OSHKOSH – Six candidates are facing off for three Oshkosh City Council seats in the April 6 election.
Candidates Michael Beardsley, Lateria Garrett, Courtney Hansen, Jake Krause, Bill Miller and Aaron Wojciechowski will compete for three seats on the council. Incumbents Deb Allison-Aasby and Bob Poeschl are not seeking reelection.
For information on voting in the upcoming election, visit myvote.wi/gov/en-us.
The Oshkosh Northwestern sent each candidate questions about the most important issues facing the city, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what they had to say:
Address: 675 Boyd St. Oshkosh, WI 54901
Occupation and highest level of education: IT consultant; Bachelor of Business Administration in information systems with emphasis in enterprise resource planning and international management
Relevant experience: 2020 candidate for Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District, elected delegate for Bernie Sanders at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Our Wisconsin Revolution board member
Address: 133 Lamar Ave, Oshkosh, WI 54901
Occupation and highest level of education: Store manager and high school diploma
Relevant experience: Living and volunteering in the community for 29 years and 13 years of servant leadership experience
Address: 1038 Evans Street Oshkosh, WI 54901
Occupation and highest level of education: Bachelor of Business Administration; small business management
Relevant experience: Born and raised in Oshkosh and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh; worked at multiple small businesses here and has a good understanding of the city
Address: 2028 Fairview St, Oshkosh, WI 54901
Occupation and highest level of education: Manufacturing inspector at Oshkosh Defense; UAW 578 member since 2004; Berlin High School
Relevant experience: Deputy mayor; city council member since 2017; served on Long Range Finance Committee, Traffic and Parking and Sustainability advisory boards and Landmarks Commission.
Address: 3322 Isaac Lane, Oshkosh, WI 54902
Occupation and highest level of education: President of NTD Corp.; eighth grade
Relevant experience: Served on various boards, including the Oshkosh City Council
Occupation and highest education level: Aftercare site coordinator; Bachelor of Science in economics and political science, UW-Oshkosh
Relevant experience: Four years on the Winnebago County Board, educator, involved in community issues and challenges
What are residents currently telling you are the most important issues and how would you address them?
Beardsley: I’ve consistently been told from residents that they want a Common Council with a clear vision, whether that’s a vision on economic growth after the pandemic, taking on more infrastructure developments, or working towards a more inclusive community. All of these things can’t happen overnight, and leaders are needed that are willing to champion those efforts. Economic recovery clearly is top of mind for nearly everyone I’ve talked to. We can do it, but we need to be proactive, creative and willing to take on the challenge. On the Common Council, I’ll be active in bringing forward solutions that will foster economic, cultural and community growth.
Garrett: From what I’ve heard it’s a 50/50 split between those residents who feel the city is moving in the right direction and those that disagree in respect to things like affordable housing, diversity and inclusion and cultural entertainment options. Residents want someone who will listen to their concerns and respond. I would address the concern of residents not feeling heard by introducing new ways to hear from them to gain feedback and perspective. I would ensure openness, transparency and respect are always top of mind when interacting with residents. We won’t all agree on everything all the time; however having an open conversation about the whys behind decisions to be made adds value and shows respect for those who may be impacted by those decisions.
Hansen: Over the last few weeks, when talking with residents of Oshkosh, recurring interests in sustainability and economic growth have been the center of our conversations. I have also had interest in more community involvement. Citizens of Oshkosh want to see our community thrive.
Krause: Over the last few weeks, citizens have been talking to me about the old Miles Kimball redevelopment project coming up, events coming back to the city for summer 2021 and of course the election that is upon us.
Miller: We have immense opportunity to continue to partner with the city of Oshkosh economic development team, Oshkosh Chamber and Greater Oshkosh (Economic Development Corp.) to continue to attract as well as retain businesses. When businesses are thriving, it also helps attract and retain individuals to our community who eat at our restaurants, get their hair cut locally and create a more inclusive Oshkosh. Poverty reduction is another topic that we must continue to work together to address. We have so many great nonprofit resources to support those in need, but breaking the cycle is critical. We have many children in our school district receiving free and reduced lunch — how can we continue to support them so as they grow older, they have received a good education, are financially sound and have a bright future in front of them? This is a real issue that we need to continue to collaborate on.
Wojciechowski: The main concerns for many are the recovery plans from COVID-19 and vaccine distribution. As a community member and candidate, I am doing my part to encourage others to get vaccinated and continue to practice safety measures. If elected, I would ensure that communication and coordination with the state, county and UW-Oshkosh are efficient when it comes to continued vaccine distribution. Beyond COVID-19, many in our community are still concerned with racial justice and improving diversity in our community. If elected I look forward to working with other council members and members of our community to create a more inclusive government and city.
What can the council do to address the COVID-19 pandemic?
Beardsley: I believe the Common Council has done an admirable job to date during a very difficult time. The pandemic wasn’t just a health crisis; it affected the community financially and socially as well. Fortunately with the vaccine rollout progressing quickly, we are starting to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However that’s just the first major hurdle. I believe we need to use the pandemic as an opportunity and lesson on how we can make our city more sustainable, equitable and resilient. We need to focus more on affordable and accessible housing, strong job security and opportunities and environmental sustainability. The pandemic has led to the furthering of inequalities and a sharp decline in revenues. Issues have been exacerbated, and simply understanding them gives us a clearer vision on what we need to do as a city to right the ship.
Garrett: Council will need to continue to listen to both our county Health Department and the CDC for guidance for the city. Council will need to balance safety for residents and economic impacts to both residents and local businesses in decision making. Council must advocate and follow state mandates including ensuring those that want to be vaccinated can be and have all the information needed to do so. As far as recovery and having a strong rebound from the pandemic, council will need to be open to taking a hit in the budget for 1-2 years, potentially lowering fees in order to allow businesses to come back with events that will certainly pay off over time and put us back on the map as an event city. By doing so we can we start to get the economic gains we desire.
Hansen: The council can start off by working with the Winnebago (County) Health Department. I believe that we should also talking with local business owners to try and find a happy medium so we can be safe while still helping our businesses. Oshkosh’s economy has suffered due to the pandemic, and we need to do everything possible to help business owners get back on their feet.
Krause: We just passed a city mask mandate that will run through April 30 in case the statewide-issued mandate is not renewed or is shot down somehow by partisan politics at the state level. If we follow CDC guidelines, it says to still wear a mask. That’s where the majority of Oshkosh residents are with their feelings, so that’s the direction we chose. It is a personal choice at the end of the day, but I encourage everyone that is able to be vaccinated to do so.
Miller: First let me say that I applaud our county and local leaders for their leadership. CDC guidance continues to change, and we learn more to help guide our decision-making. We are also fortunate to be in an area that is doing a fantastic job deploying the vaccine. As we look to the future, we will need to continue to react to the information we have at that given time. As an example, high ICU usage may change the Council’s response. However, at the time of writing this, I believe we should continue to focus on the deployment of vaccines while following the eligibility per the Wisconsin DHS. I believe we should also continue to leverage the great medical resources we have in our community via Ascension and Aurora and create different learning opportunities so the citizens of Oshkosh are well informed to make decisions that are best for them and their family.
Wojciechowski: Council can continue to lead by example and encourage everyone who is able to get vaccinated. In the meantime I support keeping a mask mandate, social distancing, and encouraging capacity limits to slow the spread while others wait to get vaccinated. We need to keep working with our partners around the state to ensure vaccines are getting out as quickly and safely as possible.
Contact Alex Groth at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @grothalexandria.