Four candidates are vying for three vacant seats on the Fort Atkinson City Council in the April 6 election. Incumbents are Mason Becker and Chris Scherer. They are being challenged by Megan Hartwick and Jordan Lamb.
The top three vote-getters will win at-large seats from a field of four. Paul Kotz is not seeking another term.
Candidates’ responses to a questionnaire, presented in alphabetical order, are as follows.
Mason BeckerBecker, 40, lives at 1511 Stacy Lane, Fort Atkinson. A restauranteur, he has resided in Fort Atkinson for 37 years.
He earned a bachelor of arts in Speech Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, graduating in 2002.
Becker serves on the Fort Atkinson Lions Club, currently as second vice president, and at Bethany Lutheran Church, having been on the church council for six years. His family business is a member of the Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce.
As for political experience, he is serving his third term on the Fort Atkinson City Council. He ran for State Assembly in 2020. He also served on the Residence Hall Association executive board at UW-Whitewater.
The incumbent was asked why he is seeking a fourth term on the council.
“I believe that right now Fort Atkinson is at a critical crossroads, and many opportunities lie ahead. Having now served on the city council for three terms, I am fortunate to have been able to work with many good people on our council, in our city government and in our community. Matt Trebatoski was an excellent city manager for six years, and we now have a new and highly talented city manager serving in Rebecca Houseman LeMire.
“I want to be part of ensuring that our new city manager is as much of a success as possible. While we have made strong progress in areas like revitalizing our downtown, fixing roads and ensuring financial stability, there is still more work to be done. Furthermore, with Councilman Paul Kotz deciding not to seek re-election, if I am returned to the council by the voters, I will be the most tenured member of the council. I want to utilize my civic experience to help ensure a smooth transition over the next two years.”
Becker was asked what the most urgent issues facing the city are.
“The pressing issues are obvious. We need more residential development in Fort Atkinson, both single-family and multi-family home construction, suited for people at all rungs of the income ladder. People want to live here, but many don’t have options for housing right now. We are fortunate to now own 75 acres of land on Banker Road. I want to work with our city manager and others to ensure the proper development of that area.
“Our other areas of opportunity are in economic development. I want major retail back in Fort Atkinson as much as anyone. We need to be more proactive in that regard, while also making sure our smaller local retailers continue to be supported. I also want to make sure that our industrial sector continues to grow and succeed. We are blessed to have employers who have been here for many decades providing quality jobs, and we can’t take that for granted. Some of them are ready to expand, and our city government should do what we can to help make their plans for growth a success.”
Asked what unique perspective he brings, Becker cited his governmental experience.
“I am fortunate that I was able to work with many other council members from diverse perspectives and backgrounds over the past six years. I think I bring an even-handed approach, and bring a view that, while we need continued strategic growth in the city, we also need to make sure any future growth is sustainable.
“Also, as someone who keeps an eye on politics at the state level, I understand the impact that decisions made by the state government have had on Fort Atkinson, and I stay engaged with groups like the League of Municipalities. Finally, as a husband and father, I am continually interested in making sure our city is attractive and viable for families. Children are our future, and I want to make sure Fort Atkinson continues to be an excellent place to raise a family.”
Asked for any additional comments, the incumbent candidate encouraged everyone to continue telling the story of Fort Atkinson.
“We have been given a gift by those who came before us: a city that is in a stable position financially, and poised for future growth. We have so many quality amenities that make our city attractive: great schools, great parks, an excellent bike trail, the Rock River and an abundance of quality businesses. We also have residents who are really engaged with what we have happening: outside observers have been very impressed! We should make the most of these assets and continue building on them, while marketing our city’s unique identity and history.
Megan HartwickHartwick, 36, lives at 1225 Orchard Lane, Fort Atkinson. She is a 2003 graduate of Fort Atkinson High School and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from UW-Whitewater in 2007.
Hartwick was born and raised in Fort Atkinson, and moved back to the community in 2012 after six years in the Chicago area. She has lived in Fort Atkinson for 27 years and since returning to town eight years ago has invested much of her time and energy into supporting and improving the city.
“For the past 7 ½ years, I have served as the executive director of United Way of Jefferson & North Walworth Counties, which has provided me with tremendous experience to be an effective council person,” Hartwick said. “I have strong relationships across many sectors of our community — nonprofit leaders, small business owners, corporate leaders, young professionals, church leaders, and community groups and leaders. I would love the build on those relationships as part of the council to create stronger public/private partnerships to further advance much-needed initiatives and projects.
“I am also the founder of the FA Summer Charity Concerts, which has become a popular, and free, summer event in Fort Atkinson, serving as a fundraiser in support of the Lend a Hand program at BASE (Badgerland After-School Enrichment) and the FA Summer Charity Concert scholarship fund. In addition, I currently serve as a member of the Fort Atkinson Police and Fire Commission, am an active volunteer with the Fort Atkinson Generals, and serve as a nonprofit representative on the Jefferson County Planning Commission.
