MENASHA (NBC 26) — You can divine a lot about a city's future based on the goals of the people who set out to run it.
- Rebecca Nichols, Stan Sevenich, Austin Hammond, and Kyle Coenen are all vying for Menasha's 2024 mayoral seat
- Only two will advance past the February 20th primary election.
- Watch the video and read below to learn more about each candidate and his/her goals for the city's future (a condensed list of bullet points is included at the end of the article)
(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story, with additional details for the web)
You can divine a lot about a city's future based on the goals of the people who set out to run it.
I'm your Menasha Neighborhood Reporter Darby McCarthy, and after speaking to four primary candidates in our city's upcoming election, here's what lies on the horizon.
“A consistent theme that I hear from folks is that they want a variety of safe, healthy, and affordable places to live. And for me, that is about our neighborhoods,” said Rebecca Nichols.
“I really believe in Menasha, and I think our best days are before us,” said Austin Hammond.
“Menasha is a hidden gem. It truly is,” Stan Sevenich praised.
“I want to do something good for Menasha. I was encouraged by the current mayor, Don Merkes,” said Kyle Coenen.
All four are hoping to secure the seat left available when current Menasha mayor Don Merkes announced he would not be running for reelection after 16 years in office.
When Merkes first ran for mayor, the city of Menasha was facing bankruptcy, and it was amongst the highest tax bracket in the Fox Cities.
Now, after years of turning the city's financial state around, he's stepping back to let someone else lead Your Place on the Water.
“A quote that I really love is that wise men plant trees that they may never sit under,” said Hammond.
On February 20, he is one of the candidates asking for the public's vote.
Based on the platforms of all four hopefuls, shared goals like community growth and tax stability will be focuses for the future of the city.
“I'm looking to clean up the city's image, bring in additional tax revenue, and accomplish all that by growing the city,” said Coenen.
He said he has a background in architecture and urban planning that he intends to bring to the table if he's elected to lead. He has also been involved with the Sustainability Committee, the Redevelopment Authority, and various volunteer opportunities in the city.
“My number one priority would be to facilitate the projects that are coming up. They're so important, and because I played a role in those, I feel I'm best suited to follow through on those projects," said Sevenich, currently Menasha's District 3 alderman.
Sevenich boasts the longest history in this city. He was born and raised in Menasha, and he graduated as a Blue Jay in Menasha High School's class of 1980. He is also directly involved in plans for Menasha's sesquicentennial celebrations this year, and he was part of the planning for its 125th.
The projects he is referencing include the upcoming renovations to Jefferson Park, Water Street, and the city's solar project.
“I really want to... develop some public-private relationships to help bring resources to the city so that we can keep our taxes stable,” said Nichols, currently Menasha's District 1 alderman.
She first became involved in local government when she served on the library board in Menasha. And she ran against the incumbent Merkes in 2020, which she says ultimately led to her decision to try again in 2024.
“My slogan is ‘lead for tomorrow,’ and my platform is economic responsibility, community pride, sustainability, and affordable housing,” said Hammond, Menasha's current District 4 alderman.
Hammond also has experience serving on the Brothertown Indian Nation Council, which he notes is the only tribe in Wisconsin not federally recognized.
"I also have my experience in the nonprofit sector as both an outreach coordinator for Habitat for Humanity, and a development director at the Atlas Science Center," said Hammond. "And then, my education in political science... I'm pursuing my degree currently for public administration, which will help me to lead the city well."
"I'm not running because the city's in a bad place. I'm running because I love it here," said Hammond.
And a love for this city is something that all the candidates say they share. But their reasons for running are where the visions become varied.
“I wanted to see some changes to the city. And I knew that I was passionate enough and willing to do the hard work. So I made the decision to run,” said Coenen.
“Menasha deserves an experienced, committed, and responsive person to be their next mayor. That's why I'm running,” said Nichols.
“I was born here, raised here, educated here in the city of Menasha. I've dedicated over 30 years on the city council, on and off. And I'm currently the council president and also the longest-serving council president,” said Sevenich. "I'm not going to be a mayor who's sitting in his office. I'm going to be a mayor that's out there."
“I've always had a call to public service that's rooted in my faith, and that's rooted in a call that I want to leave everywhere that I am better than how I found it,” said Hammond.
The primary election is on February 20 to narrow the field down to two ahead of April, when voters will decide definitively on the future of Menasha's leadership.
- Slogan: "I'm your neighbor working for you"
- Goals: Clean up city's image, bring in additional tax revenue, grow the city (up not out) using background in urban planning
- Slogan: "Lead for tomorrow"
- Goals: Economic responsibility, community pride, sustainability, affordable housing
- Slogan: "Keeping it real, just like Menasha"
- Goals: Develop public-private relationships, bring resources to the city, keep taxes stable, strengthen neighborhoods
- Slogan (unofficial): "You've always been there for Menasha"
- Goals: Helming renovations/redevelopments of Jefferson Park and Water Street, Menasha's solar energy project, building the city up (not out)