Our Views: Anissa Welch is best fit to lead Milton as next mayor
Tom Chesmore is again seeking election as Milton mayor on Tuesday. He's right to suggest Milton stands at a crossroads with the Highway 26 bypass having diverted much commerce.
Anissa Welch, however, is the best candidate to lead the city forward.
Complicating this election is that Mayor Brett Frazier's name appears on the ballot. Don't waste your vote on him. He gathered enough signatures to seek re-election before changing his mind too late to keep his name off the ballot. If elected, he told The Gazette, he would not serve.
Frazier believes Welch and Chesmore both have leadership strengths.
“Anissa Welch is one of the hardest-working campaigners that I've seen in local politics,” he told us. “Tom Chesmore has served as mayor of the city for four years, and he knows what it's like to make those difficult decisions.”
Frazier serves too many roles. After being elected mayor, he was named executive director of what is now the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin. He has made remarkable improvements in the Janesville-based shelter. He is deeply involved in community theater.
Welch is diplomatic. She suggests Frazier had the “best intentions” in trying to use limited mayoral powers to get things done, but she said that effort didn't go over as he hoped.
Chesmore served four years as mayor until Frazier defeated him two years ago. Chesmore calls Frazier “an actor playing the mayor” and uses much more disparaging terms. Elect Chesmore, and he might spend the next two years blaming Frazier for every city illness. Milton doesn't need that divisiveness.
Welch grew up in Rock County, has worked 23 years in juvenile probation for the county and has lived in Milton 12 years. She knows her union background must be checked at the door when considering taxpayer perspectives. Her three adult kids all attended Milton schools. She has served on the city council since 2011 and is enthusiastic and dynamic. She believes building leadership coalitions not just in the city but across Rock County will best benefit Milton.
Her research of issues is impressive. She studied how other communities made libraries and farmers markets into attractions. When looking into the controversial proposed County M interchange at Interstate 90/39, she found no other privately funded interchange statewide. She cautions that Milton can't absorb the burden should it sponsor Bill Watson's development project and costs fall into the city's lap. She thinks Milton still lacks sufficient information and documentation. Watson has a checkered development record, and Welch suggests Milton can't proceed “on a prayer and a handshake.”
In contrast, Chesmore supports Watson's plan. Two years ago, when the development was much bigger, he opposed it. His recent review leaves him believing the city would face no financial risk.
We're not so sure. Besides that, Chesmore retired as a Milton firefighter and was disappointed that the council recently voted for library improvements while postponing a new fire station yet another year. He claims he promised a new station four years ago, as if a mayor had such powers.
Welch reasonably argues the fire department, run jointly by the city and town, needs more funding to halt budget overruns. Chesmore thinks having the city treasurer monitor fire department finances will somehow solve the problem.
Welch is well-spoken, personable and intelligent. As mayor, she would be a great ambassador for Milton. Residents would be wise to choose her.