Editor's Note: '15 Things You Might Not Know About Me' is part of DrydenWire’s 2020 election coverage. Each Thursday, we will feature a different candidate for this segment to publish. That candidate will also appear as our guest on Meet The Candidate, a special edition of DrydenWire Live! the following morning (Friday) at 8:30a on our Facebook page.
This week on '15 Things You Might Not Know About Me', we are featuring Dave Armstrong. On March 31, 2020, Dave announced his candidacy for the 75th Assembly District and is running as a Republican.
15 Things You Might Not Know About Me: Dave Armstrong
1 - Born and raised
I was born and raised on the Eastside of St Paul, MN. My Mom and Dad retired to Turtle Lake and I have 3 brothers still in Minnesota. I attended St Patrick’s Catholic grade and St Bernard’s high school. Mom and Dad both worked and as long as I can remember my dad worked two jobs. I credit both mom and dad’s examples of work ethic as the example my three brothers and I followed.
2 - Recovery – Homeless
I was a mess when I graduated High school. Drinking and other chemicals led me to a place where I was not allowed to live at home due to the bad example I was setting for my brothers. Initially, I stayed at friends’ homes (couch-surfed) until I wore out my welcome there then ended up living in my car. Homelessness, regardless of the reason why, sucks. Eventually, with some intervention, (divine and other) I came to the understanding that I either had to choose a sober/clean way of life or I would die. Thankfully I chose correctly and now have 33 years clean/sober.
3 - Business owner
I’ve been in sales my entire working life and have started and sold two businesses (AMT Inc. and Med-Works Inc.) I was “bought” with the 2nd business which relocated me to Florida. I was the VP of Substance Abuse Services and headed the mergers and acquisition team. My job was to grow the substance abuse testing and collections group by obtaining national contracts and to identify and start negotiations with other businesses to acquire. I traveled the United States constantly and had scheduled monthly trips to Washington DC, New York, Seattle, Atlanta, and Minneapolis. We purchased a number of other companies, merged them into ours and eventually sold the business to ADP and I was offered a position there. I was in the substance abuse testing industry for 18 years.
4 - Lived
I’ve lived in the Twin Cities, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay area (Sarasota) and Houston before coming to Barron County. I moved from Houston to Turtle Lake which was quite the culture shock but I knew I had come home by how friendly and welcoming everyone was. I was in Turtle Lake for a year (2005 – 2006) until Janell and I were married when I moved to Rice Lake. I’ve been to all of the lower 48 States except Vermont.
5 - Family
I am married to Janell (Goettl) – we met online - and have 4 children by marriage. (Stephanie, Heather, Samantha and John) Steph is in Racine, Heather is in Minneapolis but may be coming back to Rice Lake, Samantha is in Rochester NY and John is a United States Marine. We have three grandchildren we spoil to death but that’s a grand parent’s prerogative.
6 - Barron County
Once I relocated here I knew no one and made it a point to meet people. I joined the then Rice Lake Rod and Gun Club where I met many good people and later the Brill Sportsman Club. I approached then Rice Lake Mayor Dan Fitzgerald asking if he had any City boards or commissions that had vacancies. He appointed me to the Cable Commission which I am still a member of today. After that, a vacancy occurred on the City Council which I and two others put in our names, and I was chosen. I then ran for reelection and won. This enabled me to meet many new people. I was also placed on the Barron County Economic Development board of directors as one of the Rice Lake representatives which began my involvement with them.
7 - Animals
I love animals. I have been the President of the Humane Society of Barron County twice and love that organization. (It is under very capable guidance at this time with an excellent board of directors and incredible staff). At the time I was there we had high euthanasia rates which I fought constantly and ultimately resigned due to this. We did ultimately reduce euthanasia to virtually nothing the 2nd time I was on the board. I’ve had two one-eyed cats that came from HSBC as they were deemed unadoptable but I wasn’t about to give up on them. I also adopted a spaniel from the shelter as it was the most traumatized little dog I had ever seen and I could not stand watching the terror he was going through after being dumped at the shelter. You see the worst in people when they dump a dog or cat but also the best in people by those who work or volunteer there and especially from those that foster and adopt. Please make the Humane Society or a rescue the first place you look for a new companion animal.
8 - Cars
I love old cars and have had quite a few over the years. Chevelle’s, Road Runners, Olds 442, Pontiac Catalina, Fords, Plymouth Sport Fury, the list goes on. I am restoring a 1968 Impala at this time. (Also a 1978 Trail Duster that was a project with my son before he joined the Marine Corp)
9 - Hunting, sport shooting, gun collector
I’ve hunted all my life but less so in the last few years. I also collect firearms and have sport shot since my early 20’s. I shoot at one a month, at a minimum, at Fireline in Rice Lake or at one of the great Barron County shooting ranges. The 2nd Amendment is very important to me.
