City Council Candidate Responses – 2024

1. Please provide some personal background information (name, occupation, list any community activities you are involved with).

Thomas Asuma: Name – Thomas Asuma
Occupation – Business Consultant
List any community activities you are involved with – Council member at St. John’s Lutheran Church. Member of the Property; Music and Worship Committees at St. John’s. Coach at Oshkosh West Basketball Club. Past volunteer at YMCA.


Jacob Floam: Name – Jacob Floam
– Congressional staffer/graduate student
List any community activities you are involved with
– Winnebago County Supervisor (District 16); Member, Oshkosh Rotary Southwest; Member, Most Blessed Sacrament Parish Council; Member, Oshkosh Knights of Columbus Council 614; Leadership Oshkosh Class of 2024; Member, Winnebago County Historical Society; Member, Propel Oshkosh Young Professionals group

Kris Larson: Name – Kris Larson
Occupation – Owner Beckets restaurant and Wagner Market
List any community activities you are involved with – BID Board (14 years); Oshkosh CVB (Discover Oshkosh) (12 years); Numerous city of Oshkosh Visioning Committees; former Oshkosh Special Assessment Committee; former Oshkosh Farmers Market board; former Oshkosh Symphony board; Former Oshkosh Art and Beautification board; and a handful more things I am probably forgetting.

DJ Nichols: Name – DJ Nichols
– VP, Assistant General Counsel, Great Wolf Resorts, Inc.
List any community activities you are involved with
– Board Member and tutor, Winnebago Area Literacy Council; Weekly Volunteer, Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services; Alternate Commissioner, Oshkosh Plan Commission


Kristopher Ulrich: Name – Kristopher Ulrich
Occupation – Professional Volunteer & At-Home Parent
List any community activities you are involved with – Oshkosh Chamber Singers, Oshkosh Southwest Rotary, Menominee South Neighborhood Association, OASD, First Congregational Church, Landmarks Commission, & Plan Commission


2. What are your background and qualifications for this City council position, and what value will you bring to the City Council personally?

Thomas Asuma: My interest in public service began in high school with a week at Badger Boys State. My college education included a major in Public Management and my first work assignment was with the Oshkosh Industrial Development Committee.  Our group was instrumental in attracting new businesses to Oshkosh at a time when the Sawdust companies were closing. I am blessed with leadership abilities which were developed during my 40 years in management roles in the private sector. I want to use these abilities to continue building a brighter future for the residents of Oshkosh.

Jacob Floam: Public service is a passion of mine! It’s something I have pursued in my career and extracurriculars. I’ve served as staff on the federal and state levels of government and as an elected official on the local level. I’m also studying local government through UW-Oshkosh’s Masters in Public Administration Program which I’m proud to be a part of. For me, elected office is about servant leadership. I love this community, and I want to do my part to help Oshkosh be one of the most vibrant cities in Wisconsin. I’ve carried that mindset with me on the Winnebago County Board, and I will as well on the Oshkosh City Council. On the Winnebago County Board, I’ve gotten a front row seat in local policymaking and seen the issues that are impacting our community up close. I’ve collaborated with my colleagues on common sense solutions to help address these issues whether it’s about quality of life, economic development, and combating the opioid crisis. I want to bring a spirit of collaboration to the Oshkosh City Council to help further address the issues in our community and be a champion of good government.

Kris Larson: Background as above to some degree as I have been very involved in this community for the last 16 years. I am immediate past chair of the WI Restaurant Association so lots of experience managing a large and active advocacy board there.

The value I bring personally is in my strong understanding of how municipal governance works, having seen it from both the in and outside, AND a very strong desire to see real change, progress and improvement here.

DJ Nichols: Professionally, I’m on the senior leadership team and an attorney for Great Wolf Resorts, Inc., a hospitality and family entertainment company with revenue in excess of $1.2 billion last year, operations in 22 cities, and more than 12,000 employees. I primarily focus on employment law, compliance, and commercial litigation for the organization, and assist with financing, incentive packages, and construction agreements for property expansions and developments in new markets.

Personally, my mom was 19 when she was pregnant with me and raised me and my brother largely on her own. I started working when I was 14 years old, went to public school, and was the first in my family to go to college and then law school, depending on student loans and part-time jobs to pay for it all.

I have the professional experience to not only understand the impact that government can have on ensuring there is a robust business community and a vibrant downtown, but also the personal experience that government should consider working families and individuals when establishing new policies. I also believe hard work should be rewarded. I have had the opportunity to work as a business leader with municipalities to ensure there are appropriate transit options for workers going to and from our facilities, to discuss policing and security considerations for new developments, and I’ve seen the life-changing impact private development and new opportunities can have on communities.

I view the role of City Council as similar to a corporate Board of Directors, responsible for setting goals and priorities for the CEO (City Manager). In my professional life, we focus on SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals to ensure we don’t only set the right priorities, but we have mechanisms by which to measure success or failure. I understand that perfection cannot get in the way of progress, compromise is important, and we must focus on continuous improvement rather than quick or complete wins.

