Monona mayoral candidates break down their priorities

MONONA, Wis. (WMTV) -- Monona's incumbent mayor Mary O'Connor was running for re-election unopposed until Friday, when write-in candidate Kristie Schilling jumped into the mix.

NBC15's Sanika Bhargaw sat down with both candidates to talk about their priorities and vision for the city.

Kristie Schilling is the CEO of the Monona East Side Business Alliance (MESBA), a position she has held for over four years.

"It’s become an economic engine for the Monona East Side community. And really, one of the beautiful things about it, is it serves the entire east side with this wonderful little city of Monona as hub, and so it does drive economic activity into Monona," Schilling said.

Less than two weeks before the spring election, Schilling decided to run for mayor as a write-in candidate. She knows jumping into the race so late will be a challenge, but she said her work with MESBA proves she has what it takes to govern.

Schilling wants to keep supporting Monona's business community, including finding a new tenant for the Shopko store, which will soon be closing.

"Our business community is very retail and restaurant heavy. Online shopping has been a serious blow to them," Schilling said.

Schilling also wants to encourage people to upgrade their housing through the Renew Monona Loan Program.

"Right now the city has been looking at that and revamping that program – that is a fantastic opportunity for our residents to update their housing stock, so we can have more people move here," she said.

She also will prioritize growing the transit system.

"The Monona Transit bus service. Building that, letting people know its there to them, a lot of people don’t know it exists," Schilling said.

Incumbent mayor Mary O'Connor was first elected in 2017. She previously served on the Monona City Council for five years.

"I think city council experience is really crucial. That’s where you really get to know the city staff, you get to know what the major issues in the city are," O'Connor said.

O'Connor's priorities include planning phase two of the major Riverfront Redevelopment Project. Getting that project off the ground was a big part of her first term.

O'Connor also wants to upgrade city buildings.

"A lot of Monona city buildings were built in the late 50s, early 60s and they’re really showing their age. They’ve had a lot of wear and tear," she said.

Another priority is improving safety for bikers and pedestrians, something O'Connor said residents are calling for.

"That’s something we’ve heard a lot about from residents that there aren’t a lot of sidewalks in Monona, and I’m not necessarily advocating putting sidewalks everywhere, but there are things we can do with pavement marking and making different changes to make it safer," she said.

O'Connor also plans to continue working with Dane County and other local mayors to mitigate future flooding after the severe flooding in 2018. She also wants to focus on sustainability.

"The council recently passed a 100 percent renewable energy resolution a few weeks ago, we’ll be working on implementing that, we’ve already gone a fair amount of the way there, but there’s obviously more work to be done, and I think there’s a lot of work to be done in educating the residents of Monona about what they can do," O'Connor said.

Despite running unopposed until Friday, O'Connor said Schilling entering the race has not changed her strategy very much. Schilling is trying to get her name out there by advertising on social media and meeting as many people as possible.

Election Day is Tuesday, April 2.