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Olson talks why she’s running for mayor of La Crosse

Rick Solem

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Jessica Olson has thrown her name in to run for mayor in La Crosse come April.

We haven’t asked Mayor Tim Kabat since July if he’s going to run for a third term. He ran unopposed in 2017.

Olson

That was the same year Olson was first elected to La Crosse’s city council. She’s beginning to see and hear of issues within city hall she would like to solve.

“If it does end up being me versus Mayor Kabat, I want to run a campaign where I’m being constructive in how I criticize how he runs things at city hall,” Olson said Wednesday on La Crosse Talk PM. “So that, even if we do have an election and he wins and he’s our mayor for the next four years, maybe he can reflect on some of the issues I take with how it’s being run, and he can be a better mayor for it.”

Olson did get specific on some issues during the show — like the process of removing the Hiawatha statue from Riverside Park and how the potential $36 million police-fire complex ended up in the city’s five-year capital improvement budget.

She also spoke vaguely, at this point, on other problems she sees within city government.

“It’s definitely systemic problems and how business is conducted at city hall,” she said. “It’s very difficult for me to get into details because, as I said, I don’t want to put employees on the spot that have relayed things to me, that have really bothered me. Other council members have heard it, as well.”

Olson did mention a memo that Kabat sent out on a Saturday, discussing ways to solve budget issues due to the pandemic, which included the possible retirement of two longtime department heads, who, Olson said, had yet to decide if they would retire.

Olson is a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse graduate with a degree in math and physics. She’s currently working on her Master’s at Viterbo University, writing a thesis on city government. And, she helps run the family business of rental housing in the city.

“I don’t even know if my mom’s going to vote for me,” she said with a laugh. “I think she wants me to focus on the family business. I really don’t know how my family’s going to deal with it.”

Along with some of the issues Olson would like to see change in La Crosse, she also hopes to expand those who participate in city government.

“I’m willing to take a term at it just to try and to bring a better situation to city hall and cultivate leaders among other people.”

Kabat first took office in 2013. He ran unopposed in 2017.

Asked, back in July, if he was going to run in 2021, Kabat said, “I still got time. It’s still early yet.”

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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