Kristopher Ulrich: I invite every reader to learn all about me on my website at  There, you can read about my family history, personal history, work history, volunteerism, passion for local history, my decade with Rotary International, and noteworthy recognition.

In short, I’m a 6th generation Oshkoshian.  I’m a product of our schools, our community, and our shared history.  My highest level of education is a Master of Business Administration from UW Oshkosh.  Before leaving the workforce in 2018 to be an at-home parent, I worked for the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.  I have volunteered extensively in Oshkosh for well over 20 organizations ranging from Mercy Medical Center to Habitat for Humanity, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, OASD, and many more.  This is my tenth year as a Rotarian.  Additionally, I have served on three City commissions: the Landmarks Commission, Stormwater Board, and Plan Commission.  I’ve observed that the most effective Council leaders have served on City boards to learn how our local system of government actually works.

As a townie and local history enthusiast, I will bring to Council an insight into decisions that have shaped our past.  When making any decision that has great emotion or community concern surrounding it, I find it important to look back in time to see what precedent came before us.  Often, it is helpful to look back and see where we’ve come from as we pave the road before us to where we’re going.  In addition to the value I bring that comes with my professional, personal, and volunteer history, I bring the offering of nonpartisanship in these partisan times, and a promise to scrutinize every issue for its own merit without the influences of political parties or special interest group goals.  I will deliver data-driven decisions, and I have the capacity to treat the role of Councilman as a near full-time job.

3. Please outline your personal top priorities for the City of Oshkosh and your plan for seeing these priorities realized.

Thomas Asuma: My priorities are not personal but rather developed with conversations and listening to the citizens of Oshkosh. Increasing city taxes are a concern of many residents. I will fight for responsible budgeting and smart spending to reduce the tax burden without compromising essential services. Lean principles and implementing servant leadership management proved successful in the private sector in eliminating non-value-added costs and putting the focus on the people we serve.

Jacob Floam: I want Oshkosh to be an affordable and safe city where everyone feels welcome. In order for us to be the best we can be as a community, we need to ensure that local government is doing its job effectively and efficiently while achieving its mission and helping foster a dynamic local economic environment. That means good roads and utilities, a strong parks system, clean water, and government that is being financially responsible and preparing for tomorrow. We also need to address our housing shortage. In order to do this, I’d like to see the city launch a formal task force consisting of our Oshkosh Chamber and GO EDC partners, other local government counterparts, and community stakeholders to come up with policy recommendations for council to adopt so we can start solving this.

Kris Larson: More engagement, correspondence, and transparency. The council/manager form of government we have here is, I believe, the correct fit for a community this size. We can, however, improve on giving groups and individuals a stronger voice in the process and use that collaboration to affect real, meaningful, and faster change (perhaps you’ve noticed, but things seem to take a long time to get moving around here these days). I believe the role of councilor is conduit between the community and city staff/management. I intend to be that conduit in an effective, transparent, and forthcoming manner in order to keep and get things moving.
(and also, some specific goals with regard to housing and building code and more at my website…otherwise the answers here will get very long!)

DJ Nichols: I am running on three values that will inform how I make decisions if elected to City Council: Government Transparency, Responsible Spending, and Opportunity for Everyone. In my view, leaders of our community need to ensure they are communicating effectively, being good stewards of our tax dollars, and seeking out and considering the views and realities of everyone, especially if the people being affected are underrepresented and not in the room where decisions are made.

In terms of specific issues, a few are mentioned below:

-Infrastructure – Ensuring the City continues to improve infrastructure in a way that in equitable and sustainable must remain a top priority of the next City Council. Additionally, Oshkosh must take advantage wherever possible of resources made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, including through the Regional Centers of Excellence to advise on deficiencies (e.g., high speed internet, transportation access, etc.) and identify ways in which Oshkosh can benefit. Additionally under this heading, are a few specific areas that need attention:

-Water – the clearwells project must begin and be successful, looking at a long-term solution for aging and non-compliant infrastructure. The current pumping station is capable of meeting the water needs of the City and we must continue to look forward to handle the demands of a growing city. We must also focus on stormwater runoff to reduce basement flooding for residents, continue the work of identifying and ensuring there are affordable options to replace lead pipes, and lobby our representatives in Madison to make PFAS funds available for remediation in our waterways.

-Public Transit – workers must be able to get to work and back when schedules require. The bus system in the city has limited routes and hours, which needs to be analyzed with members of the business community to consider what additional routes, hours of operations, or other options the City should be supporting.

-High Speed Internet – in 2024, to attract and retain talent to the City (including remote professionals) it’s crucial that households have access to high speed internet, including fiber. In an increasingly remote world, skilled workers will only be drawn to Oshkosh if they can expect 21st century amenities. We must work as a city to re-establish a contract to bring high speed internet and fiber to Oshkosh households.

