Two candidates are vying to serve District 2 of the Stoughton City Council, one of the two contested nonpartisan local elections. Incumbent Ronald Christianson is trying to hold off political newcomer Kathleen Tass Johnson as voters prepare to go to the polls on April 5. Councilmembers serve three-year terms with alternate term endings.
Christianson has held a seat on the Stoughton City Council since 2004, after he was re-elected after being beaten out in 2003. He serves on the Redevelopment Authority, which focuses on improving certain parts of the city of Stoughton, and is also the chairman for the Planning Commission.
Johnson has lived in Stoughton for the past six years, and is new to the political arena. She made a living as a realtor for over a decade before transitioning to a healthcare career. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in art and coursework in landscape architecture, law class land use and community development.
This election comes down to one major issue: whether or not the city should develop commercial areas outside of the city center. The project, Kettle Park West, would consist primarily of commercial and retail uses. Since the first proposal of Kettle Park West in 2013, developers attempted to identify potential lands for the development, before settling on a 140-acre piece of land on Stoughton’s west side.
Christianson is very much in favor of Kettle Park West, believing that it will be appealing to families who are interested in moving to Stoughton.
“It’s not about building Wal-Marts or supercenters,” Christianson said. “It’s about attracting families here.”
On the other side of the spectrum sits Johnson. Her opposition of Kettle Park West was a big reason as to why she decided to run for city council. Johnson believes that residents of Stoughton aren’t interested in new developments.
“I’ve talked to people and very few are in favor of this,” Johnson said. “To them and to me, there’s just very little upside.”
Johnson also doesn’t believe her inexperience should be of importance to the voters, stating that her views should be the only thing that matters.
“I’ve been outspoken when it comes to my ideas on how to improve Stoughton,” she said. “My lack of experience should be irrelevant.”
Voters will make their decision on April 5.