Jessica Olson is running for mayor of La Crosse.
Olson, who has been a member of the common council since 2017, has taken out nominating papers for the mayoral election, which is in April 2021.
She is the first candidate to publicly announce a run for the mayor’s job, currently held by Tim Kabat, who has yet to decide if he will seek a third term. Kabat said on Wednesday that he would be making “an announcement in the near future once a decision has been made.”
Olson said one of the main reasons she was running was because of a mood of doom and gloom at City Hall that has set in over recent years. She wants to reenergize the city and engage the public in the local political process.
“I want to bring the morale back,” Olson told The La Crosse Independent. “I think that’s probably the most concerning thing with the mayor at the moment, there’s been a lot of morale issues with the city employees.”
Olson said she could still withdraw her candidacy if someone she deems a better candidate decides to run, but she’s convinced new leadership for the city is needed.
She’s currently completing a Master’s Degree in Servant Leadership at Viterbo University and writing her thesis on city government and she hopes to apply that learning to the mayor’s job if she’s elected. Olson works in her family’s student rental housing business and also has a degree in physics and math from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.
“I’ve had a lot of people ask me to run over the last year,” she said. “That made it really sink in that I could do this job.”
Olson, who represents District 8 on the council, said one of her key priorities would be to bring the much-vaunted Riverside North project to fruition. She says the project has languished for too long.
“I want to see cranes in the sky over Riverside North,” Olson said.
She also wants more capital investment in the library system, which is currently facing steep cutbacks in its operational spending.
“I definitely want to see the south and north branch library capital improvements done,” Olson said. “Let’s show the neighbors that we do value those facilities.”
La Crosse has seen significant protests in favor of reforming police to combat systemic racism and police brutality over the summer. Olson said more work is needed to combat racial bias among the police, but she’s not a supporter of the movement to defund police departments.
“With the police, I don’t think defunding is the answer,” she said. “There’s a lot of investments we make with the police that prevent things from escalating, like body cameras and other tools the police use to reduce harm to our community.”
An overarching theme for Olson is the need to engage the public and explain the processes of local government to them so that greater participation can be achieved in city government. She’s also a proponent of increased transparency at City Hall.
“All meetings should be video-taped and archived,” she said, as an example of a transparency measure she would support. “We should have done that a long time ago.”
Olson emphasized that her candidacy was still at a very tentative stage and said she would add detail to her plan for the mayor’s position in the coming months.
By Eric Timmons. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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