Harter declares city is in ‘good shape’

By Dylan Matousek

Lumen Reporter

What does running a city entail? For La Crosse, it is managing a $74 million budget and being respon­sible for a population of 50,000, to name just two facets. Where does the burden of this management fall? In many ways, it is on the shoulders of the mayor. Elected in 2009 at 24 years of age, Mayor Mathias Harter, now 27, is the youngest mayor in La Crosse history.

“I don’t take it into consideration,” Harter said about his age, “I just fo­cus on what needs to be done.”

He said his youth can be a little surprising for people from outside the city, but La Crosse city officials and residents, “get used to seeing a young guy around.”

One such city official is Audrey Kader, city council member and rep­resentative of city district 11, which includes the Viterbo campus. Kader has served on the City Council for 13 years.

“I was elected for what I thought the city needed to work on, and ev­ery day is carrying out that vision,” Harter said.

One of his main goals is to “main­tain educational institutions and work with them to ensure their suc­cess.

“They’re a vital component,” Har­ter said, “They’re part of the fabric of our neighborhoods and success.”

Being a part of the neighborhood does not come without its com­plications. Because it is exempt from property taxes, when Viterbo purchases and tears down existing properties it costs the city tax rev­enue.

“There’s always a balance,” Kader said about Viterbo’s expansion. “On the one hand it is tax exempt, but on the other hand it brings a lot of com­merce to the community.

“Without Viterbo, the neighbor­hood would be very much the poor­er,” Kader continued, “The longer term residents appreciate Viterbo being here. There is a good working relationship.”

Another of the mayor’s long terms goals is to make improvements to transportation. One way he hopes to accomplish this is with the addi­tion of a new corridor through the city to connect the northern and southern portions. The state has al­ready allocated the funding, he said, the location just hasn’t been decided yet.

“It was a very hot issue, but I thought it had settled down,” Kader said about the proposed corridor.

Another hot issue that recently came to a close dealt with the allow­ance of weapons in City Hall. May­or Harter vetoed a resolution that would have banned weapons in city hall. Kader said her own stance on the issue could go either way.

“Good people are not a problem,” Kader said. “Bad people will always be a problem. So it doesn’t mat­ter what rules and regulations you have.”

A native of La Crosse, Harter attended school in Onalaska as a child. From there, he went on to the University of Minnesota — Mankato to major in economics. After that he served in the Navy as an air crew­man from 2005 to 2008.

Mayor Harter’s advice for stu­dents considering a career in politics is to “be persistent, network, and follow the will of the people.

“Don’t think that you know it all,” Harter continued, “or that you’re the one who’s calling all the shots.”

“People in the community are the ones who you’re working for,” Har­ter said, “They give you direction and pay your paychecks.”

“The city is in good shape,” Har­ter added. “Things are going very well. Unemployment is low and our downtown, healthcare, and educa­tional institutions are thriving.”

“He has a whole future ahead of him,” Kader concluded.

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