On Tuesday, April 4, voters in the Town of Oregon will elect a new town chairperson and two supervisors.
Current Supervisor Carl Walser and Jason Marshall contend for the position of chairperson. Incumbent Kate Gladding, Steve Jernegan and Brian Richards are running for supervisor positions, with only two seats open.
The Oregon Observer sent questionnaires to all candidates; Marshall did not respond before the deadline.
Candidates were asked to limit their answers to around 150 words. Responses may have been trimmed to meet word requirements.
Town Chairperson - Carl Walser
Years in the Town of Oregon: My wife Julie and our kids Anna, Caroline, Craig, Miles, and Travis moved to the Ravenoaks neighborhood in early 2002. I’ve lived in Dane County since 1991.
Education: I have a bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University with a major in Finance and a minor in Art History.
Employer/job title: I’m the Marketing Director with a technology company called Level 9 that builds enterprise-level custom websites for credit unions and community banks. My overall career background includes finance, banking, marketing, and technology.
Political experience: I’m a current Town Board Supervisor. Prior to being elected, I worked on Town of Oregon initiatives including acting as the committee leader for the town’s Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan project and the town’s COVID-19 Policy team. Throughout my current term, I’ve participated on Town Board and Fire/EMS District projects and committees.
Notable affiliations: Volunteer and donor for United Way of Dane County, Second Harvest Food Bank, MSCR youth sports programs, and UW Extension Master Gardener.
Why are you running for office? Over the past year on the Board, it’s become more apparent that the Town must begin to dive into an intense phase of planning. And those plans must cover longer time periods than have previously been considered. Planning for the near future is a given, but we should have plans that reach out 5, 10, 15 years. Our lack of long-term plans has hurt us over the past years — especially in the areas of road maintenance, facilities and equipment upkeep, staff development and empowerment, new home construction, annexation mitigation, budgeting, and resident-powered vision planning.
I’m running because instead of me just thinking “Somebody should do something” and leaving it at that, I believe I can leverage my experience and background to help move the Board in a better direction that will help the Town. There’s one catch: I’ll need help from all residents — not just during this election, but beyond... into our future together in the Town of Oregon.
What makes you qualified to lead the Oregon Town Board? My background is in finance, banking, marketing, and technology. I worked for a combined twenty plus years at two of Madison’s biggest credit unions in management positions that involved staff, budget, and project responsibility. Exactly the kind of experience that will continue to benefit our Town and the Town Board. I’ve had good success over the past year in nudging conversations toward more planning, better budget analysis, improvements to staff empowerment, regulatory compliance, and improved communication. I believe progress can happen faster and across a broader range of town functions and projects if I’m the chairman.
What is the most pressing issue the Town of Oregon faces in the next few years? There are huge changes coming to the Town and we can either let them happen to us or we can take charge of them. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of the Town as we know it is uncertain. Maintaining our rural character, adapting to annexation and development, managing expenses and budget constraints, and mitigating the effects of climate change — those and other challenges face us over the coming months, years, and decades. While the Board has undergone planning exercises in the past, the management and fulfillment of those plans have been underwhelming. We need to conduct a full-scale vision planning project and continue to keep our comprehensive plan updated to reflect the views of Town residents and the changing economic conditions. Plans for roads, facilities, equipment, and staffing are also vitally important.
The closure of the Town of Oregon Recycling Center (TORC) caused significant debate and tension throughout the community. How should the Oregon Town Board handle such disagreements moving forward? I would agree that a group of residents were very passionate and vocal in their opposition to the town moving to curbside and in their opposition to the way that the project played out. I would not characterize that as occurring “...throughout the community.” Hundreds of residents have enjoyed the benefits of curbside for decades and now, thanks to the town-wide curbside rollout, all town residents will have access to this convenient service at a heavily discounted rate. It’s important to recognize, too, that the TORC has not closed. A wide range of services continue to be available there to meet the recycling, composting, and disposal needs of our residents.
An important matter that the TORC project revealed was that the town can do better at sharing information and communicating with residents… Residents have varying levels of interest and available time, which means that the town might not ever get through to everyone with every attempt. Multiple channels are available, though — email, website, online meetings, in-person, direct mail, etc. — and the Town will continue to explore how to take advantage of the strength of each one. We’ll also work to encourage residents to stay connected, engaged, and informed.
What is your position on the future relationship between the town and the Oregon Area Senior Center? The Oregon Area Senior Center provides valuable services to Town of Oregon residents and I hope that situation can continue into the future. Both the Village and Town are trying to do as much as possible to ensure mutual success while dealing with the constraints of tight budgets. Representatives from our Board and the Village meet regularly and continue to work toward sorting out budget challenges and strengthening the relationship between us. I’m confident that we will find a way to make this work.
What sets you apart from your opponent? I don’t remember much about my opponent’s participation on the Board after he was appointed to fill a vacancy. Since his loss in the last election, I’ve read and heard very little from him that would describe and explain his views about why he should be elected chairperson. Without much to go on, I don’t know how to compare myself to him.
I can say this, though — We all, including my opponent, live here because town life fits us... farmer, subdivision neighbor, or country home owner. The mix of different people living different lives is exciting and challenging all at the same time. We have a lot in common, though. Let’s make the effort to build on what we share and create a better future together.
For Fairness. For the Future. For You. That’s why I'm running for Town Board Chairperson.
