Volatile political climate doesn't keep challengers from seeking political office
Polls will be open across Wisconsin from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 5.
Rock County Clerk Lori Stottler said voters will not encounter any new voting laws this year. A name and address is required to receive a ballot.
If a voter has moved, he or she will need to provide proof of residency at the new address.
For complete election coverage, click here.
JANESVILLE Janesville City Council members trade barbs over partisanship and $55 banquet tickets.
Two days earlier, a Janesville School Board member thinks about resigning from a "toxic and time-consuming relationship called the school board."
Serving on city councils and school boards has always been a thankless job, but it's become even tougher in a political atmosphere charged by new Gov. Scott Walker and his cost-cutting policies.
The Gazette asked challengers in Tuesday's council and school board elections whether they've gone to bed asking themselves whether they really need such consternation in their lives.
The answer is apparently yes, as four challengers will be in the mix with two incumbents in Tuesday's election for three seats on the Janesville School Board. Five challengers and three incumbents are vying for four seats on the Janesville City Council.
"I've certainly thought about it … do I really want to keep doing this?" said Mike Knilans, a challenger for one of the council seats. "But I guess we'll see what happens on Tuesday.
"There's nothing more I can do."
Knilans worked for 32 years at General Motors, and his wife works in the school system. His brother, freshman Rep. Joe Knilans, has supported Walker in the Assembly.
"I know where people are coming from," he said. "I've certainly been enlightened.
"But the city council is supposed to be non-partisan. I know I won't be perfect, and I won't have all the answers, but I'm willing to listen to everyone and do what needs to be done. Maybe we have different ideologies, but we really need to look at an issue, see how it lays out and come to a consensus for the good of the community."
Challenger K. Andreah Briarmoon said that while many of the issues remain the same, the political atmosphere is definitely more charged.
That, she said, makes now the best time to get involved.
"This form of government only works when people pay attention and get involved," she said. "You can't sit on the sidelines and be a Monday morning quarterback.
"I'm upset with Walker and everything he's done, but I love the man because he's gotten us up off the couch."
That sentiment is reflected in County Clerk Lori Stottler's prediction that 30 percent of registered county voters will cast ballots Tuesday. For a typical spring election, the county usually has a 20 percent turnout.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we hit 35 percent," said Stottler, who also is a Janesville School Board member not up for election this spring. "I would be surprised if it's 20 percent.
"Twenty percent is a standard turnout, but this is not a standard time for Wisconsin or Rock County."
Fred Shahlapour hasn't been elected yet to the school board, but he still wakes up at 3 or 4 each morning thinking about political angst.
"I know it will take a lot of time and effort, but right now there are a lot of problems among board members, and that doesn't help," he said. "I think everyone is working toward the same end, but we've got to be able to put these problems on the table, address them and move forward.
"Let's not talk loud; let's talk together."
Deb Dongarra-Adams, a council candidate, wonders if that's possible. She can't remember a time when the country has been so politically divided, and that extends to the local level.
"It's really, really sad that we've gotten to this point," she said. "A lot of friendships have been damaged."
Still, she wants to join the fray.
"I want to help the city of Janesville if I can," she said. "I'm not left or right but in the middle. I like stuff from both sides and want to work together with people, but there has to be a meeting in the middle."
School board challenger Scott Feldt agrees.
"My biggest concern is whether all of the political turmoil and emotion are going to prevent people on the school board or city council from being able to sit down and decide good public policy," Feldt said. "Will it overshadow their ability to work together?"
Feldt said he's not running to pad his resume or pocket school board stipends.
"People ask me all the time why I'm doing this," he said. "I'm doing this because I'm a product of the Janesville school system, a good system that will continue to be a good system.
"I don't think anyone uses the school board as a stepping stone for a political agenda. I think the overriding goal of most candidates is to do right by the kids and their community."
Kirk Henry also is a product of Janesville schools. He said his desire to help the school district trumps any consternation associated with the job.
"I put my head on the pillow at night and close my eyes, and I wake up and still want to do it and know that I've done something good," he said. "Sure, things are politically charged, but my passion and drive is to do it for the benefit of the students and staff while keeping the taxpayers in mind."
John Burt, who is running for school board, said the discussion has certainly gotten louder since he launched his campaign.
"I expect to have some sleepless nights," Burt said. "Nobody wants them,but if you don't think you'll have them, then I think you're underestimating the situation."
That said, Burt doesn't regret his decision to run for the board.
"We need people who are willing to get involved to work together to solve the problems," he said.
Billy McCoy is no stranger to city politics. He's making his third bid for a seat on the council.
McCoy said he hasn't had second thoughts about his campaign because the issues he's championed for years still need to be addressed. He described himself as a political independent not interested in political parties.
McCoy said he's more interested in addressing high property taxes, a poor infrastructure and overpaid administrators than he is with making political bedfellows.
City council challenger Sam Liebert could not be reached for his perspective.