The Monona Rag

Dealing the Dish on Monona, Wisconsin

Tag: Jeff Wiswell

City council race veers toward meaningless

The withdrawal of Jeff Wiswell from the city council race (on the heels of Dennis Kugle’s withdrawal) all but makes the upcoming election meaningless.

Mary O’Connor, Kathy Thomas and Brian Holmquist are now running for three seats – making them all shoo ins for a 2-year term.

I was surprised that Wiswell decided to file for re-election last December. I thought his defeat in the mayoral race would seal his time in Monona politics. It turns out it was only a two-month delay. Wiswell’s decision to pull out of the race is awkward, but I’m still not surprised.

I was more surprised by Dennis Kugle’s withdrawal from the race. It’s known that some people had targeted Kugle since he had donated money to Scott Walker. Perhaps Kugle felt that we were headed toward another ‘blue wave’ – like last April – when left-of-center voters came out in massive numbers to express their displeasure with Governor Walker via the supreme court race. Monona was blanketed with JoAnne Kloppenburg signs – and it was no surprise that many of those same yards sported Bob Miller, Chad Speight and Doug Wood signs. All three of those men rode a strong turnout to wins in the mayoral and city council races, respectively.

Both Kugle and Wiswell, who are the two of the three more conservative council members (the other being Jim Busse), may have both felt the anti-Walker wrath from Monona voters had they stayed in the race. However, there is no polarizing race this April – as there was in 2011 – so I don’t feel any such sentiment would be overwhelming.

The most difficult thing about Wiswell’s and Kugle’s bailing from the race is that it doesn’t create any sort of debate or conversation. And more importantly, it kept others from running. If Kugle and Wiswell had not filed to run in the first place, other candidates may have stepped forward, as opposed to the remaining three. Sadly, we don’t know.

No matter the reasons for Wiswell’s and Kugle’s departures, the moves will leave us with very new city council come April.

First, we’ll have two women (I don’t know when was the last time that happened). Second, two of the three will be newcomers to the council (the third is former alderwoman Kathy Thomas).

Finally, the council will be a solidly left leaning group going forward. Last year it was Chad Speight replacing Mike Veserat. Now we have two of the remaining three ‘conservative’ alders being replaced by more moderate/liberal individuals.

What does a more liberal city council mean? Probably not that much. There is not a lot of leeway in the city budget. There is the possibility the city could borrow money if they want to begin some larger projects. This was probably less likely under the previous administrations. But some projects that have been stalled may emerge – such as bringing Madison Metro into Monona.

With Wiswell and Kugle gone, the city administration should be more unified and be able to push through projects more aggressively. The only danger for them is that they will have no one to blame but themselves if they fail.

The final question – should Super Friendly Horse run for city council?

Wiswell to run again for city council; Kathy Thomas eying run

After some speculation, word is out that long time city councilman Jeff Wiswell will run for another term this spring. Also, the Herald-Independent posted a story on the spring elections earlier this week, noting that former councilwoman Kathy Thomas is looking to run again as well.

The inclusion of Thomas was not a surprise. She has stayed active in city politics after losing the election two years ago. We had suspected she would run again – especially after alderman Scott Munson (who took Thomas’ seat) announced he was not running for another term. Thomas loves being part of the city’s pulse, and getting back on the council was always in the mix for her.

The move by Wiswell, however, is a bit of a surprise. After getting mauled by Bob Miller in last year’s mayoral race, we’d thought that the Wiz would call it a career in Monona politics. But no, he is going to run again.

No official word from the other incumbent, Denis Kugle, but we expect him to run for council again.

There are no other announced candidates at this time, but don’t be surprised if someone emerges in the next week or so. A field of Wiswell, Thomas and Kugle would represent more of the same for the city. With the Walker recall election likely getting people worked up this winter/spring, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone took up the anti-Walker banner on a local level, much like Chad Speight did last year.

However, the local elections will have a different character this year. It will likely be strictly a city council race highlighting the ballot. There is no mayoral race. There is no contentious supreme court race. The senate race isn’t until the fall. There is no school referendum. And as for a Walker recall, it looks like early April would be too early to get it on the ballot.

That means a relatively ‘dull’ election this spring in Monona, which will make it more difficult for a newcomer to break into city politics.

