Two newcomers will challenge three incumbents for three seats on the Janesville City Council in April, based on nomination papers filed by Tuesday’s deadline.
Newcomers Susan Johnson and William Beil are not Janesville natives, but both say they admire the city and hope to bring fresh perspectives to the council.
Incumbents Richard Gruber, Paul Williams and Paul Benson are running for re-election.
The city will not schedule a primary election because the council race does not have more than twice the number of candidates as seats available, said Dave Godek, city clerk-treasurer.
Gruber was appointed to the council in 2015. Williams served on the council from 2000 to 2008 and returned in 2016. Benson was appointed this year to replace former council member Jens Jorgensen.
All three incumbents said they are running again in hopes of working on ongoing issues and seeing projects come to fruition.
They agreed they want to see changes in state-shared revenue because the current formula is unfair to Janesville.
Gruber, 66, said the city has made progress during his five years on the council by improving infrastructure, bumping up road repairs, increasing economic development and investing in water and wastewater improvements.
He said balancing the budget will continue to be a priority for him.
Williams, 68, said he wants to be in office to see the former General Motors plant site redeveloped, the downtown re-energized and the Monterey lagoon restored.
Affordable housing and homelessness are ongoing issues Williams wants the council to continue addressing.
Benson, 34, considers the city’s proposed indoor sports complex a high priority.
He also wants the council to look at property assessments. He said he has heard from residents who are upset that last year’s citywide revaluation shifted the property tax burden from commercial to residential properties.
“My wife and I have two young kids, and I think it’s important to give young families a voice on the council,” Benson said.
Johnson, 65, has lived in Janesville for 15 years. She grew up in Kenosha and said she is proud that she comes from a “former car town.”
Since she retired from teaching in Kenosha, Johnson has served on the Sustainable Janesville Committee and has encouraged the city to join the state Department of Natural Resources’ Green Tier Legacy Communities network, which promotes sustainable practices.
If elected, Johnson said she wants to address the housing shortage and encourage the creation of family-supporting jobs.
“I feel like it (Janesville) is home and I can contribute in a way I could not when I was working because I am able to focus on our community and really work hard to do what we need for the future,” Johnson said.
Beil, 67, moved to Janesville five years ago to be closer to family. Before moving here, he was an environmental manager for Abbyland Foods in Abbotsford and will retire once the company fills his position.
Before that, Beil worked for the city of Abbotsford as the director of public works and later the city administrator.
He wants to use his experience to promote economic development and improve the welfare of residents, he said.
Beil loves living on the city’s south side. He said his neighborhood is nice and quiet but would be greatly improved by a grocery store.
If elected, he said he would work for the entire city while providing a voice for the south side.
City council members serve at large rather than representing districts or wards.
Some officials and residents oppose that system, and two former council members pushed unsuccessfully in 2017 to change it.
Critics contend an at-large system does not represent the entire community and leaves decisions in the hands of a homogeneous group. No sitting council members live on the south or west sides of the city.
Gruber said Monday he likes the city’s at-large system.
“I do my darnedest to make sure every corner of the city is represented,” he said.
The election is April 7. The city will draw names for ballot placement at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
To register to vote, visit myvote.wi.gov. Voters can register the day of the election with a state ID or driver’s license and proof of residence.