Four candidates run for Janesville City Council

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Marcia Nelesen
Tuesday, January 7, 2014

JANESVILLE--Two incumbents, a former council member and a newcomer have filed nomination papers with the city clerk to seek three, two-year terms on the Janesville City Council in the April election.

The clerk's office has OK'd the nomination forms of all candidates except Matt Kealy, whose papers will be checked Wednesday.

The deadline to file papers for Janesville School Board candidates was extended to 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to the voicemail message of the assistant school board clerk. Janesville schools were closed Tuesday.

City council candidates are:

-- Newcomer Mark Bobzien, 55, of 1139 Columbus Circle. Bobzien retired from the Janesville Fire Department in 2012 after 27 years.

A big part of a firefighter's life is serving people, Bobzien said.

“To me, it's the next logical step of serving citizens in a different way,” he said.

Bobzien said he is not a one-issue candidate.

“I've always been interested in what goes on in our city,” Bobzien said. “I think now I have the time, and I'm able to devote the time to things that are important to me, too.”

Janesville for the most part does a “fantastic” job of providing city services, Bobzien said.

The key is to maintain services even as state shared revenues drop and property taxes are capped, he said.

“Everything—from … the quality of our schools, the quality of our city services—affects people more than they think,” Bobzien said.

Businesses look at the quality of a city when they decide where to locate, he added.

In these times, we are in competition with other cities to attract business, and that translates into jobs,” he said.

Bobzien said he has the temperament and communication skills for the job and said he would listen to people.

-- George Brunner, 73, of 2423 Stonefield Lane, a retired Janesville police chief, is seeking a term after previously serving more than six years on the council.

Brunner started on the council in April 2005 and resigned in November 2011 after a family disturbance at his house during which police were called. Brunner later pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.

“I do not believe the incident will affect my ability to serve on the city council nor on my ability to make decisions,” Brunner said.

Brunner said an ethics policy he helped spearhead for council members pertains to their public lives, not their private lives. It encourages civility during meetings and controls the use of social media.

Brunner, who serves on the city plan commission, said he still has a desire to serve residents.

“I believe that I provide an in-depth understanding of how municipal government works, and I understand the role of the city council in setting policy for how the city operates,” he said.

The council must focus on attracting new businesses, helping existing business grow and maintaining essential services, including public safety and infrastructure, he said.

The council must keep an eye on borrowing to be good stewards of the tax dollar, he said.

-- Incumbent Jim Farrell, 67, of 1427 N. Harmony Drive, is seeking a second term.

Farrell is a retired industrial controller and certified public accountant.

Farrell said there are still many things he wants to see accomplished, especially concerning economic development and job growth. He also wants to be a resource for the new city manager, he said.

Issues important to Farrell include property maintenance, not only in the central  neighborhoods but other older areas, as well. He agrees the council should accelerate street repair.

He believes the council should build a skatepark, and members should decide whether to build it or spend the $100,000 set aside on something else.

Farrell serves on the board of directors for the Janesville Innovation Center. He said he wants to ensure business startups have the mentors and resources they need.

He also serves on the Janesville Sustainable Committee and was instrumental in creating the audit committee, which he said helps oversee the city's finances.

-- Incumbent Matt Kealy, 31, of 1203 Winchester Place, owns two restaurants, Kealy's Kafé and the Sizzlin' Grill.

He is seeking a second term and serves on the alcohol license advisory committee and the downtown revitalization committee.

Kealy believes council members are more effective after they have some experience and have gone through at least one budget process, which is one reason he is running again.

“I feel like I ask the tough questions,” Kealy said. “I'm not afraid to vote against what is considered the norm.”

Kealy said he has several priorities, including reducing the use of reserves to balance the budget, spending only what the city takes in and reducing borrowing.

“We have to balance the needs of capital projects moving forward,” Kealy said, noting an upcoming, big-ticket item like the new fire station. Those projects add to the debt and must be managed, he said.

The fledgling downtown effort will mean creating partnerships between the city and the private sector, Kealy said. Balancing all those needs is going to be a challenge.

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