Running for Public Office – What you Need to Know!

Whether you’re considering a run for city council, school board or other nonpartisan office, throw your hat in the ring and give voters a choice to make when they go to the polls. The public deserves a field of civic-minded candidates who share a common goal of working with all stakeholders to strengthen our community and schools. – City Council Member Davin Lescohier

 

If you are considering running for City Council, here’s what you need to know.

 

Fort Atkinson City Council Structure:

  • There are five members, each of whom can serve terms of two years.
  • Meetings are held the first and third Tuesday of each month, unless a special meeting is called.
  • Candidates must complete Declaration of Candidacy documentation and return to city offices (located at 101 North Main Street), and obtain 100 signatures of Fort Atkinson residents (NOT township residents). That paperwork is due back to the city by 5:00pm, Tuesday, January 2, 2018.
  • Even if the candidate does not solicit donations for a campaign, a Campaign Registration Statement must also be filed by January 2, 2018.

City Council Candidate Requirements:

  • Must be a citizen of the United States
  • Must reside within the city limits of Fort Atkinson (NOT the townships)
  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • Must not have been convicted of a felony in any court in the United States, unless pardoned

 Responsibilities of City Council Members:

  • Regularly attend and actively participate in scheduled council and other committee meetings
  • Act as liaison between the city and general public
  • Set and interpret rules governing its own proceedings
  • Manage the city’s budget and determine the tax rate
  • Focus on community’s goals, plan major projects and research community growth, land use development and capital improvement and financing
  • Appoint the city manager to implement the administrative responsibilities related to these goals

 City Issues:

  • Prospective candidates should become familiar with current issues before the council. Minutes of City Council meetings are made available through the Open Records law on the City website.
  • Prospective candidates are encouraged to attend any of the regularly scheduled council meetings, held the first and third Tuesday of each month.
  • Prospective candidates are welcome to contact City Manager Matt Trebatoski or current council members regarding issues of concern or interest. Council member contacts are provided on the city website.

 

If you are considering running for School Board, here’s what you need to know.

 

As one serves on the school board, there are many relationships built with staff, parents, and community members and leaders.  As a team, board members are instrumental in making life-impacting decisions and seeing the outcomes blossom.  Professional skills are also enhanced through learning, planning, data analysis, problem solving, communications, and decision making on a very diverse set of subjects.  Often a board member becomes a well-respected community leader that will lead to other avenues in which the member may further share talents and skills to build a stronger community. – Rodger Thomann

 

Fort Atkinson School Board Structure:

  • There are five members, each of whom can serve consecutive three-year terms.
  • Meetings are held the third Thursday of each month, though there are often special meetings held in between.
  • Candidates must file a Declaration of Candidacy and a Campaign Registration Statement by 5:00pm, Tuesday, January 2, 2018.
  • If more than two individuals file for one open seat, there will be a primary election on Tuesday, February 20, 2018, followed by the general election on Tuesday, April 3, 2018.
  • New board members must take their oath of office by the fourth Monday of April, and are seated at the May Board meeting, following the April election.
  • School board members receive an annual stipend of $1,400 per year.

School Board Candidate Requirements:

  • Must be a citizen of the United States and eligible to vote in Wisconsin
  • Must reside within the School District of Fort Atkinson for 28 days prior to declaring candidacy
  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • Must not have been convicted of a felony in any court in the United States, unless pardoned

Responsibilities of School Board Members:

  • Regularly attend and actively participate in scheduled board and committee meetings
  • Act as liaison between the school district and the general public
  • Promote the cause of education, including establishing, providing and improving school district programs, functions and activities for the benefit of pupils
  • Set and interpret rules governing its own proceedings
  • Host a public annual meeting and determine the levy rate
  • Set the strategic plan and monitor its progress and the district finances
  • Appoint and review the superintendent to implement the administrative responsibilities related to these goals

 School District Issues:

  • Prospective candidates should become familiar with current issues before the board. Minutes of school board meetings are available on the school district website.
  • Prospective candidates are encouraged to attend any of the regularly scheduled school board meetings, held the third Thursday of each month.
  • Prospective candidates are welcome to contact Superintendent Lynn Brown or current school board members regarding issues of concern or interest. Board member contacts are provided on the district website.
 
Running a Campaign:

It takes very little financial investment, if any at all, to run for local office. Effective campaigns start by talking to friends and neighbors. Knock on doors to introduce yourself to others and share your points of view.

  • Campaign methods vary. The correct timing of press releases and participation in candidate forums can result in low-cost, effective campaign techniques. The Daily Union newspaper and WFAW radio station can provide rates related to paid advertising, if desired.
  • All candidates are invited to speak at school board and city council meetings, at any local candidate forums, and are interviewed by the local newspaper.
  • Yard signs are another way to familiarize the public with local candidates. Contact the chamber of commerce to find businesses that design and print these.
  • Direct mail is costly, but lists of addresses can be purchased for this purpose. Again, the chamber can provide assistance.
  • Candidates should maintain a record of any contributions made to their campaigns, and should designate a separate individual as the campaign treasurer. A complete guide to campaign finance is available from the State of Wisconsin Ethics Commission.
  • It is never too early to begin campaigning, especially as a first-time candidate. By being the first candidate to make an impression, you gain the upper hand.
Withdrawal from Race:

Once a candidate qualifies for ballot status, her name appears on the ballot. The candidate cannot withdraw and have her name removed. Only in case of death of the candidate can the name be removed from the ballot.

The candidate can make a statement to notice the electors that she no longer wishes to seek the office by election, but her name will appear on the ballot. Should the candidate win the election, she may decline to hold the office. This creates a vacancy that is filled following the provisions of state statute.