Four neighbors had enough of their village leadership, so they ran as write-ins and took their place

BROOKLYN, Wis. – In a clean sweep, four write-in candidates in a Wisconsin village took down every incumbent on the ballot.

Mark Bruner, Michael Brusberg, Brandon Arndt and Jacob Bachim say they only decided to run in February. Brusberg, who has lived in the village since 2013, says the four started talking after the village board moved to disband the local police department in favor of contracting with Dane County.

He says regardless of the outcome, he felt the current board was closed off, almost secretive, about the decision.

You don’t just have a community hearing where you gather thoughts where I think 95-100 percent of residents (opposed),” Brusberg said.  “How do you make sure the residents are effectively engaged so they know why the change is being made? To me, the ‘why’ is the most important thing.”

Brusberg says the four didn’t know each other well, but quickly bonded over shared ideas for the village.

Once the four of us got aligned, we found that we all had common thoughts and common ideals for what this community could be and what it could offer,” Brusberg said. “It was like lets come online, lets run as a collective group.”

With the election just a few weeks away, Brusberg said they started canvassing to earn votes.

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell says for a single write-in candidate to win an election is rare, let alone four.

Imagine what it takes to do a write in and win,” McDonell said. “I think that’s a great example too that, for one, you’re accountable to your constituencies, so you can’t just do whatever. Also, if you’re upset, you can take matters into your own hands.”

McDonell says he’s only seen something like this happen one other time- when in 2017, two write-in candidates defeated incumbents in the Town of Middleton. The situation was similar, he said, as the incumbents were facing backlash over a zoning bill. 

That is like the ingredients that are necessary,” McDonell said.  “You have something that outrages enough people that happens after they can do anything about it and the election is coming right up.”

Brusberg says headed into election day, his biggest concern was making sure voters spelled his name correctly. It wouldn’t matter, however, as he, Arndt and Bachim all earned more than 200 votes – three times as many as the next closest incumbent candidate.

As for the role of Village President, Bruner beat incumbent Brit Springer by nearly a 3 to 1 margin.

The turnout was absolutely amazing. It was very humbled to see the volume of votes and volume of votes in our favor,” Brusberg said. 

The new regime says their goal is to make improvements to the village’s downtown area, while creating more family friendly programming and events. More than anything, they hope to create a leadership that is transparent and approachable, he said.

How do we progressively make positive change that benefits the residents, but also has them greatly engaged through that process too?” Brusberg said. “The transparency is something that’s key to me, I’ve always been transparent both in professional as well as personal environments. That’s going to be stock as part of being a trustee of this village.”