Wisconsin News

Kabat and Farmer ready to go head-to-head in mayoral race

LA CROSSE, Wis. - The candidates for mayor of La Crosse are down to the final days of their campaigns.

Doug Farmer and Tim Kabat emerged from a wide-open field of 11 candidates, and on Tuesday voters will choose who should follow exiting Mayor Matt Harter.

As Tim Kabat jogs between houses, knocking on doors and handing out fliers, it might seem like he's got a lot of energy.

But he said he hasn't been getting much sleep.

"No, but that's what coffee is for," Kabat said with a laugh. "I was, you know, just saying that I think the last time I had this little of sleep was when our two children were born."

A few blocks away, Doug Farmer rings a doorbell on his own route.

"Pretty soon, we're going to overtake the mailman," said Farmer.

These residential streets the candidates were roving are a fitting backdrop for this race, where neighborhoods have been a central theme.
"I have been called 'Mr. Neighborhood.' I'm also told that if I was asked what my mother's maiden name was, I would find a way to work neighborhood preservation into the answer. And that's true," said Farmer.


Both candidates said their top priority in office would be neighborhood revitalization, but the ways they plan to approach the issue are what set them apart.

Farmer cites his 10 years on the county board and 26 years on City Council. He was also chair of the city's housing rehab committee for 22 years.

Farmer has a three-pronged approach to neighborhood revitalization: invest money into refurbishing homes, cut down on neighborhood crime and control property taxes through an executive budget created by the mayor.

"In the older sections of the city, we have are many good neighborhoods, but they're at a tipping point. And we've got to make them a priority. Because if you want to lower property taxes, you've got to stabilize the neighborhoods," said Farmer.

"Those are great, but my question would just be, 'Where have they been the last 20 years?' Because our neighborhoods have not -- certain areas have not gotten that way overnight," said Kabat.

Kabat takes a different approach. On top of looking for grants and new sources of funding to upgrade housing, he wants to collaborate with local universities and businesses to invest in new homes.

"They're trying to recruit and bring people to La Crosse. Well, as mayor, I want to see if there are some opportunities to have those new people, when they come here, that they actually live in La Crosse," said Kabat.

It's Kabat's first run for office, but he spent seven years in the city Planning Department.

Now he's the executive Director of Downtown Mainstreet, Inc., a nonprofit that helps bolster the city's business community.

His opponent said it's not the right kind of experience to lead the city.
"Tim Kabat would be a much better candidate and a much better mayor if he had served a term on common council. Because you have to have an idea where all 17 departments fit and you have to have some relationship with the council, 17 council members, before you start. Otherwise you end up starting, regrettably like Mayor Harter, from ground zero," said Farmer.

"If you're expecting different results, then you've got to do something different," said Kabat. "I'm bringing some new perspective and some new energy to city hall."

Kabat said, if he wins, Downtown Mainstreet, Inc. would most likely have an interim director for a brief period while the nonprofit seeks out a new permanent leader.

Farmer said he was already planning to retire from his position as vice president of Park Bank by the end of the year.

To learn more about the candidates, check out clips of their most recent debate here.

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