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Altoona Police Chief and local business owner Jesse James announced his candidacy for the 68th Assembly District spot in the Wisconsin House of Representatives.

James joins Eau Claire attorney Wendy Sue Johnson – who is running as a Democrat – as a candidate for a seat set to be vacated by Rep. Kathy Bernier (R-Lake Hallie) as she runs for a spot in the Wisconsin Senate in the 23rd district.

Bernier is running for Sen. Terry Moulton’s (R-Chippewa Falls) spot in the senate, as Moulton is set to retire at the end of his term this year. Chris Kapsner, M.D. of Dunn County, a medical director at a Minneapolis hospital, has also announced his candidacy for the 23rd Senate District, running as a Democrat.

James will run for the assembly as a Republican in the 68th district, which encompasses parts of Chippewa, Eau Claire, Clark, Jackson and Trempealeau counties.

According to a statement released Wednesday morning, James is a former active duty member of the U.S. Army as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves 397th Engineer Battalion. He’s worked with the Altoona Police Department for nearly two decades, starting as a part-time officer and working his way to chief in 2013. James has also served as the fire and EMS chief for Altoona.

“…I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the people that help make small-town communities in this area so special,” James said in his statement. “Spending each day listening to their dreams and concerns has created a desire to represent the 68th Assembly District in Madison.”

As a member of law enforcement, James told the Herald in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon that he’s supportive of a recently signed law that allows 911 dispatchers in the state to give CPR instructions.

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School safety and addressing drug-related issues are the two main topics of priority for James, who said growing up around drugs and alcohol left “a devastating impact on my upbringing.”

James currently sits on the Meth Response Committee, the Drug Endangered Children committee and a Chippewa Valley chiefs association and has coached local team sports and serves on a local security team.

James is in support of recent school safety initiatives signed into law at the state level, including more funding for safety and security and the creation of the Office of School Safety.

“I think that’s very appropriate. We want our kids to feel safe at school,” James said, adding that he believes every school needs to be proactive in developing emergency plans and actions.

As he begins his campaign in an attempt to hold a seat in the Wisconsin Assembly – a dream James said he’s had for 18 years – he said he respects the work Bernier has done and is continually learning about the issues and decisions.

“I definitely want to follow the firm foundation that’s been set by Sen. Moulton and Rep. Bernier, and I want to carry on the tradition and everything that they’ve done while they’ve held their seats,” James said. “And I definitely support Kathy and her senate bid.”

Outside of his Army and law enforcement career, James owns a shaved ice business, Snowie of Altoona, with his wife, Vicki, which he said is an experience that could be beneficial to work in the legislature. James resides in Altoona with his wife and four children.

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Reporter

Samantha Stetzer is a community and city reporter for the Chippewa Herald. Contact her via email at samantha.stetzer@lee.net or call her at 715-738-1610.

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