able to connect with a few of my constituents in the simple nature of, ‘You know, if your well gets ruined, your property value goes to nothing.’”
Fisher is using his background in finance and accounting as a member of the County’s Human Resources, Property and Finance Committee to help guide the County Government through its 2021 budget process. That process — like so many other aspects of our daily lives — is made more difficult (or at least is different) than years past due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Fisher also serves on the County’s Solid Waste Management Board.)
During his campaign for the District 38 seat, Fisher frequently brought up the expansion of high-speed, broadband internet as one of his priorities. He said that although the top priority for the County’s 2021 Budget should be to maintain core government functions and services that residents have come to expect, he believed that expanding fast, reliable internet should also be high on the County Board’s list because it’s a service that businesses and individuals expect when considering whether to relocate to Marathon County.
Having reliable internet service is an issue that not only affects how area businesses and schools (and their employees and students) operate, but also has direct impacts in his own district, where internet — and even cell phone coverage — can be spotty. Fisher commented:
“If we cannot offer that service, we’re not going to be attracting the individuals that we want to come to the area. We’re not going to be attracting the younger professionals, the highly educated, that are going to come and potentially open new businesses or start new roles that are going to then snowball into the betterment for everyone. Also, we shouldn’t have business owners here in the county having to drive and sit next to Panera Bread to access their email or do their books at the end of the month.”
Fisher depends on reliable internet service for his full-time job (as does his wife, who is a clinical consultant and also works from home). And now, as a County Board Supervisor, he finds that having a stable internet connection has also become an important part of communicating with his constituents and board colleagues at a time when the coronavirus pandemic keeps people at a distance from each other and no longer conversing in the same room as they once did.
More broadly, Fisher said the pandemic requires County Board Supervisors to take some extra steps in Marathon County’s day-to-day business, as well as in building relationships with each other:
“It forces you to do the extra work to connect with people. You may go to a meeting and after the meeting, you stand around and chat, with the kind of organic relationships that grow out of things like that. You really have to make the added effort to build those kinds of relationships.”
As he gets to know other County Board Supervisors, and reflects on the board as a whole, Fisher said he’s optimistic about where the county is headed over the next several years — due in part to a board that is trending younger and more diverse:
“I think it’s vastly important we continue in that direction of attracting a diverse set of individuals that are willing to serve their community, and roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty when it comes to policymaking and pushing for new ideas. Some things may not be popular right off hand because it’s a huge change from what has happened over the last 20 to 30 years. But I think those kinds of things need to happen — that Band-Aid, on occasion, needs to get ripped off. So, I think we’re going to see some unique things come over the next several years.”
As for Fisher, he plans to continue getting his hands dirty with the work of the County Board, but also enjoys getting his hands in actual dirt around his home. It’s one of the reasons that he and his wife love Marathon County and plan to be around for a long time:
“We’ve got a little property here, we’ve got a hobby farm, a great big garden, couple little barns and some hens in the barn and the two dogs. We’re very happy with our environs here, and we’ve got absolutely lovely neighbors.”
With his roots firmly planted, Fisher’s next task is to talk up the area to all the other young professionals out there and convince them that the future of Marathon County is as bright as he believes it to be.
Library Specialist | Marathon County Public Library
Chad Dally is a library specialist with the Marathon County Public Library, where he’s worked since 2012. He splits his time at the library between reference and programming, and generally prefers to read nonfiction over fiction. Email Chad Dally
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