Fitchburgers vote in the 2021 spring election

From left, poll worker Meredith Green checks in a voter at the District 4 polling place at City Hall on Tuesday, April 6.

Voters can expect to see only a few contested races on their ballots this spring.

While most everyone in the city will have a contested local race to vote for, they’re spread out enough across the city where most voters will have only one or two to vote for at most. Some voters in District 1 will have two contested races, with it being the only aldermanic district to have more than one person vying for the role, as well as contested races for both Verona Area and Madison Metropolitan school board seats.

And while the Dane County Board of Supervisors’s District 27 race looked to be contested, which covers the northern portion of Fitchburg, that’s no longer a two-person race, as incumbent Dorothy Krause has since dropped out of the race. She initially filed paperwork in early December, but had told the Star that she wasn’t sure she would go through with it.

The spring election will be held on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. A primary election in February won’t be needed for any Fitchburg-area races, as there are no seats with more than two people running for them. Prospective candidates had to turn in their nomination papers by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4, to be placed on the ballot. 

City of Fitchburg

All incumbents are running for another term, with only one person filing to challenge in April.

District 1 will have a show-down between incumbent Ald. Joe Maldonado, a community youth development program coordinator for University of Wisconsin, Division of Extension, and Mark Fairchild, a musician and percussionist who has served on the Make Music Madison board and played with multiple bands. Maldonado will be seeking his second term on the Common Council, and Fairchild is a newcomer to the council, having no previous political experience within the city.

For the other districts, all incumbents have filed to run again, and will do so unopposed. All three – Alds. Gabriella Gerhardt (Dist. 2), Shannon Strassman (D-3) and Randy Udell (D-4) will each be running for their second term. Strassman is the longest-tenured of the three, after she was appointed to the council in August of 2019.

Verona Area School District

There will be only one contested election for the Verona Area School District, where an appointed board member will be vying for his first term on the board against a newcomer.

Incumbent Joe Hanes, who was appointed to an At-Large seat in November following the departure of board president Noah Roberts, will run against Jo Ellen Kilkenny, who is new to running for school board.

Hanes is a father of five children with ages spanning from Pre-K to middle school and works as a member of in-house legal counsel for UW Health. He said during the appointment process that he felt he had the temperament to deal with much of the cultural issues being forward to school boards since the onset of the pandemic and told board members planned to run for the seat in the spring if selected. 

Kilkenny, a nurse and an active member of St. Christopher Catholic Parish, also serves as a caretaker for her adult son who has a disability, according to a WKOW story from 2018. Kilkenny made regional news in 2008 after the church’s musical director was fired because he was openly gay, telling the Wisconsin State Journal at the time that the man was a wonderful director but it was indefensible for him to be in a leadership role because of his sexuality. Kilkenny told the Press during a phone interview on Tuesday, Jan. 11, that despite what was reported in the State Journal, she wasn’t one of the people who contacted the diocese about the choir director, and she had never wanted to see him get fired.

Kilkenny told the Press that if elected, she would want to focus on areas that include supporting literacy for all students, supporting the district’s educators and looking at behavior and discipline standards within the schools.

Only incumbent Nicole Vafadari is running for her City of Fitchburg seat. Vafadari was appointed to the seat in summer 2021 after the departure of long-tenured board member Amy Almond.

Madison Metropolitan School District

There will for sure be two new people on the Madison Metropolitan school board in April, as two incumbents are declining to run again.

Of the two seats being vacated, the one held by departing board member Cris Carusi will be contested between two newcomers – Shepherd Joyner, also known as Shepherd Janeway, and Laura Simkin. 

Joyner, a teacher within Madison schools through Whoopensocker, a University of Wisconsin-Madison arts program, told the Wisconsin State Journal that their goal is to ensure all students feel safe in schools and to promote transparency in decision-making. Joyner joined the race after it was publicized that candidate Mary Jo Walters was making anti-transgender comments on social media. Walters later dropped out of the race.

Simkin, a family childcare system manager through Reach Dane, has a high school-age child and holds a master’s degree in policy and leadership. Simkin told the State Journal that she also intended to focus on school safety if elected, as well as teacher retention.

Board president Ali Janae Muldrow is running for her second term as the Seat 4 representative, and the other seat being vacated by a current board member, Ananda Mirilli, only has one person, Nichelle Nichols, registered to run for it.

Nichols currently works for National Equity Project and was the executive director of Madison’s Office of Equity and Engagement for six years. She unsuccessfully ran for the school board in 2012.

Oregon School District

There won’t be any contested races for the Oregon School Board this spring, but there will be one person joining the governing body.

Area II incumbent Kevin Mehring will decline to seek re-election, leaving his seat open to newcomer Leslie Wright, a fellow City of Fitchburg resident. Mehring had been undecided as to whether he was going to run at the last board meeting in December.

For Area I, both board president Krista Flanagan and Ahna Bizjak are up for re-election and will see the last impacts of the reapportionment of board seats a few years back. The highest vote-getter of the two will receive a three-year term, while the second-most vote getter will receive a one-year term.

Dane County

It was looking like there was going to be a contested election for the Dane County Board of Supervisors.

It’ll now be a set of uncontested races with two new people representing Fitchburg, as incumbent Sup. Dorothy Krause (District 27) has withdrawn from seeking re-election. That will leave Kierstin Huelsemann as the sole candidate for District 27, which covers the northern, densely populated areas of Fitchburg, and Dana Pellebon as the only person running for District 33 on the city’s southern and eastern side. 

Huelsemann told the Star in December that if elected, she would want to expand accessible housing in the Dane County area and encourage home ownership programs at the county level.

Pellebon, the co-director for the Rape Crisis Center, filed to run for the District 33 seat in early December. At that point, incumbent Sup. Ann DeGarmo had already filed non-candidacy paperwork.

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at kwethal@wisconsinmediagroup.com and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal.

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