City Council – ins and outs

Sunny had a recent column in which she reported Scott Munson would not run for city council next spring. Munson cited a desire to be with family in the evenings more than hanging out with a bunch of middle-aged men as his reason for stepping aside.

The move is not a shocker, as Munson had not shown to someone who liked the game of being a politician. He is a sincere, thoughtful person. The time needed to be on city council is frequently noted when people don’t run for office. It often precludes people with young children.

So, with that decided, what about the other alderman up for re-election – Dennis Kugle and Mike Wiswell? Sunny says Kugle will run again, but doesn’t know about Wiswell. I agree with her on Kugle, but I believe that Wiswell will call it a career in Monona politics next year. I don’t doubt the Wiz could get re-elected, but after his big defeat in the Mayoral race last spring, I think he’ll decide he’s had enough.

So, who would possibly be interested in filling the shoes of Munson – and possibly Aro?

Don’t be surprised if Kathy Thomas makes another run for council. She was surprised by Munson’s victory two years ago, but is still quite active. She loved being on council (even if she liked to complain about the work).

Sunny mentions school board member Jessica Ace. She is safely on the MG school board, but has worked on the Parks and Rec committee for a while. She would actually make a fashion review worthwhile for a city council meeting.

Perhaps Matt Aro, who lost two years ago, would be interested this time around. No clue if he’s interested.

Former alderman Mike Veserat would be another option, but I don’t see him getting back in game. The last election he didn’t seem to be particularly engaged with, so I question if he’d want to dive back into city politics.

No matter, I expect a decidedly ‘blue’ streak running through Monona voters next April. Why? Because that may very well be the same time a Walker recall election could take place. If the recall would occur at the same time as the city council elections, liberal voters will come out in droves in April (and there are more liberal voters in Monona than conservative ones). It could lead to a ‘blue’ route at all levels. And while labels like conservative and liberal often get cast aside when voting on a local level, I think the last sweep by Bob Miller and Chad Speight over more conservative candidates shows what can happen.

Let us know if you hear of someone else who might be running. Or if you want to suggest someone who would be a good candidate.


Doug Wood new council president

This was old last week, but I thought it worthy of a quick follow up.

Doug Wood was unanimously elected as the city council president. Jeff Wiswell had previously served as president.

Wiswell did a classy thing and nominated Wood. It was a nice gesture. He could have encouraged Busse or Kugel to go for the position, but did not. Last year, Doug and Jeff drew a tie vote (3-3) for the council president position, but Wood withdrew and handed the job to Wiswell. So it’s a nice, Karmic thing.

The council president doesn’t really have lots of power, but it’s a nice feather for anyone to have (especially if he/she is interested in higher office – which Wood has said he is NOT interested in).

Miller scores huge win in mayoral race

Bob Miller is da man in Monona.

Miller put the hurt on Jeff Wiswell, capturing almost 64% of the vote in today’s election.

Over 4,000 ballots were cast.

My initial thoughts about Miller’s victory are that Bob did a good job generating early buzz for his candidacy, he kept it up (lots of yard signs, advertising, interviews, campaigning, etc.), and he didn’t let up. He created a strong message that played to his strengths and stayed on target. The results speak for themselves. Kudos to Bob for the big win.

For Wiswell, it looks like he wasn’t able to generate enthusiasm beyond his core base.

As we discussed in a previous article, the anti-Walker vote may have helped Miller (at least a little). But it certainly wasn’t the deciding factor as the numbers were decidedly in Miller’s favor.

In the other race, city council, Chad Speight gets a measure of revenge against Mike Veserat, defeating the incumbent by almost 300 votes. Speight had lost two years ago to Veserat by a single vote. We thought a strong turnout for Miller would help Speight, and that has proven to be true.

The elections move the city government more ‘blue’ – but not overwhelmingly so.

It’s been an interesting election cycle. Thanks to everyone – candidates, posters, and readers – who participated.

Campaign literature in Monona

This year, I have generally avoided talking about the campaign literature sent out or dropped at my door step. The reason is that most of the ads have been non-controversial. But I thought I’d make a few comments, including some regarding our only real ‘attack’ ad of the year.