-Trust in Government and NPS – As mentioned in Question 2, developing mechanisms by which progress can be measured is crucial to make progress – what gets measured, gets improved. Anecdotally, it’s no secret that the City of Oshkosh is difficult to use, whether by the business community, private citizens, developers, or small contractors. Establishing ways in which to measure outcomes from the City (e.g., permits issued, projects completed, budget savings, etc.) and then communicate that in a uniform way to then collect something akin to a City-wide “Net Promoter Score” would provide valuable information to make residents in Oshkosh more trusting of their government, encourage private-sector development, and drive growth in the community.

Kristopher Ulrich: On my website,, you can read about the topics I intend to pursue in much greater detail.  In short, I want to restore voter faith in nonpartisan Council leadership and data-driven decisions.  I want to improve City policies on communication when new projects are proposed in your neighborhood.  I want to support a thriving downtown, creative solutions to our housing crisis, preservation and adaptive reuse of our historic architecture, and anything to keep up the beauty of our parks.  If elected, I would ask to be appointed to the Landmarks and Plan Commissions as their council representative.

4. Several geographic locations within the city can benefit from attention to facilitate economic growth and development.  Please identify and discuss what you consider to be the top two or three economic development priorities you will champion as a member of the City Council.

Thomas Asuma: Additional city housing is identified as a priority to support business growth and development.  Continued support of private investment in current plans increasing housing availability will facilitate this priority.  Oshkosh has developed outstanding industrial parks over the years to entice manufacturers to locate in our community. Continued support of marketing efforts for industrial development is imperative for ongoing success in attracting new business.

Jacob Floam: In terms of economic development, my priorities lie in housing, investment in roads, and building our local workforce. Our city has a housing shortage and housing availability is a vital part of the economic development equation. Council should proactively pursue remediation of blighted lots/brownfield sites in order to develop additional locations for housing or business given how Oshkosh is landlocked. Increased road investment is also a priority of mine especially in areas that are typically underserved in road and sidewalk repair. Additionally, workforce attraction and retention is something Oshkosh needs to focus on. We have more jobs than people, and we should want our local college students to start their careers here after they graduate. In terms of particular locations, the Sawdust District, Aviation Business Park, and downtown are all areas of focus for me.

Kris Larson: 1. There is a new downtown visioning plan coming soon (I was interviewed for it), included in are plans for expanding Opera House Square and more. This would be great.

2. I am hopeful that the Mill on Main project continues on the right path at the beginning of S. Main. This would be a great addition to a Sawdust District that is not progressing as quickly as some had hoped.

3. (Depending on the time of response of publication, this may already be in the works or announced)… I am hopeful for appropriate housing development on the soon to be former Washington School site. Lots of opportunity there to provide much needed low and market rate housing options.

DJ Nichols: Identifying the business to put in place or the type of development should be done in consultation with the business community and not by the City alone. That said, in conversations with developers in Oshkosh, city services are difficult to use and zoning requirements aren’t conducive to large-scale development practices. I’ve been told by more than one developer that they choose to develop in other cities in the Fox Valley, in Fond du Lac, and as far away as Sheboygan before Oshkosh because it’s just more difficult to do projects in Oshkosh.

Indirectly, Oshkosh needs to stimulate development projects by focusing on ease of use of city services. This includes zoning code reform (similar to the success of reform in cities as big as Minneapolis and as close in population as South Bend, Indiana), but there also needs to be an emphasis on receiving feedback from the development community and modeling processes off of our neighbors, which have a proven record of attracting developers.

Directly, Oshkosh should consider formal public-public-projects like the Founders Pointe Subdivision in Sheboygan, which used resources from private developers, the City, and the County to increase housing inventory for the benefit of first-time homebuyers, tax payers, and the private companies involved. Working with neighboring governments will be crucial to address the problems facing our community at-large, and we can’t remain siloed.

In terms of geographic areas that need continued economic development and focus by City Council, downtown must remain a priority, as should the Oshkosh Ave corridor. The Mill on Main and the rest of the Sawdust District must become a reality and the City should be active in its search to identify a suitable use for the former Pioneer Inn property.

Kristopher Ulrich:   South Main St. This area has been on hold for a while, but I expect it to get moving again shortly.  The whole stretch of South Main from the river to South Park is at the brink of greatness.  I’m picturing that stretch at the end of this decade with the Miles Kimball Apartments, Mill on Main, and hopefully something on Pioneer Island.  We’ve seen that the area can hold its own with economic drivers like the Arena and Fifth Ward.  An infusion of residential and commercial properties to the area is bound to be a hit.  I expect creative people will be rewarded as they bring unique new businesses to this location.

Oshkosh Ave.  So much work has been done here already, and I don’t want attention to be drawn away from it just because it isn’t a “brand new” development area any more.  Great businesses are still being built, and more plans are likely on the way.  Oshkosh has long needed this kind of attention to be brought to a major east/west corridor from the highway into the city.  Let’s keep that momentum going.

