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Developing downtown, industry at heart of Edgerton council race

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
March 30, 2012
— With plans being hatched for redeveloping the downtown and new ideas popping on how to draw large-scale industry, the Edgerton City Council has three incumbents hoping to hold onto their seats in the April 3 election.

Matt McIntyre and Ron Webb, both incumbent aldermen with 20 years experience on the council, square off in the newly shaped first district. McIntyre is making a simultaneous bid for mayor, a post he formerly held for 10 years.


Dave Thomas, who served a one-year appointed term on the council but lost in a re-election bid last spring, is again running for an open second district seat against political newcomer John Werkmeister.


Meanwhile, fifth-year alderman and Edgerton native Ken Westby is defending his third district post against another Edgerton native, Chris Wellnitz. Wellnitz's brother, Mark, also has served on the council.


The candidates sounded off on goals and priorities they believe the next council should embrace in the coming months to spur growth on Main Street and beyond.


Q: If elected, what will be one of your immediate goals?
McIntyre: "I want to re-energize the process of economic development and get more people involved when it comes to dealing with business development from the get-go. I really want to take the role of delegating assignments when it comes to following up on some of these business leads."
Webb: "Basically, working to get a shovel-ready certification for the business park to get on track for business and ready to go with development opportunities. We need to be shovel-ready with the property we've got."
Thomas: "One of my goals is to try to get a senior center opened up and available to allow people to set up their card tables and not have to tear them down at the end of the day."
Wellnitz: "One of my biggest concerns is that water and sewer rates are a little higher than other places. I want to see if we can do something about it, or at least develop an understanding of why the rates are the way they are.
Westby: "I want to try and fill our industrial park and try and revitalize the downtown a little bit more. That's the major goals we really have in this town. We've had a couple of businesses interested and it's gone elsewhere. That's been disappointing to me. We need to take a step back and look at how we approach businesses."
Q: What's one issue that you believe the city council should be paying more attention to?
McIntyre: "I'd like to have a little better process in place at council meetings where nobody gets cut off during important conversations. I'd also like our meetings to be broadcast for the public. We have the capability, and we tape these meetings. I'd like to have the public turn on the TV and see what we're doing here, like all the other towns near here do."
Webb: "The possibility of acquiring more land for the business park. We've got a lot of medium-sized plots there but companies need more and more land. That's been one issue that I think has been sidestepped and needs more of a look."
Thomas: "To keep promoting this nice community would be nice. We've got a good industrial park and empty spaces downtown for good mom-and-pop things. It's a matter of finding what will catch on and really prosper."
Wellnitz: "After attending budget meetings last fall, I believe the council needs to come up with more long-term plans to address city budgeting. I think the whole budgeting thing has to be a little more thought out and more ideas put into it."
Westby: "Infrastructure. We have to figure out how to give our public works department the tools and the resources necessary to fix our streets without raising taxes so high people can't afford it. We want prospective businesses to come into town and see that we're proud of our town and take good care of what we've got."
Q: Edgerton has had renewed efforts recently to revitalize its downtown and put back to use some of the older buildings there. The city's looking at plans to survey needs for downtown improvements. What do you think is the biggest challenge to revitalizing downtown?
McIntyre: "People are accustomed to going 10 minutes down the road to Janesville for groceries or anything. You have to convince people there's a reason to stay in the downtown. It's finding what product actually works in the community."
Webb: "The chances of having a downtown like we had a decade ago are non-existent. We need to find a niche. We've got to find another channel to bring people into downtown. The downtown analysis the development authority is looking into will be a big help."
Thomas: "We're going to have to keep trying. The city residents are going to have to support these business startups. Maybe a senior center downtown could generate more customers and more interest in some of the stores and businesses."
Wellnitz: "There's a shortage of tax revenue-generating industry in the city. The challenge is trying to draw in more industry to bring in that tax revenue. When you do that you're going to get more revenue that you can use to help to get the downtown revitalized."
Westby: "You have to offer the public something it really needs. A place like the Non-Toxic Teen Center that's in development downtown—when it opens, that place will stay. They've proven it. They've got tremendous support from the community and the city because they've been in town for 20 years, and it's clear they're needed."

The Gazette could not reach candidate John Werkmeister for comment.


EDGERTON CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 1

Matt McIntyre (I)


Address: 3 Mechanic St., Edgerton.


Job: Medical transport driver, K-Town Transportation.


Education: Graduated from Edgerton High School; attended Blackhawk Technical College, UW-Whitewater, Oklahoma City Technical College.


Community service: Former member of Jaycees; numerous city committees including the plan commission, public safety commission, economic development commission and public works commission


Elected posts: Edgerton mayor, 10 years; Edgerton City Council, parts of two decades.


***


Ron H. Webb (I)


Age: 66


Address: 1102 N. Pass St., Edgerton.


Job: Retired, former meat cutter at Copps Foods, Madison.


Education: Bachelor's degree, business administration, UW-Whitewater.


Community service: Co-chair, Newville 4-H; Co-chair, Edgerton High School Band Parents; Edgerton High School Soccer Parents.


Elected posts: Edgerton City Council, two decades.


***


EDGERTON CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 2

David Thomas


Age: 75


Address: 816 W. Fulton St., Edgerton.


Job: Retired, former school bus driver.


Education: Graduated from Auburndale High School, 1954.


Community service: Edgerton Conservation Club; city committees including zoning board of appeals, utility commission, planning commission, economic development corporation, parks and recreation commission, personnel committee and library board.


Elected posts: Edgerton City Council, one-year appointed term, 2010-2011.


John Werkmeister


Werkmeister did not respond to The Gazette's requests for an interview.


***


EDGERTON CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 3

Christopher J. Wellnitz


Age: 46


Address: 630 Newville St., Edgerton.


Job: Production manager, RathGibson, Janesville.


Education: Graduated from Edgerton High School, 1983.


Community service: Leader, Porter Township 4-H.


Elected posts: Porter Town constable, 16 years.


***


Kenneth L. Westby (I)


Age: 56


Address: 507 E. Fulton St., Edgerton.


Job: Project engineer, Johnson Industries International.


Education: Graduated from Edgerton High School, 1973.


Community service: Board of directors and vice president, Edgerton Towne Country Club.


Elected posts: Edgerton City Council, 5 years.



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