Bob Miller’s ‘newspaper’ was interesting. I give him credit for trying something different, but I thought it was a bit too much. Who wants to read four pages of self-promotion of any politician?

Kudos to Doug Wood for the simplest literature. He listed 3-4 groups he’s a member of, listed 7-8 goals, and then just put down the names of people who are endorsing him. Nice and straight forward.

I give Wiswell credit for best campaign literature comeback. His initial letter he sent a while back was long and rambling. The one he sent this past weekend was much more focused. Still a bit wordy, but much improved.

Busse and Veserat were pretty simple on their literature. Nothing earth shattering, but nothing that is likely to win any awards.

That leaves us with Chad Speight. Speight had sent a postcard mailer last month, listing people endorsing him. It was simple, but didn’t give much information (something I feel he needs to do since he’s the challenger in this election). I got a second piece of literature this weekend. This one had more information, which was good. Speight gave some specifics on how he’d be different, such as buying more fuel-efficient vehicles. But Speight also did what no one else had done this election, and that was to call out another candidate in his literature.

In this case, Speight targeted Alderman Mike Veserat. To be honest, I don’t have a problem with a candidate pointing out another candidate’s voting record to illustrate a difference. But I thought the two points Speight made were rather lame – and in one case – mildly unfair.

The first item was to criticize Veserat for not calling a meeting of the Transit Commission for ‘many months’. However, this committee is what you’d call a ‘contract committee’. They get the contract for the service (which is the Monona Transit) set up. At that point, there’s not a lot to do. You meet periodically to see how things are going, and make adjustments as necessary. But to meet every month is probably overkill.

The second item is to say that Veserat ‘proposed cutting the budget’ for Parks and Rec services. The item (I assume) Speight is referring to was the increasing of a Parks and Rec staff person from part-time to full-time. I emailed Veserat on this matter, and he replied that he did not proposed cutting the Parks and Rec budget – but, in fact, proposed that this year’s Park and Rec budget remain the same as last year’s. With regard to the position, he was concerned that it would not be sustainable in the long term – meaning we’d just have to cut it next year. Therefore, he put forward the amendment to keep the position as a part timer, to give him time to make sure the position was something we could afford going forward. When he was convinced this was a sustainable position, he withdrew the amendment.

So, did Veserat propose to ‘cut Parks and Rec services’? He put forth an amendment to budget to keep a part time person at that level, instead of becoming full time. But the item was never voted on, since he withdrew it.

Technically, you can argue everyone is right, and everyone is wrong. But I find it awkward that Speight is doing the same thing he bemoaned happened to him in the last election (when he said some people, including Veserat, distorted his viewpoints on putting more sidewalks in Monona). I don’t have a problem with any of our elected officials taking more time to make sure we are spending our money wisely.

I also don’t like these kinds of attacks late in the election cycle. It doesn’t give the opponent sufficient time to respond to such accusations.

Personally, I wish Speight had stuck to the things he believes in. I think his literature did well up until this ‘attack’ part. He has taken a moment in time, and put his own spin on it, to make someone else look bad. If alderman Veserat had pressed on with this amendment, I could see this as a more clear cut issue. But that Veserat never was cutting the position in the first place, and the fact that he dropped the amendment, makes it murky.

I will say that if this is all we have to complain about with ‘negative’ or ‘attack’ ads, we are doing pretty good in Monona. Considering the BS that is flying (on both sides) of the supreme court race, things aren’t bad in Monona.

Finally, I may have missed something – emails, phone calls, mailers. I’m just going by what I received. If you feel anything is missing, please add it to our comments.

Former mayor Lichtfeld endorses Miller and Wiswell

Well this is a weird one.

Former mayor Richard Lichtfeld sent a letter to the Herald-Independent endorsing both Bob Miller and Jeff Wiswell for Monona mayor.


So why is Lichtfeld endorsing both men?

It seems that Miller had asked for Lichtfeld’s endorsement early in the election cycle, and at the time, Wiswell was uncertain about entering the race. Thus, Lichtfeld gave Miller his endorsement. Lichtfeld says in the letter to the newspaper that had he known Wiswell was going to run for mayor as well, he would have remained neutral.