5. The City of Oshkosh is considering or has considered (depending on the timing of your response) a Vehicle Registration Fee (VRF)/utility fee increase proposal to eliminate special assessments for street/sidewalk improvement projects.  The Oshkosh Chamber recently surveyed its member businesses, and 26% of its respondents favored this approach, 33% favored maintaining the current special assessment system, and 41% favored including all street and sidewalk improvements in the general levy.  Please discuss your position on this proposal.

Thomas Asuma: I am not in favor of the wheel tax.  However, I do support assessing our citizens for improvements in the water/sewer delivery system, which dates back to the 1800s in some instances, to help defray the future costs of the street/sidewalk improvements to the homeowners.

Jacob Floam: Before city council voted to approve the new VRF/utility fee proposal, Oshkosh was one of the last municipalities in Wisconsin that heavily relied on special assessments as a primary means for funding street and sidewalk repairs. However, the system that city council voted to approve leaves a number of homeowners out in the cold as they still are on the hook for their assessments while additionally paying the vehicle registration and increased utility fees. Going forward, these individuals should be extended a tax credit or some form of relief. I also think that city council should do its best to limit raises to the VRF and utility fees. However, I think this speaks to a larger point about the fact that the city isn’t investing enough in our roads. The city’s fiscal health has improved to the point where we can take the opportunity to invest more in our roads which we badly need for both residents and businesses.

Kris Larson: Similar to above, many words on this subject at my website if anybody would like to fully dive in with me. As mentioned early on, I did serve the city on an ad-hoc committee to replace special assessments in 2018/2019. This is a subject I care deeply about (and probably have far too many opinions about).

To answer the specific question: The current proposal of wheel tax (let’s call it what it is) and increase in utility fees is infinitely better than what we do at current. Period. 67% of those surveyed by the Chamber also believe that change is needed, and that I think is great. I was particularly enthused to hear mention by the Chamber President at city council meeting that members want to see MORE reconstruction annually! I completely agree!

If (and it’s likely) the current proposal is approved, and I am elected, I look forward to refining it going forward as it is a good starting point…and we do need to change what we do now ASAP.

DJ Nichols: We now know that a VRF/utility fee increase will be part of the solution to address special assessments in Oshkosh. The amount of the fee/increase are what will need to be further fleshed out after year 1 given the flexibility of Council to raise or lower it. And, there needs to be consideration of what relief can be put in place for working families who can prove they do not have the room in their budget for one more tax or higher utility bills.

Special assessments are a large reason I entered this race. When the street in front of my home was replaced, a neighbor expressed concern as to whether she could stay in her home given the tax increase. It’s patently unfair, in my opinion, that me and my husband, each 34 year old, working professionals, will have to pay the same for infrastructure projects as our retired school teacher and veteran neighbors, each on fixed incomes, without regard for home value or ability to pay. In my view, special assessments for street and sidewalk improvements are cruelly regressive and should not exist in Oshkosh, and elimination of the special assessments are the best policy decision made by the current Council.

The next Council will have to work to ensure street and sidewalk improvements remain adequately funded. In my view, infrastructure projects affecting the City as a whole should generally be funded through mechanisms that spread the burden, which may include through the general levy, VRF, utility fee increases, and/or shifting spending priorities, and greater focus should be made on increasing housing development in the City to reduce the burden on individual homeowners. But, as said prior, compromise is important, perfection cannot get in the way of progress, and we must focus on continuous improvement rather than a quick win.

Kristopher Ulrich: I wrote about this at length in a blog from January 18th.  I support the move away from special assessments.  The VRF is not perfect, but the solution that the Council voted on is a better solution to what we had been doing.  The costs of special assessments were getting way out of hand.  My full article can be read here:

6. Municipalities across the State are moving to Fee for Service approaches to pay for the delivery of municipal services otherwise funded by the annual property tax levy. Do you support a funding approach like this? If so, what current city services would be appropriately funded as a Fee for Service? If a new Fee for Service is imposed, should property taxpayers receive an equal, proportionate tax levy credit?

Thomas Asuma: Fee for Service approach needs to be evaluated against the current cost of providing these services by our city employees.  Property taxpayers need to be assured that these services can be provided at significantly lower cost on an on-going basis and the tax levy is credited appropriately. Garbage removal service is provided by private contractors in adjoining government entities.  However, with the city equipment and employee expertise in providing this service I believe private contractors will have a difficult time in providing lower cost service in this area.

Jacob Floam: In order to keep property taxes under control, I support Fee for Service approaches for certain city services within financial reason. The most appropriate place for this is in our city park system. Boat launches, shelter and pavilion reservations, passes for the Menominee Park Zoo and Pollock Community Water Park are all examples. The Leach Amphitheater is also a Fee for Service revenue driver for the city as are parking permits. If a new Fee for Service is imposed, I believe that a proportionate property tax credit should also be implemented. In my opinion, the city relies too much on the property tax levy, and disbursing that out can provide relief to citizens.

