Mayor Kim Smith of Onalaska prepared for first full term

Smith defeated Terry Bauer by more than 900 votes in the mayoral election

ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) – Onalaska Mayor Kim Smith started her first term as the city’s newly elected leader April 21.

Smith is the first woman ever to be elected as mayor of Onalaska.

If there’s one thing we should know about her, Onalaska is her home.

Some of us know Smith as the newly-elected mayor of the city.

But she’s been serving the position since Joe Chilsen stepped down in December.

“I was encouraged by my peer group to stand up and be the mayor,” Smith said. “I looked around the community, and I know there are people that probably could be a better mayor than me, but they weren’t available to be the mayor.”

Prior to assuming her current role, Smith, an Onalaska High School graduate, knew early on her passion for city government.

“After high school, I stayed local and went to UW-La Crosse where I earned a Bachelor of Science Degree,” Smith said.

Starting in 2004, Smith served as an alderperson for Onalaska’s third district, a position she held for 15 years before taking Chilsen’s spot.

“It wasn’t necessarily that I planned on being the leader,” Smith said. “It’s that I’ve always tried to find the way that I can best serve.”

Little did she know that the coronavirus pandemic would change her lifestyle both professionally and personally.

“Basically I just put a complete halt on the campaign, and focused my attention to what the city needed to do in order to protect both our emergency service personnel and our community members,” Smith said. “Because I was the mayor, and that was the most important thing. Not my campaign.”

One of Smith’s daughters is an emergency room nurse. Her other daughter works in a pharmacy.

“It has been hard. And it’s real for me,” Smith said.

The city has also taken a hit financially.

“We’ve lost a lot of revenue,” Smith said. “You know the Omni Center is completely shut down, which is a revenue source for us, as well as the parks and recreational activities.”

Despite being in a tough spot, Smith says she’s trying to do her part to keep Onalaska moving forward.

“Continuing to protect the police and fire department,” Smith said. “And then now transitioning to recruiting a new fire chief as soon as possible…We’re trying to keep the new construction on task…We do have design work going on for the new roundabout by Green Coulee Road.”

But perhaps most importantly is assisting the city financially.

“Communicating with our state and federal representatives to try to see what other aid is forthcoming both for municipalities and for residents,” Smith said.

All of which are goals she hopes to accomplish for her hometown until 2024.

“We’ll see what the future brings,” Smith said. “I think it’s too soon to say. I’m definitely committed for four years.”

Smith says she’s still working at her full-time job at City Brewery during the day in addition to assuming her mayoral duties.