La Crosse prepares once again for U.S. president visit

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – President Joe Biden will be in La Crosse Tuesday and preparations are underway in the community. It may surprise people these visits are often announced last minute.

However, this is not La Crosse’s first rodeo with U.S. presidents.  La Crosse is small in terms of scale but larger than life for politicians.

“Yeah, most of the staff and our partners with Colgan Air Services are definitely used to this sort of thing,” Ian Turner said, director of the La Crosse Regional Airport.

The proof is the presidential visits paid since 1992, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, all made the trip.

“Any time we can be showcased on the national level, people can learn a little bit about the La Crosse region,” A.J. Frels said, executive director of Explore La Crosse.

Wisconsin is a heavyweight on the campaign trail. Votes in this community can change the course of history at the Oval Office.

Troy Richter orchestrated a team at UW-La Crosse to play host to the nation’s 44th president in the summer of 2015.

“A call out of the blue from one of the local hotels who said, ‘Hey, Secret Service is looking for 70 rooms. Do you have anything?’” Richter said, who worked in residence life at UW-La Crosse at the time.

“Their command room and securing all this stuff, a lot of work being done on what venue on campus was gonna be used.”

Security is so tight the only plane allowed to fly in the area is Air Force One.

“The FAA puts out what’s called a temporary flight restriction; which prevents anyone operating in the air space,” Turner said.

Richter’s gift for his work was a front-row seat. It’s what came after the president’s speech that stands alone in his time on campus.

“Then he came by and it was just amazing to shake his hand,” Richter said. “He put his hand on my shoulder.”

That was the first surprise.

“One of the secret service agents said, ‘Troy. You need to go talk to the agent back in the corner.”

The president personally introduced himself to the people who made his visit possible.

“He shook all our hands. He said, ‘I heard you were the folks that that really made this visit happen. I always want to take the opportunity to thank the people who do the most work.’ Richter said. “Wow, you would not believe you were talking to the president.”

It may be a small town where the three rivers meet. Politicians see La Crosse as a model of an American river town.

“A true balance of Republicans and Democrats. It really becomes a battleground kind of city,” Richter said. “With the three colleges in town plus the medical community and a good amount of manufacturing. It’s this microcosm of America.”

The President will tour La Crosse Municipal Transit Utility. Biden plans to highlight the benefits of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework.  La Crosse Airport officials say anyone with a flight Tuesday should check with their airline and check for any delays.