Kris Larson: I think more often now than perhaps a few years ago (this question has been asked for a while) that municipalities are looking for more creative ways to do what is being asked instead of adding a fee for service. Some of this is evidenced by the math involved in the assessment replacement proposal above. The contributions by utilities to the assessments is not a 1:1 ratio of dollars in to out. Rather, through a combination of interest generated by funds and bonding, the required funds are generated more easily than they might be with just a flat fee. More creative uses like this one I think are great (and as not mentioned in question #5, the utility increase portion of current proposal is widely agreeable for that reason).

DJ Nichols: Some services (like trash and recycling, street cleaning, street maintenance, snow removal, etc.) are services necessary to the normal operation of a city and should be included in the tax levy as a service provided without additional fees.

However, water and sewer services, permits and inspections, animal control, special event permits, and recreational programs should remain funded (in part) by direct payment to the municipality by the individual or business requesting the services.

Kristopher Ulrich: Our current way of funding municipal services is adequate.  As I understand Wisconsin law, whenever we set up a new general fee, that corresponding cost has to be taken off our levy.  Fees are a slippery slope.  Just look at how big the debate was for a $35 VRF and imagine the chaos that could ensue if every general municipal service became fee-based.  Our taxbase is stretched thin.  The amount that citizens are paying between the school district and the city is getting out of hand for many of us.  I’m not opposed to fees when they make sense for individual items, like building permits or liquor license fees, but even those I think ought to be scrutinized to see if the amount Oshkosh is charging is in line with comparable markets.

7. The city established a stormwater utility in 2003 to manage stormwater run-off issues in the community. Residential property owners are assessed for one equivalent runoff unit (ERU). Non-residential property owners are assessed annual fees based on the amount of impervious space (parking lots and rooftops) to determine the amount of ERUs that exist on a parcel. The initial (annual) stormwater utility fee in 2003 was $19.10 per ERU and grew to $237.72 per ERU in 2023 while holding the increase flat in 2024.  Do you find this rate of increase acceptable?  Do you believe that continued increases at that level over the next 20 years are acceptable?  Please outline any ideas you might have to curtail the growth in stormwater utility fees.

Thomas Asuma: On the surface this astronomical increase in the ERU appears appalling and future increases of this magnitude are unacceptable.  However, the burden is carried by both residential and non-residential property owners which is acceptable. Stormwater runoff has been an issue for many years and continues to be an issue in Oshkosh.  North side improvements have successfully mitigated issues of flooding of taxpayer properties. Current work on the south side addressing issues with the South Park watershed will alleviate flooding along Ohio street.  Hopefully, additional storm water improvement costs will be less in future years and the ERU can be maintained at current levels or adjusted downward accordingly.

Jacob Floam: Oshkosh’s stormwater utility fee is too high. If we are not mindful of the financial impact of our fees on members of the community, we run the risk of being a city that is less affordable which will deter growth and attraction of new residents and jobs. Uncontrolled rate increases over the next twenty years will be unsustainable and will further bite into affordability. City council should look into means to curtail the growth of these stormwater utility fees, and one option (state law permitting) could be tying the fees to the core CPI inflation rate as the maximum it could be raised in a given year.

Kris Larson: Nope… the increases are not reasonable or acceptable. And in all honesty, I have no idea how we can curtail this growth in fees any longer, but we need to find an answer, so I look forward to giving it some real thought and work if elected.

There are some bright spots that could be helpful if implemented. A few months ago, councilor Ford made mention of a UWO project that addressed this subject by allowing the use of material that would help in runoff in general (currently these items not allowed by our code, but they should be). This sort of thing would help some, however I truly fear we have broken this concept to a degree where it requires a thorough going through from start to finish.

DJ Nichols: While it’s critical that the City continue to address the stormwater run-off issues that face residents and business owners, exponential tax increases are not sustainable over the course of the next 20 years. Continued research needs to be done in this area to identify solutions to address stormwater run-off issues without just throwing money at the problem. Some options include: Green infrastructure (natural or natural-based systems to manage stormwater such as permeable pavement, green roofs, rain gardens, bioswales, constructed wetlands, etc.), public education (workshops and education to modify behaviors that reduce stormwater runoff on private properties), and regulatory measures (such as enforcement of sustainability, erosion and sediment control measures built into zoning practices).

In short, the Stormwater Utility is a crucial part of maintaining viable infrastructure in Oshkosh and the funds must continue to be used to construct storm sewers. But, the city cannot tax its way out of this problem and some part of the solution will need to include changes in the way we develop property and green space, and inform our residents about how they can make a positive difference in this area.

Kristopher Ulrich: I used to think it was acceptable when a private service like my phone provider increased its price $10 every few years because I expected those fees to level out and I knew I was getting better service as coverage area and data speeds improved.  I don’t think that way at large any more, especially where city charges are concerned.

