MOUNT PLEASANT — Nearly a year ago, Mount Pleasant President Dave DeGroot stepped away from his village trustee seat to become village president, and the seat has remained open ever since.
During that time, the Village Board deadlocked in a 3-3 vote many times over residents DeGroot suggested to fill the remainder of the two-year trustee term. Instead, the Village Board opted to hold an election to fill the vacancy. The term expires in 2019.
Three candidates are seeking the trustee No. 5 seat. The two top finishers in the Feb. 20 primary will face off in the April 3 general election. Tom Giese filed paperwork to run in the election, but has since withdrawn from the race.
Mount Pleasant village trustees are paid $6,500 per year.
Following are brief profiles of the candidates and some of their reasons for running.
For more than 12 years, Ram Bhatia has severed on the Gateway Technical College Board of Trustees and is now looking to become a village trustee.
Bhatia is a retired electrical engineer with three master’s degrees, and said this is his first time running for public office.
“For the last year, the Mount Pleasant Board has been unable to work together. I am running to break the stalemate and get the village moving forward again,” Bhatia said. “I want to be part of the team who generates ideas and solutions that contribute to the future of our community.”
Currently, Bhatia is the director for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Milwaukee section, and is a volunteer with Racine Habitat for Humanity.
Bhatia said the village “infighting” and people promoting their personal agendas have been some of the biggest issues this year.
“With Foxconn coming to Mount Pleasant, we have so much potential for growth of our community,” Bhatia said. “We need the leadership at the highest level, working as a team, to provide vision for growth and development of Mount Pleasant.”
If elected, Bhatia said he would be an “independent voice for reason and good fiscal management” for the village.
“I wish to bring my business acumen and leadership skills to the Mount Pleasant village hall,” Bhatia said. “I believe in problem-solving by listening to all sides of an issue, and analyzing all facts.”
John Martini ran unsuccessfully for the Village Board in 2016 and 2017, and is now back to give it another shot.
As a hospitalist currently working in Kenosha, Martini said the village needs leaders who “will listen and are willing to learn.”
“As a physician and a chaplain, these qualities are essential,” Martini said. “I believe I can be both professional and compassionate as well as a learner. I want to help make our board competent and functional and bring comity.”
The planned Foxconn Technology Group project in the village is on residents’ minds, Martini said, “for good reason — it comes with growing pains.”
If elected, Martini said he wants to end the secrecy under “which it seems, everything is decided,” in the village.
“Residents tell me that at the meetings, they don’t know what is going on,” Martini said. “Most proceedings are held in closed session. People are giving up their homes and properties. They deserve respect and timely information.”
Martini contends that the “fiscal foundation in Mount Pleasant has been weak.”
“Two sets of financial consultants are trying to reconcile our books. That’s our money,” Martini said. “To be future-prepared, we must be able to balance our checkbook.”
As the current Mount Pleasant Village Board is made up exclusively of men, Janet Sabol said “women need to be represented” — which is why she is running.
Sabol was Born in Racine and attended SC Johnson Elementary, Starbuck Junior High and graduated from Case High School. Sabol is a retired and is a homeowner, who enjoys yard work, shoveling and working in vineyard, as well as doing yoga and weekly folk dancing.
Sabol said she has attended many Village Board and committee meetings over the years to help prepare her for the job.
With a degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Sabol said that, if elected, she hopes to bring an additional level of transparency to the board.
The Foxconn Technology Group project, Sabol said, is an “enormous event.”
“Prior to this, there was a community concern of lack of transparency,” Sabol said. “Residents felt misunderstood.”
If elected, Sabol said she would make sure the Village Board operates according to Wisconsin state statues and will add a level of personal contact that would make the residents feel understood.
“Everyone will be listened to,” Sabol said. “The correct information and facts will be explained.”