Residents meet, praise Romney
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited Janesville and spoke at Monterey Mills on Monday, June 18.
Mitt Romney speaks at Monterey Mills Monday morning.
Bill Sodemann, the father of seven girls, made a joking request of the man who might be the next president of the United States.
The Janesville resident asked Mitt Romney if he would consider creating a wedding tax credit.
The exchange Monday was part of a 45-minute focus group attended by 10 residents with presidential hopeful Romney and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
There was no press and no fanfare—just the 10 residents and the two politicians who sat down at Monterey Mills for a heart-to-heart in an intimate setting.
Those in the group included:
-- A small businessman.
-- An engineer who lost his job when GM closed here and is being laid off again at the end of the month.
-- A woman who lost her job and is mired in student loans.
One in the group said banks won't give him a loan to expand his small business.
It was unclear Monday how the 10 were chosen.
Those invited said they were honored and humbled to be included.
The meeting was held before Romney took the stage to address supporters at Monterey Mills.
Romney was easy-going and down-to-earth, said several who attended the meeting. They said he was affable and had a sense of humor.
Romney wanted to hear the individual stories of those gathered, said Sodemann's wife, Kay.
Neither Romney nor Walker talked much and mostly listened.
The group talked about the national debt and the desire for smaller government. They talked about traditional family values and American ideals.
Members touched on border security, job creation, the social welfare state and the need to take individual responsibility.
Matt Magee, the owner of Magee Plumbing, said Romney asked for their names and then remembered them. He asked about their businesses, what those gathered would like to see in a president and the direction they would like to see the country take.
Magee told Romney he wanted smaller government. He said he'd like to see jobs and manufacturing return to America. He wants the government to reduce its deficit. He wants lower taxes so people can invest in their own companies and families, rather than giving it to the government who distributes it to people the government thinks needs it.
Magee said Romney "talked in a language we all could understand. He seems to know what we want, what America wants.
"I was impressed by him."
Paul Schieldt, broker/owner of The Reality Group of South Central Wisconsin, said Romney would "move us in a direction that will better the country."
Schieldt said Romney seemed to speak from his heart.
"He was very comfortable," Schieldt said. "He really dove in, asking, 'How's everything for your family?' He seemed more interested in my wife and kids."
Schieldt said a major concern for him is retaining the mortgage tax deduction to help families buy homes.
"It's something of a hot topic," Schieldt said. "It affects all families that own real estate."
John Kitching, a Janesville resident who is an engineer in Madison, said Romney was "impressive, very genuine, a good listener.
"I noticed how he (took) the content from our round table and used it in part of his talk," Kitching said. "I was pretty impressed that he was listening that intently and was able to work it in on the fly.
"It was interesting to get a feel for his personality."
One woman who attended the focus group did not want to be named because she serves on a Rock County non-partisan board.
She said group members had the "undivided attention" of Romney and Walker.
"It was an incredible experience," she said.
The woman lost her job in 2008, has not been able to find full-time work and owes on her college loans.
"He listened," she said of Romney.
"I think that speaks a lot of good leader," she said.
"A good leader will ask many people what they think, what they are experiencing, and not make policy around one or two people."