That being said, I have at least a little insight into stormwater utility having served on the stormwater board for a year and a half.  I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the monies collected for these efforts have been put to good use – important use – to protect all of us at large from floods.  It’s a lot of work.  We are in a much better place today than we were during our 500-year flood in 2008 because of the myriad of storm sewer projects that have taken place.  Hard work and important projects require funding, and Oshkosh needed the revenue source to get a lot of work done relatively fast.  We’re a flat, low-lying city, and there’s still work to be done to ensure fewer citizens are at risk of a flooded basement.

Still, this fee seems to have no limit to its growth, and it doesn’t seem sustainable.  If past performance is indicative of future potential, we’ll be seeing $300/ERU before the end of the decade if it’s left unchecked.  Many of the initial projects we had planned for are completed, so I suspect this fee will naturally level off.  I’d like to see the city set it to $250 and cap it for at least five years, with a plan to reduce it in subsequent years.  That way we taxpayers can at least expect another small bump for one year, and then consistency through the end of the decade, followed by reduction.

8. There is currently a proposal being brought forth to change the title of “Mayor” to Council President” to reflect the post’s lack of executive powers.  Furthermore, the proposal eventually has the position being selected by the City Council and not voted on by the electorate. Do you support or oppose this proposal?  Please provide your reasons for your position.

Thomas Asuma: The electorate voted for the current state of city management in the past and should be afforded the opportunity to let their voice be heard for any future decisions on this matter.

Jacob Floam: Oshkosh has a council-manager form of government (also known as a Chapter 64 city in state statute). Under this form of government, executive authority runs through the city manager instead of the mayor. This question was posed about twenty years ago, and the city held a referendum in 2004 which affirmed that the public would like to keep an elected mayor regardless of what their authority may be. Recently, city council debated the issue again. In my opinion, if city council wishes to change the title and means of electing a mayor/council president in the future, I would like to see this be put back to referendum. My personal preference is to keep an elected mayor/council president, but the people of Oshkosh should ultimately decide this question. A potential referendum would not be about changing Oshkosh’s form of government, but would rather be on whether or not the public would prefer an elected mayor or move to a council president elected among members of city council.

Kris Larson: I’ve been trying to keep these answers short, but you folks are asking ALL of my favorite questions…so here’s the long answer to this one:

Yes, I support this proposal. The current position of mayor has zero legislative powers or prowess more than any other councilor,,,and this is wildly confusing to pretty much everyone and only serves to hurt the efficiency of our governance.

I do not want to fault the way this question was asked or whomever wrote it, but the phrasing above is precisely part of the problem and confusion at current:

‘Furthermore the proposal eventually has the position being selected by the city council and NOT VOTED ON by the electorate’.

I have been blown away in the last month or so by how many folks believe that if the position of mayor goes away, that then the council will appoint a ‘council president’ from the community at-large. This is of course nowhere near the truth. Council president would be appointed in the same way, and for essentially the same purposes, as deputy mayor is now. From the ELECTED other councilors. This lack of understanding helps to perfectly support why we need to change our current system to something folks can understand as soon as we can.

It also provides the perfect segue to the best reason we should remove the position of mayor:

As was pointed out very succinctly by our current mayor at a recent council meeting…very often lately, the folks running for mayor are running from a currently held and out of cycle council seat. And…those folks lately are winning. It’s easy to campaign from a seat that if you lose, you keep your seat! When this happens (and again, it’s been frequent lately) THEN council DOES get to appoint an at-large member from the community to a council seat that any other time does need to be VOTED ON BY THE ELECTORATE’. The item we fear it seems the most is precisely the one we are left with by maintaining the current system.

(Sorry for all of the all caps. This makes absolutely no sense!)

DJ Nichols: Whether the current position of “Mayor” remains with the same title or if it changes to “Council President”, the decision should be made by voters in Oshkosh. Elected officials should not, even if permitted under law, change their own titles, duties, terms, or other key elements of the job. The structure that exists today was established by referendum and the structure should only change by referendum.

Further, in my conversations with hundreds of voters over the last several months, changing the title of elected officials in Oshkosh has not come up as a priority for anyone. Said another way, this is not what’s being talked about by people at their kitchen table. If someone is passionate that this change is important, they should propose a referendum through the process ascribed by state statute.

Kristopher Ulrich: I was asked this question during an Eye on Oshkosh interview in February, and my opinion is still the same.  The title of Mayor is misleading, since the Oshkosh Mayor is not equal to the mayors of say Neenah or Appleton who are also the executives of the city.  Those individuals are elected and then take on a full-time job managing the city and its personnel.  That’s not how Oshkosh is set up.  It gives our citizenry the false impression that they have more duties than they actually do.  I agree with the need for a figurehead of the Council to lead meetings and serve as a ceremonial entity to welcome dignitaries, make proclamations, nominate citizens to fill commission openings, etc.  I think calling this person a “Council President” is acceptable.