“I have also served on a Fort Atkinson Placemaking Committee, school district referendum committees, spoken at chamber events, participated in Fort Atkinson High School portfolio reviews, presented to high-schoolers on volunteerism, volunteered at Fort Atkinson Middle School career fairs, spoken at the Seniors Top 10 dinner, and often meet with and speak to local service clubs in Fort Atkinson. I am also on the review committee for the BASE Kid of the Year award and on the nominating committee for the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation’s Making Fort Special award.
“My background and experience are deeply rooted within this community and put me in a position to be a very qualified city council candidate.”
Asked what the top issues facing the city are, the candidate said they are as follows:
Net new growth and economic development — “There is an obvious need to focus on attracting new businesses to Fort Atkinson, but I think it’s also important for the city to evaluate what can be done to provide additional support and incentives to local individuals who might have an interest in starting a new business here. In order to help increase funding made available to our city, we must focus on new net growth, which will also help address the major affordable housing issue we have in Fort Atkinson and across Jefferson County. Everyone in our communities is impacted by the lack of available and affordable housing. I appreciate the city is already beginning to address this issue.”
Taxes and wheel tax: “Our city must be able to explain to residents, accurately and clearly, the reasons for their property tax increases, while citizens must also recognize the need for tax revenue to help our city address issues like road repairs and net new growth, etc. It’s also important that Fort Atkinson be in line with surrounding communities’ property tax rates. And when we’re not, we need to make it very clear to our citizens what they are getting that is resulting in those higher rates. Our system for road repairs and updates doesn’t seem to be working as well as residents would like it to be. I think it’s important for the city to better explain to residents the high level of work involved with road repairs (new pipes, gutters, drainage, etc.) and that with over 70 miles of roads in our community, there simply aren’t enough funds to address all needs within a year. I think it’s important to highlight how the wheel tax has helped and what plans are moving forward to tackle some much-needed road updates.”
Asked why she is running for the council, the candidate replied: “I grew up in Fort Atkinson and this community gave me so much and was a huge part in shaping who I am, and the opportunities I was given. Now that I am back living here and am raising my family here, I want to be as big a part of helping this community grow and thrive as I can. I want to give back to a community and a city of people who gave so much to me.
“I am also seeking a seat on the council because I think I would be a strong councilmember. I believe I am a trustworthy, hardworking, approachable person and that those attributes would serve me well in a city council position, which, in turn, would serve our city well. I welcome the opportunity to keep learning as much as I can about our city and I believe I could help bring that education to our residents, and that they would feel comfortable bringing feedback and comments directly to me.
“I also think it is crucial, with a new city manager, that we have the strongest city council possible, with councilmembers who are actively involved in and connected throughout our community, have leadership experience, and who can provide thoughtful and effective feedback working with the city manager. I also believe it’s incredibly important that we have at least one female voice on our council, and I would love to be that voice.
“And I want to serve because I am someone who wants to do the work. Ideas, brainstorming and discussion are all important, but we also need leaders who want to see those ideas come to fruition and who are willing to roll up their sleeves and be active part of that. I want to do that work, because I deeply love this community and the people who call it home.”
Jordan LambLamb, 25, resides at 107 Clarence St., Fort Atkinson. He is co-owner of Fort Atkinson Small Engine LLC. He has lived in the city for 22 years, and graduated from Fort Atkinson High School in 2013.
He is a member of the Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce, and also a member of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).
Although he has no official experience in politics, Lamb said he always has followed local politics and how it affects the community both as a homeowner and small business owner.
The newcomer was asked what his reasons for seeking a council seat are.
“I believe my hardworking attitude, along with my drive to get things accomplished, will help drive this city to a better future. Fort Atkinson city taxpayers need a true voice on the council that will be completely transparent about anything going on. It is not a foreign action for me to be working side-by-side with government officials to make things happen. My prior experience working with the DOT provided great insight into project deadlines, budgets and community impact/expectations. I would like to work with city committees to try to boost the local downtown businesses and increase the tourists our city can attract.”
Asked what the most important issues facing the city are, Lamb replied there are multiple items.
“The first is road repairs and improvement of the road structures based on current tax rates and the imposed wheel tax. Road repairs are needed in both the commercial areas and the residential areas with a better plan needing to be created. The next item is taxes and tax usage since this is a topic discussed by most homeowners. Tax on the current homeowners needs to be evaluated further to determine how this can best support the community with reasonable spending and city purchases. The final item is small business needs in the community. It is evident that many small businesses need additional support to create roots in this great community for generations to come.”
And what unique perspective, if elected, would Lamb bring to the council?
“I am a second-generation business owner here in Fort Atkinson with the previous generation focusing on upholstery. I decided to take the hard work and dedication that was demonstrated to me and start a small engine repair shop. As a small business owner, I can understand the demand in the community and the benefits, gratitude and frustrations of this role in the community. Limitations of available land and appropriate buildings is evident in this community and real estate purchased by the city for growth and development could be more accessible to small business owners.
