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Yackel, Russell Vie for Bench in Lincoln CountySubmitted: 03/29/2013

Ben Meyer
Executive Producer
bmeyer@wjfw.com


MERRILL - Voters across Wisconsin will pick the next State Superintendent and Supreme Court Justice on Tuesday.

But several places have local races, as well.

Lincoln County has an opening for one of its two Circuit Court judges.

John Yackel and Rob Russell will be on Tuesday's ballot in Lincoln County.

Both candidates for Circuit Court Judge say experience is what sets them apart most from their opponent.

But what kind of experience do you want?

"I'm the only one in this race that has made decisions and had to sentence individuals to prison," Yackel says. "I'm the only one in this race that has done what a judge is supposed to do."

Yackel has been on the bench since his appointment by Governor Walker last September.

That was to fill a hole after Judge Glenn Hartley retired.

"The voters now have the opportunity to make this decision. They haven't had this opportunity before," Russell says.

Russell is a Lincoln County native, and returned to Merrill in 1992.

"I've been practicing law here ever since. I have a little over 20 years legal experience," Russell says.

Russell points out that Yackel didn't even live in Lincoln County until his appointment six months ago.

Russell views that as a mark against Yackel.

"I guess the voters are going to decide that. I'm originally from Hayward. I was born and raised with the same Northwoods traditions and values we all share," Yackel says.

The campaign has been almost like a second full time job for each candidate.

"It's been very busy, very stressful, but at the same time, very rewarding because of the people I've met and the places I've been," Russell says.

"I have been getting to know as many people as I can since I took the bench. In the last two months, we've been putting up signs, knocking on doors, doing lit drops, doing interviews," Yackel says.

So who has the advantage going into Tuesday's general election?

"I don't think either side knows how it's going to go," laughs Yackel.

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That's because the Plum Lake Town Board voted against opening up parts of two roads: Kurtzweil Road and Birch Spring Road. Both are on the border of Sayner and St. Germain and are shared between the two towns.

A few months ago, St. Germain asked Plum Lake to open parts of those roads as part of an ATV route. At first, the Plum Lake Town Board approved them. That was before they found out a section of Kurtzweil Road was completely in Plum Lake.

"At that time the Plum Lake Town Board by a 2 to 1 vote approved letting them use that, assuming at the time the two roads were boundary roads equally shared by Sayner and St. Germain," said Will Maines, the Plum Lake Town Chairman.

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Maines said most of the people in Plum Lake don't want ATVs on their town roads. The board found this out from a survey of residents and taxpayers they sent out in 2015, where he said about two-thirds of non-resident property owners and about two-thirds of Plum Lake resident voters voted against allowing ATVs on town roads.

"We'd like to cooperate with the town of St. Germain, but we represent the people of Plum Lake, and they have given us the message loud and clear: they don't want us to allow them on any section of our roads," Maines said.

The St. Germain Town Chairman Tom Christensen said the decision is "disappointing," but, "it is what it is."

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