Bob Miller/Jeff Wiswell Death Match Analysis

Let’s skip the elections. Instead, we’ll have a public spectacle – food, drinking and games. We can do the traditional spouse carry contest and bean bag toss, but the highlight will be a Jeff Wiswell vs Bob Miller death match – no weapons – just bare hands. The winner becomes Monona mayor.

But who would win such a battle?

Here’s the analysis:

  • Age. Miller is younger than Wiswell by five years. Youth, we all have found out (or will find out), frequently brings a strength and zest. Miller is 55, while Wiswell is 60, so Miller gets the nod in this category.
  • Size. Wiswell is a tall, big guy. Bigger than Miller. His size will threaten to overwhelm Miller in a brawl. Advantage Wiswell.
  • Military experience. Wiswell is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol. We don’t know what training went into this, but we’re betting the Wiz has had to go through some military training. Miller doesn’t list any military service on his record. Wiswell wins here.
  • Paramilitary experience. Wiswell was boy scout and cub scout leader. He could easily find some available objects (twigs, gum, etc.) and make it into some sort of killing device in a McGyveresque fashion. Again, the nod goes to Wiswell.
  • Demeanor. In talking to each candidate, Miller seems the kind of guy who would chat and chat. In a death match, this doesn’t help. We see Wiswell just saying, ‘No more talk’, and move in for the kill. Wiswell comes out on top here as well.
  • Voice. Jeff Wiswell’s voice scares me. It might scare Bob Miller as well. I don’t see Bob Miller’s voice as being scary.
  • Hair. Wiswell has little. Miller has lots. And a great mustache. I’m not sure if this is relevant. It’s just a major difference we thought we should point out. Advantage Miller.

Conclusion: if the opportunity arises, Miller should avoid any sort of physical confrontation with Wiswell. The Wiz’s size, experience and demeanor would easily overcome Miller’s age and hair advantage.

Please note that we are going by each individual’s biography found on We may be missing some relevant career information – such as being a ninja warlock assassin for the CIA – that would change the outcome.

Monona Rag’s joint interview with Jeff Wiswell and Bob Miller

The Monona Rag sat down with mayoral candidates Bob Miller and Jeff Wiswell.

The interview was conducted in a confessional at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Thanks to Jeff and Bob for cramming into their side of the confessional together for this chat.

JDM: What made you want to run for Mayor of Monona?

Wiswell: The Magic 8 Ball said ‘Outlook good’ when I ask it if I should run.

Miller: I was bored watering my lawn.

JDM: The economy is difficult and money is tight. How would you increase city revenues?

W: I would sell oil and gas drilling rights to Squaw Bay.

M: I would change the name of Squaw Bay. Then sell the rights.

JDM: What are your thoughts on the closing of Maywood School?

W: The history of education in Monona goes back decades. When I was a child, we… (I woke up 20 minutes later) … and that’s what we should do.

M: I prefer not to answer that since anything I say could come back to haunt me.

JDM: What is something few of us know about you?

W: The Clash are my favorite band. “London Burning’, baby!

M: My mustache is insured for $100,000.

JDM: Describe your hair?

W: It combs over nicely.

M: Luxuriant. It’s a national treasure. I love to prep it in the morning.

JDM: What are some new things you’d do as mayor?

W: I would build a high speed train from Monona to Milwaukee. Kids could come from miles around to attend our wonderful school system. We’d have to reopen Maywood and maybe even Nichols.

M: What he said. And then I’d extend to Minneapolis.

JDM: Anything else?

M: Pub crawl bus around Monona every Friday and Saturday night, between the bars as well as church fish fries.W: No.

Would you re-open the chicken debate?

W: You’re lucky I don’t kill you now.

M: Sure. I love shiny bright objects.

JDM: Who would win in fist fight between you two?

M: I don’t think a fight would be necessary, since we could talk out any issues.

W: I would. I’d take the punk down while he tried his mamby pampy negotiating tactics.

Jeff Wiswell to run for mayor

Word is out that Jeff Wiswell is going to run for mayor.

No shock here.

That makes it Miller and Wiswell.

I don’t know if anyone else will go for it as well. Please post any info if you hear it.

We’ll look to run a Mayoral Aspiration item on Bob Miller on Tuesday.

Here’s an article on Miller’s announcement.