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FILE -- La Crosse County Administrative Center

La Crosse County Administrative Center

La Crosse County Board Chairwoman Tara Johnson will face a challenge for her District 29 seat on the county board. 

Johnson, who has served on the board since 2000 and was elected the first chairwoman in 2011, will face Laura O’Laughlin, a newcomer to local government, on the April 5 ballot.

“I’m running again because I really enjoy my job and I want to keep doing good work,” Johnson, 53, said.

Johnson, a Rotarian and member of the board of directors of the La Crosse Promise, represents a portion of the town of Shelby. She lives with her husband, Tim Padesky, and a son and daughter.

“It is an immense privilege for me to serve on the county board for La Crosse County, and it is a job that I feel very good about doing, and I want to continue to work with the other great people in La Crosse County accomplishing the consistently good things we’ve accomplished,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she was proud of her work on the county board, in particular her role in the ongoing downtown developments, including the county’s new administrative center, expansion of the Health and Human Services building and the Lot C development by Weber Holdings.

Johnson also pointed out that La Crosse’s tax rate for 2015 was steady at $3.89 per $1,000 of property value and is projected to remain the same for 2016 and 2017, even with the phase-in of debt service associated with the reworked downtown campus. The county’s tax levy remains the seventh-lowest per capita among Wisconsin’s 72 counties.

“I think our track record is stellar,” Johnson said.

Johnson declined to comment on her opponent, saying only, “I think the voters will benefit from robust campaigns.”

O’Laughlin did not return requests for comment earlier this week, but the La Crosse County Republican Party has stated it will support O’Laughlin, along with any other newcomers to the board, with party chairman Bill Feehan saying he’s “glad” to see her challenge Johnson, and he believed it was “time for a change in our county government.”

“I will support anyone who is going to go there and conduct our county business with an open mind and to vote their conscience,” Feehan said.

Feehan, a former county supervisor, criticized Johnson’s handling of the new county administrative center deal, which he called a “boondoggle.”

Feehan was particularly appalled at the sale of the county administrative center for $250,000, saying he believed the building could have been sold for much more had it been on the market longer than 28 days.

“I think that’s a major failing in her leadership and the leadership of people in our county government,” Feehan said.

The local Republican party solicited newcomers to run against “liberals” on the county board this fall and Feehan repeated the party’s support for newcomers Wednesday.

“We’re here to offer assistance to people who may need to learn what it takes to run for a seat in local government,” Feehan said.

Johnson called the county GOP’s involvement in the race “deeply concerning.”

“If they are helping people because it’s hard work to run, great,” Johnson said. But she added that “local elections are nonpartisan, and I wish they would stay that way.”


City government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

(8) comments


Question for local Republicans: Why didn't Feehan continue to serve on the board ? Did he show up for the meetings? What was his voting record? Did he offer any legislation or amendments? Did HE campaign or let others. Why isn't he running now?


Bill is no longer on the county board because Tara Johnson, Steve Doyle and the La Crosse Dems gerrymandered his address out of the district he used to hold with the redistricting in 2010 so he no longer is allowed to represent that district that he was elected to. He campaigned himself along with many other friends and volunteers just like any other typical campaign. He isn't running now because his district already has an advocate for the taxpayers and not wasting money on older, smaller county building that has asbestos. And doesn't support an 8% raise in property taxes over the next 2 years for property owners in La Crosse County. The debt nearly doubled from Jan 2015 to now where it is over $112 Million in debt and any more would lower the bond rating of not only the county of La Crosse, but ALL municipalities like City of Onalaska, Village of Holmen, and so on. Time for a change in financial supervision!

Tim Russell

While I am not a "no debt" guru, I do find it troubling that the County has increased their debt load to these proportions. But my question is whether or not the Republicans are really worried about this or are the just using it as a campaign issue with no real intention of doing anything different. After all, Gov. Skunk Wanker has increased Wisconsin's Long Term Debt from $12.9 billion on July 1, 2011 (the day before his first budget went into effect) to about $16.5 billion by the end of the 2015 fiscal year. Yet they insist he is the next best thing to sliced bread. Meanwhile general fund tax dollars -- money used for schools and colleges, BadgerCare, local governments, prisons and more -- are being used to make debt payments at the highest rate in state history.
I guess when the Republicans start to criticize or even address how Wanker has increased the State Debt, I will start to take them serious. But that ain't going to happen. So it appears that it is all just demagoguery.


Doyle and Walker, and governors before them, have done long-term borrowing that is still being repaid. In other words, much of the debt, and debt payments, were inherited by Walker from previous governors.

For a partially accurate statement that leaves out important information, we rate Vinehout’s statement Half True.

So, we rate Mr. Russell's comment as less than Half True


Oh, this could be entertaining. There is enough crazy in that basket to make a comedy show, children in foster care, medication, financial ruin, nutzy relatives, and rando criminals and drug dealers. Oh, start the popcorn, the GOP sure can pickum.!


You know what they say catnip about casting the first stone.....

Where was your outrage when Mediger with the druggy son was on the board???

Oh yea, he was a Democrat.

Like Johnson said, I sure wish the partisan poli-tics would stay away.


I agree with Johnson, political parties should stay out of non-partisan races.

What Johnson didn't tell you.....

The Democrats are recruiting and sponsoring candidates as well. Notice she didn't condemn the Democrats.

Tim Russell

I am surprised that Feehan is talking to anyone at the Tribune. Did he drop his lawsuit against them?

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