Janesville residents interested in running for local public office will have options in April, and they shouldn’t let caustic national politics discourage them.
Both the Janesville School Board and the Janesville City Council will have openings because incumbents are not seeking re-election. The presidents of those bodies encouraged people to run and not fret about politics.
The city council and school board are nonpartisan offices. Candidates don’t run as Democrats or Republicans, although both bodies undoubtedly have contingents of both.
Outgoing city council President Sue Conley, who is leaving to represent Janesville in the state Assembly as a Democrat, said politics haven’t been an issue on the city council.
“We don’t talk about it,” Conley said. “I couldn’t go down the line and tell you the political ideology every city council member espouses to. We don’t speak to each other in those terms. We haven’t, I don’t think, put forth proposals that are partisan. The issues that we deal with are really community based—what’s the best for our community, politics aside.”
Steve Huth, outgoing president of the Janesville School Board, said the school board has both Democrats and Republicans, but politics don’t enter into debates and decisions.
“When it comes to sitting down at the school board table, they understand we’re here for the students,” Huth said. “The school board, you don’t talk about politics. We talk about what’s good for kids.”
The school board used to be more political, Huth said, and although he wouldn’t admit it, Huth probably deserves some of the credit for making the school board a politics-free zone.
“I’m a declared moderate. I used to be called Mr. Moderate,” Huth said.
Conley agreed that it might not be clear to everybody that politics don’t have a place in the school board and city council.
“I think politics has gotten so pervasive in our lives that maybe it is a little blurry for folks,” Conley said. “You certainly could let it be. You could bring your political perspective into every decision that you make, but I’m not sure that’s helpful when you’re trying to serve the community of Janesville.”
Huth said he thinks people understand the school board is nonpartisan.
“I think they do. I’m not sure that they believe it, but I think they understand it. You can have … a raging Republican, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t advocate for all children. He could be a raging Democrat, and that doesn’t mean that he’s not going to advocate for all kids,” Huth said.
Conley and Huth encouraged people who are considering running for city council or school board to think about the commitment.
Huth recommended people set aside the time they would be spending at school board meetings and reviewing school district materials and spend that time away from their families to get a feel for what it would be like.
Conley said the first year on the city council is a lot of reading and a lot of learning, but people who get elected almost always seek re-election “because the decisions you’re making are making a difference.”