Front Runners Emerge After League Forum
Wiza, Moore show true potential; Kochanowski a no-show at biggest candidate forum of election season
By Brandi Makuski
The League of Women Voters on Wednesday questioned five of the six candidates running for mayor over the course of about 90 minutes, after which some candidates emerged as viable contenders while others were left in the dust.
Candidates Barb Jacob, Bob Larson, Tony Patton, Jerry Moore and Mike Wiza all attended the forum; candidate Alex Kochanowski did not attend for reasons unknown.
Jacob, a business owner and landlord, said in her opening statement she “knows what it’s like to cut a budget” and said she chose to run for mayor mainly because she’s knowledgeable about the process involved in city meetings. She did express her lack of municipal governing experience as a positive characteristic, but instead of highlighting any of her own plans or experience relevant to the office, she took every opportunity on Wednesday to blame the three aldermen running against her for the city’s deep debt. Jacob is simultaneously running for 9th District Alderwoman.
“I’ve heard the city inspectors both have to be in the same vehicle with each other. I own a business in town and the state inspector and the county inspector for the health department come to my business, and they happen to be females, and there’s only one of them. So I don’t understand why you need two people to go see if you mowed your lawn. That doesn’t make sense to me. I think they need to use their time more wisely, and licensing for homes that aren’t owner-occupied need to exist in this city. We need to look into whether we need more staff.” -Barb Jacob, when asked how the city would best handle an understaffed inspection department.
Larson, who is running his campaign with almost no budget and gathered all of his 201 nomination signatures himself, said he’s a proponent of fiscal conservancy. And Larson has the voting record to prove it, though he was often in the minority when he previously served on the School Board when it came to strict adherence to a budget. Retired from Kraft Foods, he has a very strong background in accounting, business and municipal budgeting but has limited knowledge of some of the city’s inner-workings and admitted to not knowing much on the understaffed inspection department when asked how he would fix it. He’s also been out of the public eye for over a year, only just attending city meetings upon his declaration of candidacy and publicly weighing his comments on all things financial, remaining largely silent on issues relating to goodwill and community service.
“I don’t know if this is feasible, but somewhere down the road combining law enforcement and having a Portage County law enforcement. It might be more cost efficient, something to look at down the road.” -Bob Larson, when asked how the city and county could cooperatively work together.
Moore has one of the strongest backgrounds of all the candidates. He’s already got 14 years of service on the City Council and has served on the City Plan Commission for nine. He has more experience in city government than any other candidate, having previously has served as acting mayor and was twice elected to serve as Council President, with many on the Council pointing to his objectivity. Moore, a local business owner, cited a need to better promote the natural resources of the city to help spur business growth. Moore did say he was not running for his current seat at 11th District Alderman again because he wanted to “show the voters how serious I am about serving as their mayor”.
“We have so much to offer here; we spend so much time talking about faults, things that are wrong here. We have a low tax base, a highly- educated residency, every asset we could want- lakes, rivers, forests, the Green Circle Trail- that is a selling point. We need to take pride in our community and share that story with everyone around the state and the county.” -Jerry Moore, when asked how he planned to encourage new business to relocate in the city.
Patton’s platform seems to hang largely on his “30 years of experience in the local business community”. An alderman for three years, he also serves on the Portage Co. Board of Supervisors. He currently chairs the city’s Finance Committee but often displays a lack of knowledge or understanding with financial dealings as presented and does not feature a strong set of leadership skills. He said his plans to grow the community including working with businesses “to foster an environment where they can feel they will be successful”, but he did not say how he planned to accomplish that.
“We have to promote our infrastructure. We have a great infrastructure but we have to improve certain parts of town, put new sewer and water in. Of course, East Park Commerce Center- those are the things people look for, those are the things people spend millions of dollars on. We have to show them they can have confidence in our infrastructure, that it’s going to last a long time. We need to do everything we can to show people we’re open for business.” -Tony Patton, when asked how he planned to promote local business growth.
Wiza is another strong candidate and has served on the City Council for more than a decade, as well as the County Board since 2006. He says his experience speaks for itself and like Moore, has chaired many committees and commissions during his time in public service. Wiza also frequently highlights his work with conservation and area youth organizations and is among the most visible of all the candidates. Wiza was the lone candidate to cite specific examples for how he would enforce change within the city, to include “tapping the unused resource” of UW-SP, suggesting the city take on student interns to help fill understaffed departments.
“I’m a supporter of conservation in general and have been for years. The problem with this is it was placed on a shelf for years and the former administration (former Mayor Andrew Halverson) never really did anything with it. The first thing I’ll do is take that off the shelf, dust it off and re-energize that task force.” -Mike Wiza, when asked about his thoughts on the city’s eco-municipality plan first produced in 2007.
Attempts to reach Alex Kochanowski for this story were unsuccessful.