10 - Gardening
I have liked to garden and since I was young. I used to get shipped off to my uncle’s farm near Luck each summer which started my love of growing things and animals. I have done straw bale gardening until my wife said 50 straw bales filled with Tomato plants is too many and asked for a flower garden. I have quite the collection of lilies, Clematis and bee balm and add to them each year’
11 - Renovating our home
We began renovating our home in Rice Lake three years ago and hope to have it done next year. We have had a few setbacks but learned many new skills through the process. Old houses are constantly in need of something. One thing we learned is to let the professionals do the jobs they have been trained to do.
12 - Community Involvement – Boards I am on.
- Rice Lake Cable Commission – President. My goal is to continually help get more locally produced public access shows to the area.
- Rice Lake Utilities – Commissioner.
- Wisconsin Rural Partners – Board Member. This group is all about helping improve all things rural in Wisconsin. I helped bring the Wisconsin Rural Partners annual summit to Rice Lake in 2019.
- Community Connections to Prosperity (CCP) – past Vice President. I was part of the founding group of CCP. Its goal is to assist people to move from poverty to prosperity. I worked with Workforce Resources to obtain a grant, (and funded some of this from Barron County Economic Development) to bring a nationally known mentoring program to CCP that is being used currently to help those in poverty. I also partnered with Workforce Resources and adapted that program to create a youth mentoring program we used last school year at Rice Lake HS. This was to assist seniors that were on the bubble of would they graduate or not and also those that had no clear path for after HS. The program was interrupted by COVID but was very successful. We will be doing this again this school year.
- Law Enforcement Foundation of Barron County – Past President, current Board Member. This group was formed to support law enforcement in Barron County and assist where we can. This includes fundraising to help departments K9 programs, feeding all law enforcement personnel in Barron County each year during National Police appreciation week, and helping officers and their families in times of need.
- Pioneer Village - Board member. Pioneer Village may be the least known gem in the region. It’s a huge indoor/outdoor museum filled with exhibits of early settler life in our area. A must-see.
- Rice Lake Chamber of Commerce – Board Member.
- Rice Lake Tourism Commission – Commission member.
- Heart of the North Legislative Group – Past President. Grassroots political group from Barron, Washburn, Sawyer, and Rusk counties that meet each year to identify issues that need to be brought to the attention of legislators in Madison. We travel there each February to meet with legislators and State Agencies.
13 - Work
I’m the Executive Director of the Barron County Economic Development Corporation. I’ve been in this role since December of 2012. I plan on staying in this job after being elected as I love going to work each day to help the businesses and residents of Barron County. I will be taking a substantial cut in pay as I will be spending less time on the job. I have three main areas that I work in this job. They are:
- Business Services
- Help individuals start or purchase a business. I started this program in 2013 in partnership with the regional Small Business Development Center to help people start a business. Since then, we have helped over 150 people become new business owners in Barron County. Only three have failed.
- Grow existing businesses – I introduced Economic Gardening (now renamed the Business Intelligence Program) to the area in 2013. Economic Gardening focuses on helping existing businesses grow rather than trying to find businesses to relocate here. We have done 8 projects with this program, all very successful.
- Tourism represents 1.4 million in expenditures in Barron County and supports over 1400 jobs here. I help coordinate tourism-related activities between all the municipalities in Barron County as well as promote specific events. We have also produced three tourism video’s shown on TV channels throughout the Midwest to increase tourism activity and spending in the area.
- Community Development
- Issues we currently are working include additional housing, lack of workforce, broadband needs, additional things/services needed to keep families here, and encourage families to relocate here. One emphasis is to get past graduates to come back to raise a family. I’ve spent the last 5 years working on additional housing. We worked closely with a number of state departments under Governor Walker and received help to complete a formal housing study. As a result of that, we currently have 7 developers working projects around the district specifically aimed at low to moderate-income and workforce housing. Unfortunately, much of the assistance we were receiving under Governor Walker ended when Governor Evers took office. His administration has not understood nor put any emphasis on rural WI. Broadband is growing as well as we have worked closely with the State Broadband coordinator, Public Service Commission and Federal agencies to assist local providers to grow their fiber networks. Much more fiber to the home to come in the next year in this region.
14 - Why I’m running
I am running because I love this area and am dedicated to making it a better place for all to live. I chose to relocate here for a reason, the area is beautiful and the people are incredible. I have fought hard the last 7 years to get more attention to our area from State Agencies in Madison. I made substantial progress under Governor Walker including hosting 5 state agencies for meetings in Turtle Lake, Cumberland, Rice Lake, Barron, and Chetek. This was the first time these agencies had ever traveled and met together with municipalities, businesses, and other organizations. Money and assistance began to flow. A key point of my running is to be sure we are represented in Madison and to get them to understand there is life outside of Southeast Wisconsin. We pay our taxes, I want more of that money to come back here for our region.
15 - Personal
I am tenacious and a fighter. I stay with issues and projects to completion. If I see things that need to be addressed, I’m not shy about saying so and acting. Having said that, not acting impulsively but with deliberate thought. I will work hard for ALL residents of the 75th Assembly district.