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MOUNT PLEASANT, Wis. — With four seats up for grabs on the Mount Pleasant Village Board, it may look different after the 2023 spring election.

Kelly Gallaher, Travis Yanke, Kim Mahoney, and Eric Martinez will challenge Village of Mount Pleasant Board incumbents David DeGroot (Village President), John Hewitt (Village Trustee #1), Nancy Washburn (Village Trustee #3), and Ram Bhatia (Village Trustee #5) on April 4.

Their campaigns represent the first time since 2017 that all village trustee candidates face opponents on the ballot.

Gallaher, a long-time community advocate and spokesperson for A Better Mount Pleasant, has announced her campaign to seek the office of Village President in Mount Pleasant and hopes to unseat incumbent David DeGroot. 

“I think what changed this year is in January when they tried to give themselves longer terms in office,” Gallaher said. “And one of the reasons they used was that nobody runs against us anyway. It sounded like a challenge to me.”

Kelly Gallaher

Gallaher and DeGroot have a long history as antagonists in Mount Pleasant politics. Their disagreements came to a head during the spring of 2017 when Gallaher worked closely with the campaign of former Village President Jerry Garski, whom DeGroot unseated.

David DeGroot

“Ms. Gallaher brings out the worst in politics,” DeGroot said. “She is a political operative for extreme politicians, and her record is of making outrageous lies and costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We will continue to focus on our community and our promise: making Mount Pleasant a better place to live, work, and raise a family. Look how far our Village has come in the last few years; we are headed in the right direction.”

One man’s political operative is another’s advocate

Over the years, Gallaher has led the opposition on several controversial topics. 

She organized a petition to stop a charter ordinance extending the terms of village trustees from two to three years. 

“When we circulated the petition to send their ordinance to a referendum, we discovered that people were very unhappy and disappointed,” Gallaher said. “And their attempt to make their terms longer was insulting to residents. They really felt that they should have that choice.”

She also hosted a town hall community forum on Foxconn in response to the lack of public information meetings on the project for more than two years. 

In September, she organized a protest of the Village’s inaction after two dogs mauled two of her neighbors and successfully lobbied for a new dangerous animal ordinance to be passed by the village board in October.

“I have been fighting for a better Mount Pleasant as a resident for years,” Gallaher said. “It’s time to step up. I’m ready to lead it as Village President. Mount Pleasant is at a crossroads. Our future can no longer be in the hands of politicians who brought us Foxconn — the largest failed publicly funded economic development project in U.S. history.”

Village Trustees face opposition

All three Village Trustees will face opposition in the spring election.

Village Trustee #1 seat

Travis Yanke

Yanke, a resident of Mount Pleasant since 2009, is vying for the Village Trustee #1 seat held by John Hewitt. 

Yanke serves as a U.S. medical affairs director for clinical research operations at AbbVie.

John Hewitt

Married to Angela for over 21 years, the couple has two children, ages 10 and 7, who attend school within RUSD.

“Interacting with the village hall and staff these past several years, it’s apparent that they really don’t have the residents’ best interest at heart when it comes to matters in the community,” he said. “So I just decided that enough was enough.”

If elected, Hewitt said he is excited about the next two years.

“I’ve lived in Mount Pleasant for over 50 years, and I’m running for re-election because my goal is to give back to the community that I care so much about,” Hewitt said.

Village Trustee #3 seat

Kim Mahoney

Running for Village Trustee #3, Mahoney faces incumbent Nancy Washburn.

Mahoney, a lifelong resident of Racine County, has lived in Mount Pleasant for the last six years.

Nancy Washburn

Her home had been located in the Foxconn development until it was moved last week. She said that she and her husband were always willing to sell, but the Village of Mount Pleasant instead used fake road plans and inappropriate use of blight to bully and intimidate homeowners into selling on the Village’s terms.

After winning her fight, Mahoney has advocated for other homeowners threatened by eminent domain across the state. 

Nancy Washburn, who currently serves on the board, said she brought her experience and work ethic to the job when she ran two years ago.

 “Since then, it’s been amazing to see our Village grow and improve,” she said. “As a small business owner and developer, I understand economic development and long-term planning. With the voters’ support, I will continue working hard for our community and moving our Village forward.”

Village Trustee #5 seat

Eric Martinez

Martinez, a relative newcomer to Mount Pleasant, intends to challenge Bhatia for the Village Trustee #5 seat.

He owns a start-up consumer packaged goods business, which he plans to relocate to Mount Pleasant.

Ram Bhatia

Martinez is an executive-level professional specializing in strategic planning, financial management and corporate turnarounds. 

He said he decided to throw his hat in the ring because he is concerned with how Foxconn’s development has impacted the Village’s finances.

“I see a lot of residential development. I see some businesses coming in here, but I think that there has been somewhat of a neglect to the existing commercial and retail spaces that need refreshing and to bring some businesses there,” he said.

Bhatia first ran in 2018 and wanted to bring “civilized leadership” and solutions to Village Hall.

 “Since then, we have built beautiful parks, created thousands of jobs and new development, and lowered Mount Pleasant’s tax rate,” he said. “We are now the envy of every other community in our county. I’m running to keep moving us forward. We’ve accomplished a great deal, but much work is still to do.” 

Mahoney did not respond to emails, but we will update the story when she responds.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.