My opinion continues, however, with opposition to the way this change may occur.  Because the election of a Mayor by the electorate went to referendum 20 years ago, I do not think that Council should unilaterally make a change to the position.  If the discussion continues, I would vote for this to go to a public vote again to make any future change.  It is dangerous to flat out take a voting right away from our population.  The public should be educated on the current roles of the Mayor, and it should be a question added to a future ballot again for us all to decide whether we still want or need to vote for this role.

9. With a low unemployment rate and strong local economy, many employers report difficulty attracting and retaining talent.  What is the city’s role in attracting people to Oshkosh and ensuring that Oshkosh is an attractive place to live and work?

Thomas Asuma: Available housing and reduced city taxes are a start to attracting and retaining a talented workforce.

Jacob Floam: One of my goals is to have Oshkosh become a more competitive spot for young professionals as they begin their careers. Whether it’s staying after graduating from UWO or coming to Oshkosh from other parts of Wisconsin or the country, I want to see our city be a competitive location. Housing, workforce development, and the cost of living are all factors. The city needs to encourage investment in workforce housing so we can be a more attractive place for young professionals. We also need to be working with our Oshkosh Chamber and GO EDC partners to maintain an environment that is friendly to economic development. City government also needs to do its part in trying to keep the cost of living low as well as maintaining a vibrant downtown.

Kris Larson: The city’s role in attracting and retaining talent is providing folks with a place they want to live. The question coming up next is a big part of that, as we have a lot of work to do regarding housing at all levels. We also need to focus more on a built environment that attracts folks in both amenities and aesthetics. A couple easy examples: like all forward-thinking communities, we should work to bury utilities whenever possible on both new developments AND street reconstructions. Little things like small downtown dog parks go a long way toward attracting folks to live here.

DJ Nichols: My husband was recruited to Oshkosh for his job as a General Surgeon at Aurora, and we were able to make the move because my job as an attorney and on the senior leadership team for Great Wolf Lodge has been 100% remote since the beginning of the pandemic. Part of what attracted us to Oshkosh is access to the Fox River and Lakes Winnebago and Butte des Morts in the summer, park space and recreational fields, and relatively low cost of living. The City must ensure that these attractice qualities remain true.

Additionally, as Oshkosh continues to grow, the City must ensure roads and other physical infrastructure remain in service and high quality, the waterways remain clean and easily accessible, and public safety remains a high focus.

The City must also take-on projects that employers and employees expect of cities in 2024 (and 2050 and 2075) like high speed internet access, a focus on environmental impact and sustainability related to city projects, continued development of housing stock at all income levels, outreach related to DEI initiatives, and representation of historically marginalized groups.

Crains reports (referencing a study by Columbia University) that over the course of the next 25 and 50 years, greater immigration to the United States and the impact of climate change will cause migration to the Great Lakes region. Oshkosh must ensure that it has scalable infrastructure in place – housing, water, high-speed internet, etc. – to be ready should that occur and be a choice destination for employers and employees in the Midwest.

Kristopher Ulrich: We have entities like Discover Oshkosh, GO-ECD, and the Chamber that work to promote the amenities and opportunities of our home.  It’s up to the City to make sure that Oshkosh has good roads, infrastructure, beautiful parks, progressive planning, safe residential and commercial districts, etc.  The policies that we put in place and the action taken by City employees provides a firm foundation from which those I mentioned first in this response can build upon.

If we really want to shine though, the City could make some radical decisions that would draw the attention of a young workforce in their 20s & 30s.  Downtown in particular could use some big draw that people make a point to drive to, like what Neenah just did with its ice rink.  Or we could work to make significant improvements to our childcare infrastructure.

​​When last year’s debacle over the closure of the UWO childcare facilities happened where parents were given barely two months’ notice that they would be without childcare, I couldn’t help but be furious on behalf of my friends with kids who were up a creek.  If you’re out of the loop, let me tell you – the waiting lists for childcare can be unacceptably long.  It’s a nightmare for parents.  Thank goodness the YMCA was able to step up in some capacity in that space.  We just don’t have enough childcare services in Oshkosh.  Our young workforce in their 20s/30s with kids face the decision of continuing their career or taking care of their kids.  This is both a private and public sector issue.  When employers wonder why there is a labor shortage, availability of childcare plays a part in that equation.  Related to this, I’m pleased that the new housing development on the 600 block of Main & Jefferson is going to have a dedicated childcare business downstairs.  That’s smart planning.

10. A housing study completed for the City of Oshkosh in March of 2022 noted that Oshkosh is expected to grow by more than 3,200 residents by 2030, meaning the city will need to produce almost 1,700 new housing units.  While Oshkosh has made significant progress in this area, there is still much work to be done.  What do you see as the primary barriers to increasing the housing stock in Oshkosh?  What will you do to address Oshkosh’s need for additional workforce housing.

Thomas Asuma: We are well on our way to providing the required housing identified in the study with current and future planned projects. Continued city support of private investment and eliminating bureaucratical red tape will ensure we meet the objectives for 2030.

