Voters in the City of Fitchburg’s 4th Aldermanic District will have a primary election next Tuesday to narrow down candidates before the April election.
Three candidates, Marc Jones, Scott Lehmann and Randy Udell will vie for the District 4, Seat 8 spot on Feb. 18. Ald. Janell Rice, the incumbent, announced last year she would not be running for reelection because of a “family matter.”
The two highest vote-getters will move on to the April 7 election, which will feature contested races in each of the other three aldermanic districts.
This will be Fitchburg’s first election where only half of the Common Council is running for re-election at a time, as the seats up for re-election this year all were 1-year terms. This year, winners all will have two-year terms starting in April.
District 4 covers the largest geographical area of Fitchburg, with much of it rural. Areas to the south of Irish Lane and east of Syene Road are in District 4, as are the areas west of Fish Hatchery Road south of Lacy and south and west of Mckee and Mutchler roads.
All three candidates told the Star stormwater management and flooding are among their main concerns in their district.
The candidates also stated their interest in other issues the district and city face, including growth and property rights, road conditions and climate change.
The Fitchburg Star interviewed all three candidates, listed below in alphabetical order, for the seat this month and had them fill out questionnaires regarding their thoughts on the city.
Jones, who serves on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee and is a former alder, Town Board member and mayoral candidate, said he’s running to preserve Fitchburg’s “great quality of life.”
The city’s split between urban and rural areas and its accessibility to amenities such as bike paths and farmers markets, is part of what creates that quality of life, he said.
Jones said his experience in local government and on the board of a regional credit union, as well as his status as self-employed, makes him a good candidate for alder because of his availability to serve and knowledge of issues.
Jones, who was on the Town Board when the city was incorporated from a township almost 37 years ago, said he thinks the agreement to bring part of the Town of Madison into the city by 2022 should remain as it is.
“There’s five entities that created that agreement years ago,” he said. “To try to make changes now, you’d have to get all five of those to agree with it … I don’t think we got a bad deal out of it.”
The main concerns Jones outlined in his questionnaire are road conditions and stormwater management, because those issues are all affected by development in the city.
He said he’d like to see the city adopt a purchase of development rights program, such as the Town of Dunn has, and preserve the southern portion of Fitchburg as farmland to maintain a strong quality of life.
“I’m very passionate about development rights,” he said. “Once you know that you can’t go that way, then you focus on redevelopment.”
Lehmann, a crime scene investigation detective for the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, also serves on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee, and has volunteered as a coach and as a part of the leadership board for his childrens’ football program.
Lehmann said he looks at the role of alder as an opportunity to be more educated on how local government works while simultaneously serving and listening to his neighbors.
“I’ve always been giving back to my community in my law enforcement role, but now I wanted to come at it with a different angle,” he said. “I’ve done things with my kids in sports and giving back to the community in that way, volunteering and coaching, but this is just another way I see that I can give back to my community.”
Lehmann said he’s concerned about road conditions and construction timelines in the city, as well as stormwater management and flooding in the Lake Barney area on the southern border with Oregon.
In his questionnaire, Lehmann also mentioned increasing investment in renewable energy sources and maintaining open lines of communication as priorities he’d like to see in the city.
Lehmann said he’s eager to talk to people in the district and continue to have good conversations with them.
“I want them to look at me as someone who’s approachable,” he said. “I want to be that person where if you have a concern and you have an idea about how we can make something better, I want to be open and I want to hear that.”
Udell, a retired AT&T engineer who volunteers as the treasurer for the state Democratic Party, said he’s running for the seat because he wants to be a forward-thinking leader for the district.
He got involved in politics as a teenager during a period of unrest, Udell said, and worked behind the scenes for Wisconsin members of Congress as a college student. He then worked for the state of Maryland investigating white-collar fraud in the attorney general’s office and had a brief stint with the FBI before working with his father’s engineering company.
“I felt it was time to represent my community of 22 years,” he said.
Udell said he and other residents of his district are concerned about climate change and the impact it’s having on the rural areas of Fitchburg, and he’s also concerned with fiscal responsibility.
In his questionnaire, Udell said he would like to see the city improve its watershed practices and create better means of draining excess rainwater and managing climate change.
“This is good, in a sense that we recognize that there’s an issue,” he said. “In Fitchburg, it is the flooding – property, basements, even my own backyard. I haven’t had any water in my basement, but it’s been a swamp all summer.”