Teacher beats controversial incumbent in Fitchburg’s race for mayor

Teacher beats controversial incumbent in Fitchburg’s race for mayor
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There’s a new leader in Fitchburg. Council member Aaron Richardson beat the incumbent Jason Gonzalez, taking 64 percent of the vote.

“I grew up here, I’m fifth generation here in Fitchburg,” Richardson said.

With deep roots in Fitchburg’s past, Richardson wanted to help shape its future. The substitute teacher who served also served on the city’s council beat Gonzalez by nearly 1,700 votes.

During Gonzalez’s term, he was often in the news for the wrong reasons. In 2018, he was reprimanded by the Wisconsin Supreme Court for his work as a defense attorney. This year, reports surfaced showing that in 2007 he was disciplined by the Oregon Fire Department for sexual harassment and for missed shifts.

Richardson served on the council during Gonzalez’s term.

“I think we tried our best to stay focused on serving the residents. Sometimes it was hard with some of those distractions, but I think as a council we did try to do that and I think we did a good job of that,” he said.

Richardson tells News 3 Now that his first order of business is updating Fitchburg’s comprehensive 10-year plan. One goal is more affordable housing.

“Fifty-one percent of our housing is rentals. There’s not a right or wrong percent but I think when it gets over 50 percent, that’s when people start to go, ‘We’d like to see more of the ownership opportunities,'” Richardson said.

The newly elected mayor is also working closely with Economic Development Director Michael Zimmerman. They said attracting business to the city is important to its growth. Companies including Promega and Subzero are expanding and Phoenix is building its headquarters in Fitchburg. Richardson said the companies offer a variety of job opportunities.

“That’s really ideal for us, having that growth where people can live and work here in Fitchburg,” he said.

Richardson’s term is just one year. He said he will likely run again next year for a three-year term. He said he wants to be known as a leader who really listens to the residents.

“Someone who cared and loved this city — if people think those things about me, then I’ll be happy,” he said.

Richardson is also looking into the annexation of the Town of Madison. Under the current agreement, Fitchburg and the city of Madison will absorb the town by 2022. With a new mayor in both cities, the deal could change. Madison Mayor-elect Satya Rhodes-Conway did not immediately respond to our request for comment on the topic. Richardson said he is interested in letting the city of Madison take the entire town.

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