“Considering my age, I am a great voice for the younger generation who are just beginning the adventure of becoming homeowners, business owners and starting new families. I would consider myself a fresh perspective to the city council and can represent an alternative generation with big dreams and life goals. The unique perspective that I bring would be asking why and gathering more information to support the solutions that would benefit the city of Fort Atkinson. The goal as a city council member is to support the best interest of this community by listening and attempting to find common ground between financial implications and residents’ expectations. As a city council member, I would want to be fully educated on the subject being discussed and understand the long-term implications before a decision is voted on.”
Additionally, Lamb said, “I want to thank you, the residents of this amazing city, for taking time to follow me on this journey as I run for city council during this important election.”
Chris SchererScherer, 29, resides at 15 S. 6th St., Fort Atkinson. He is self-employed in business consulting. He has lived in the city for 26 years.
He was educated at Fort Atkinson High School and UW-Whitewater.
Scherer’s civic and organizational memberships include: Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce member, 13 years, where he was Board president-elect, Ambassador president, served on the Rhythm on the River and Economic Development committees, Speaker’s Bureau and conducted senior exit interviews. He also has been involved in the Fort Atkinson Summer Charity Concert Series, a high school athletics coach and a Continuing Education instructor at Madison College.
His political/community planning experience includes: two years (one term) as a Fort Atkinson City Council member; facilitating a community-driven envisioning session; Fort Atkinson Placemaking Initiative; Jefferson County strategic planning; Planning Commission member; Airport Committee member; Historical Society Board member; Cable Television Committee; License Committee appointee; and Finance Committee appointee.
Scherer was asked what his reasons for seeking another term on city council are.
“There are many times throughout my life where I understood that my goals would have been harder to achieve without the support and guidance of many people within the Fort Atkinson community. My desire to remain civically involved, specifically as a city council member, is to continue making a positive impact on the community that I was raised, educated and live in.
“I am choosing to run for a second term as a council member because I want to see projects that have started through to the end and to responsibly start new improvements to our city. While having only been an elected official for one term, my experience and involvement with the current decision-making in the city extends back to 2015 during the community placemaking initiative. Six years later, I am still actively involved, and a part of facilitating the planning and envisioning that occurred then.”
Scherer was asked what the most pressing issues facing the city are.
“As a council member, the majority of my conversations with community members in the past two years have involved housing, road conditions and economic development. All of these projects require long-term planning, which is something we addressed as a council while approving our latest comprehensive plan. With this plan we are able to make decisions affecting the future of Fort Atkinson while keeping residents’ input and goals in mind.
“The lack of available and affordable housing in Fort Atkinson is a very pressing issue at the moment. This directly affects the city’s growth and tax base, workforce development, and the ability to accommodate people at different stages in their lives. I am proud to say that I voted in favor of a land acquisition on the northwest side of the city that will allow our community to attract development and begin addressing the housing shortage we are facing. I supported this land purchase and other land purchases because it allows us to be deliberate in how we expand our city while keeping the financial impact to a minimum or non-existent to our taxpayers.
“Economic development can be difficult to measure and often is not something that occurs with extensive visibility. What I believe is that Fort Atkinson is a community that provides a great opportunity for appropriate development. We have a good mixture of land and existing space for new tenants to consider and for existing businesses to grow. The reality is our proximity to major shopping centers like Janesville and Madison may preclude us from attracting certain businesses. While we may wish for certain businesses to choose to locate in Fort Atkinson, I think our time and taxpayer dollars would be better spent developing an economic development position within the city that can focus on attracting businesses that would be the best fit for our community. This position can then be the official entity for inquiries and continue to work with the city council, city manager, and chamber of commerce to facilitate economic generation from within and outside the community.”
Asked what unique perspective he brings to the council, Scherer replied: “My perspective is unique compared to other candidates because of my community involvement and representation of Fort Atkinson extending back past 2015. As a small business owner and entrepreneur, I have actively pursued opportunities that prepare me with a different approach to supporting and attracting other small businesses and making a lasting impact on communities. I was asked to be a young professional representative during the community placemaking initiative in 2015, which I gladly accepted and was able to bring ideas to from a statewide young professional’s organization.
“I also was one of the Fort Atkinson community representatives during a countywide strategic planning session, which provided me with the long-term insight of how Jefferson County hopes to grow and support its communities. I sat on the Planning Commission prior to any elected terms and learned from my fellow commissioners how to evaluate projects in a manner that was beneficial to all parties involved and when to decline something that did not meet our city’s standards.
Asked for any additional comments, the incumbent candidate said he wants to continue working on behalf of the residents of Fort Atkinson.
“This does not mean that every decision I make as part of a governing body will be a popular one, it does not mean that I will have an answer to every question, but it does mean that I am going to do as much research and preparation as is necessary to make sure that our community benefits. I am fortunate to serve as an elected official for a community that has always had one common goal: to see the successful growth of Fort Atkinson while maintaining its unique identity.”