Town Supervisor - Kate Gladding
Years in the Town of Oregon: 32 years
Education: Graduated Marquette University
Employer/job title: Retired Dental Hygienist and Consultant Pediatric Oncology
Political experience: Town Board Supervisor for 2 years, Town of Oregon Parks Committee for 7 years, poll worker for 8 years, Chief Election Inspector for 2 years
Notable affiliations: Agrace Hospice, usher at Overture, Department of Corrections volunteer
Why are you running for office? I have truly enjoyed serving on the Board for two years. I have learned so much from my experience as a Town Board Supervisor. I have attended many of the available educational seminars and meetings and would like to use this information to continue to serve the Town. I appreciate the natural beauty and sense of belonging that I feel living in the Town and want to continue to give to this special community.
What makes you qualified to serve on the Oregon Town Board? I am the only incumbent running for a seat this election. This is important as we have two long-term members leaving the Board. I am a good listener, I am honest and respectful. I have the time to invest in helping to improve the quality of life here in Oregon. I feel I have added a fresh voice to the Board and am not afraid to speak up for what I feel is best for the Town.
What is the most pressing issue the Town of Oregon faces in the next few years? Definitely the budget. The state has imposed levy limits and it has caused difficulties budgeting with the limited funding in times of significant inflation. The only way to increase the levy is with new construction. Land use is also a big issue in the Town. I attend the Planning Commission meetings and they do an excellent job of keeping up with the County and Town zoning issues while having an open mind to matters faced by Town property owners.
The closure of the Town of Oregon Recycling Center (TORC) caused significant debate and tension throughout the community. How should the Oregon Town Board handle such disagreements moving forward? Many residents are happy with the low cost and ease of curbside service. Change is difficult—curbside service will provide every town resident convenient access to proper disposal of trash and recyclables. I am proud of how the Board and TORC committee went through a rigorous process to reach this decision over a two year period. There will always be disagreements moving forward. I have learned that we always need to strive for better communication with the residents. I am always open to suggestions.
What is your position on the future relationship between the town and the Oregon Area Senior Center? The Town of Oregon will always contribute to the Senior Center and have all the services available to our residents. Our contract with the Senior Center will end this year and we are presently negotiating our contract for next year. I have gathered data from the other Senior Centers in Dane County to compare how their centers are funded. Dane County Senior Centers offer the most and best services in the state and we will continue to provide these services to our residents.
What sets you apart from your opponents? Being a woman, I think I offer a different perspective that is important to have on the Board. It is important that women be involved in all levels of politics, even here in Oregon. I have found that I am not always “heard” and want to change that for women that will come after me. Our point of view needs to be respected and listened to. I speak from the heart but also with the voice of reason.
Town Supervisor - Steve Jernegan
Years in the Town of Oregon: 20
Education: Bachelor’s and master’s, UW-Madison
Employer/job title: Madison Metropolitan School District (Retired)
Political experience: None
Notable affiliations: National Education Association; Wisconsin Education Association
Why are you running for office? To help our community to preserve its rural characteristics while allowing some growth compatible with current developments to finance the growing budget needs of the Town going forward.
What makes you qualified to serve on the Oregon Town Board? My family have lived in the township for twenty years and care deeply for this community.
What is the most pressing issue the Town of Oregon faces in the next few years? Expanding the tax base while preserving the rural balance.
The closure of the Town of Oregon Recycling Center (TORC) caused significant debate and tension throughout the community. How should the Oregon Town Board handle such disagreements moving forward? I don't have all of the information as presented to the town board and the TORC committee. Based on the limited information I have I believe the board made the correct decision as I know that the current Board members are thoughtful people who make informed decisions.
What is your position on the future relationship between the town and the Oregon Area Senior Center? I believe the cooperation and partnership with the village and surrounding townships is very important for the survival of this wonderful part of our community. The town of Oregon currently pays around $60,000 for 2023. Moving forward I believe this is a good investment given our aging population.
What sets you apart from your opponents? I have had some wonderful conversations with current Board member, Kate Gladding and have found we have a lot in common with our visions for the Town Of Oregon. However, I am not familiar with my other candidate.
Town Supervisor - Brian Richards
Years in the Town of Oregon: 22
Education: Associate degree in electronics
Employer/job title: Retired Elevator Constructor
Political experience: None
Notable affiliations: IUEC Local 132, Masonic Lodge 151
Why are you running for office? I am retired and my children are grown. I have time to give back to my community and I want to be involved and try to make a difference.
What makes you qualified to serve on the Oregon Town Board? Life experience. I served several years as chairman of IUEC local 132 Executive Board.
What is the most pressing issue the Town of Oregon faces in the next few years? Property taxes are high and the Town budget is tight. It is going to be a challenge to maintain services and not tax lifelong members out of their homes.
The closure of the Town of Oregon Recycling Center (TORC) caused significant debate and tension throughout the community. How should the Oregon Town Board handle such disagreements moving forward? I was a big opponent to curbside. It is ultimately what made me decide to run now. A topic like this that affects every resident must be brought to the residents. We can count on a Town Board to run the day to day business but a topic that affects everyone in the Town should not be decided by 3 yes votes. This should have been put to the residents to decide.
What is your position on the future relationship between the town and the Oregon Area Senior Center? I think it is an important service to our Town as well as other surrounding communities. We simply are paying too much for it. A fair contribution from the Town needs to be agreed upon.
What sets you apart from your opponents? I have a longer beard. Honestly, I do not know my opponents well enough to answer fairly.