Jacob Floam: In my opinion, the community that figures out housing is well on their way to answering many of the questions that cities of our size in the Midwest face. Subsequently, addressing our housing shortage has been one of the core issues of my campaign. Oshkosh needs a variety of different housing options and workforce housing is a key part of that. Workforce housing itself can take a variety of forms ranging from single family homes, condos, or apartments. Currently, a number of barriers exist to developing more housing such as the age of our current housing stock, the city’s landlocked position, blighted lots and brownfields, and the high cost of construction in today’s economic environment. As previously mentioned, I would like to see an intergovernmental task force formed around housing which also involves community stakeholders in the nonprofit and economic development spaces. They can come up with policy proposals that city council can adopt so we can take the first steps in addressing this shortage. Ultimately, we need to look at all of these obstacles meaningfully to find a comprehensive solution.

Kris Larson: Again, a VERY long article at my site addressing this subject ( As short as I can make it:
1. Refine city code to allow more developments in the places they are needed (shorter setbacks, more buildings per parcel, a refinement of code that actually allows ADUs as the one we have currently does about 10% of what it should).
2. Reinstate and make more meaningful a rental inspection program and tenant resource center that is not housed in the planning dept. with a newly formed RHAB as well.
3. Help the RDA to incentivize developers who want to build the types of housing we need (which, at current, is pretty much every level, but a focus on workforce and low-income preferred).
4. Explore options to incentivize a portion of units in all developments meeting certain income requirements.
5. Develop a policy to be certain that at all times we are using maximum available TIF options.

DJ Nichols: I’m going to copy a portion of my response to question 4 because it’s responsive to this section, too:

In conversations with developers in Oshkosh, city services are difficult to use and zoning requirements aren’t conducive to large-scale development practices. I’ve been told by more than one developer that they choose to develop in other cities in the Fox Valley, in Fond du Lac, and as far away as Sheboygan before Oshkosh because it’s just more difficult to do projects in Oshkosh.

Indirectly, Oshkosh needs to stimulate development projects by focusing on ease of use of city services. This includes zoning code reform (similar to the success of reform in cities as big as Minneapolis and as close in population as South Bend, Indiana), but there also needs to be an emphasis on receiving feedback from the development community and modeling processes off of our neighbors, which have a proven record of attracting developers.

Directly, Oshkosh should consider formal public-public-projects like the Founders Pointe Subdivision in Sheboygan, which used resources from private developers, the City, and the County to increase housing inventory for the benefit of first-time homebuyers, tax payers, and the private companies involved. Working with neighboring governments will be crucial to address the problems facing our community at-large, and we can’t remain siloed.

Kristopher Ulrich: You can read a 2700-word blog that I wrote about our 2040 Comprehensive Plan right here:  In it, I talked about this very thing.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Since 1980, the historic population growth rate in the county has been lower but has somewhat mirrored the growth rate experienced by the City. A significant growth in population during the 2000’s (11.7%) was the highest growth rate in the period shown. In comparison, the state grew significantly, but at a slightly lower rate during the 1960’s (11.8%), and has been a little less subject to the larger ups and downs in growth rate” (Oshkosh 2040 Comprehensive Plan pp 2-3).

So, you’ve read in the papers and heard from candidates and community leaders that the population of Oshkosh is projected to rise by over 7700 people between 2010-2040.  That’s about an 11.7% increase.  In the 30 years prior, from 1980-2010 the population growth was closer to 33%.  Consider the ways that the City was able to accommodate that growth in the 80’s & 90’s compared to what we can do in the 20’s and 30’s.  When I was a kid we built the house on the corner of 19th & Knapp, then we built out on Westbreeze and Sheppard.  Expansion largely went westward, pushing the boundaries of Oshkosh right up to Algoma, with plenty of us who considered themselves Oshkoshians building new homes around the actual border of the city.  The nature of housing is changing, as we’ll get to in the next section.  Council and Plan Commission will likely be presented with plans for more dense apartment-style housing within the city limits, like we’ve seen pop up along Marion over the last decade.  While my personal preference is to live in a single-family house, I know that doesn’t reflect the wishes of our entire population.  The desire for attractive flats is there, and I’d like to bring that added population density downtown to live, work, and play.

…If you grew up here, then it’s likely you understood that Oshkosh was a cheap place to live.  Our cost of housing was low, as was food, entertainment, and everything else.  I hate to say it folks, but I think that it’s time for us to reevaluate that old adage.  If you believe the hype numbers on Zillow and similar realtor sites, the value of my home has increased well over 60% in just 11 years.  Have you tried to sell or buy a house within the last four years?  Home values are through the roof, which makes it harder for families buying a house to get their footing.  This is echoed in the rental market where monthly rent at places like the Wit is in the ballpark of $2000.  I don’t understand how this is sustainable for a population.  When such a disproportionate amount of one’s income goes to housing, how can anyone properly budget for childcare, food, investments, etc.?  A one-size-fits-all solution to housing doesn’t work.  We need more affordable options and a greater pool of housing items for people to pick from.