City of Fitchburg
The three applicants seeking to fill an open aldermanic seat tried to sell themselves to their voters Wednesday – the seven alders on the Fitchburg Common Council.
The council is expected to vote for Sam Voorhees, Patrick Cheney or Shannon Strassman at its Aug. 13 meeting. Whomever is selected will fill Dan Carpenter’s Seat 6, which he vacated when he moved out of District 3 this year.
It will require four votes to appoint any of the candidates, Mayor Aaron Richardson explained to the group at Wednesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting. If no one reaches that threshold on the first vote, the person with the fewest votes would be cut and there would be a second vote, he said.
Candidates answered predetermined alder questions, which covered how they would interact with residents, working for a majority-minority population in the district and housing density.
All three praised Carpenter and said they wanted to continue his responsiveness to citizens.
“I was only interested in this seat after Dan resigned because I liked what Dan Carpenter was doing,” said Cheney, the East Fitchburg Neighborhood Association president. “I think he responded well to citizens who brought problems to him, and that’s what I’m interested in.”
Strassman, a nurse for UW Health, echoed a similar tone.
“I do believe in a lot of the things that Dan stands for,” she said. “We need to be transparent and listen to the people that we represent and really take in account what they want instead of what we think is best for them.”
Voorhees praised Carpenter at times but added that there was “some room for engaging people that haven’t historically been engaged in Fitchburg.”
“I think that means renters, I think that means people of color, I think that means people who have recently moved here to the city,” said the west-side ad agency employee.
Voorhees has worked with political candidates, he said, and has seen their “ability to fundamentally change and improve peoples’ lives.” His fiancée, Ann DeGarmo, was recently elected to a Dane County Board seat representing parts of Fitchburg.
“We have a lot of big opportunities and challenges coming up,” he said. “We need to make sure that we have as many perspectives on the table as possible.”
For Strassman, being on the council would be a learning opportunity, as well as a chance to serve her community, she said.
“Hopefully I will be able to learn a lot from you if I get the opportunity,” Strassman told alders.
Cheney, who regularly attends city meetings and worked closely with the city during the Lacy Road reconstruction project, said he was ready to step up and represent a larger group beyond his own neighborhood.
Voorhees and Cheney both said there’s a need for more “collegiality” on the council, as well, with Voorhees encouraging “working together on the issues that are affecting Fitchburg.”