Six candidates—including three incumbents—are running for three Janesville City Council seats this spring.
Council Vice President Rich Gruber and members Paul Williams and Jens Jorgensen are running to stay on the council. They’ll go up against Jeffrey Navarro, Harry Paulsen and Jason Davis. The top three vote-getters will serve on the council.
James Foss took out nomination papers but didn’t turn them in before deadline, said Dave Godek, city clerk/treasurer.
Gruber said Janesville has a lot of momentum with some recent big accomplishments in its pocket, and he would like to be involved to continue that, he said.
“To continue that momentum, I think it’s important there be some continuity,” and Gruber said he can be part of that continuity.
The council and city have done “remarkable” things in the past few years, from bringing in businesses and family-supporting jobs to making significant advances downtown, he said.
“There’s so much more we can accomplish,” Gruber said. “I’ve been behind it, and I want to stay in front of it.”
Gruber was appointed to the council in 2015 and was elected the following year.
Williams is a Janesville native who has lived in the city his whole life, and he brings plenty of council and committee experience to the table, he said.
Williams enjoys the job of being a council member and the work and research it takes to make tough decisions. Williams always explains his thinking when voting on controversial topics, “and I feel that’s important,” he said.
“I always try to do what I feel is best for the city as a whole,” Williams said.
Williams served on the city council from 2000-08 and took a hiatus before being re-elected in 2016.
Jorgensen was elected to the council in 2016. Having served only one term, “there’s s till a lot of things I’d love to do,” Jorgensen said.
His first year on the council was learning how it operates and its ins and outs, and his second year allowed Jorgensen to start working on his goals. Now that he knows how the council works, he’s more effective at doing the people’s will, Jorgensen said.
“I look forward to another term,” he said. “There’s just so much left to do.”
Navarro ran unsuccessfully for Janesville City Council last year, earning the second-lowest number of votes in the nine-person race.
But that’s not stopping him from giving it another go.
Navarro wants to make sure the Monterey Dam stays or that it is properly removed if it has to come out. That includes properly restoring any affected shoreline.
He wants to make sure ARISE isn’t doing anything frivolous or spending money needlessly.
He would like to see more businesses occupy vacant storefronts downtown and a grocery store in the food desert on Janesville’s south side.
Navarro is a member of the Monterey Dam Association, a nonprofit group fighting to keep the Monterey Dam that has expressed distrust in the city. That distrust isn’t one of Navarro’s motivating factors in running, he said.
“I’m sure the people in city are doing the best they can, and they’re very sincere,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t things that are done wrong, can be done better or can be fixed.”
Paulsen is another Monterey Dam Association member who says it’s “time for a change.”
Paulsen wants to put an end to the “rubber stamping” of anything the city manager wants done, he said. He would also like to stop the city from overspending on projects such as ARISE and economic development such as SHINE, he said.
What convinced Paulsen to run was when the city council recently approved the city’s strategic plan by consent and with minimal discussion.
Paulsen also has concerns the Monterey Dam project will cost much more than estimated and that nearby contaminated sediment won’t be properly handled, he said.
Davis is a former chairman of the African-American Advisory Liaison Committee to the Janesville Police Department and runs Rock County Cares, an organization that aims to bring people together through community involvement.
Davis has lived in Janesville his whole life and has deep connections with those who live here, he said. He believes the city’s welfare depends on the leadership the Janesville City Council provides.
Davis said he has spoken to hundreds of residents, and several of them care about “small issues,” such as leaf collection. Davis is running because he wants to take care of people and their problems, big or small, he said.
Davis has no public office experience but has been doing private work such as fundraisers and food drives for a long time, he said.