Will new city leadership lead to better relationships?

A big shift has been set into motion in the top ranks of La Crosse city government.

Wednesday was Mayor Tim Kabat’s first day in office and, on Tuesday night, the city council elected a new council president, Dick Swantz.

“I know that the honeymoon period is going to be relatively short because we’ve got a lot of things to do,” said Kabat.

He said one of his top priorities in his first few weeks in office is forging a better relationship between the mayor’s office and the city council.

Kabat’s predecessor, Matt Harter, had a rocky relationship with the council, particularly with then-council president Audrey Kader.

“Mayor Harter, you certainly have given it your best. And I’m sure that you are, in a way, relieved. But thank you for your service,” said Kader to the outgoing mayor Tuesday night.

Kabat said he’s meeting with each council member individually to try to start off those relationships on the right foot.


“With the council and myself, that’s 18 people. I mean, we’re not going to see eye-to-eye on everything. But I think, again, if you’re building those relationships, even when you have differences, you can still work together,” said Kabat.

Kabat isn’t the only one in city hall with a new job. Council member Dick Swantz beat out Kader in a 12-to-5 vote to become city council president.

“I think it’s an indicator of the fact that people are interested in seeing some change,” said Kabat.

“I don’t want to say it’s apples and oranges, but quite frankly from the very beginning, I think there was some adversarial relationships between the council and the mayor, for whatever reason. I’d like to really put those aside and put them to bed forever,” said Swantz.

Swantz said he’d like to see the council take on a completely different mindset.

“We need to talk a little bit more about what La Crosse wants to be when it grows up,” said Swantz. “We’re normally reacting to situations most of the time rather than creating our own future …If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know if you got there?”

Both Swantz and Kabat say neighborhood revitalization is priority number one moving forward.

Kabat is going to announce his plan for his first 100 days in office within the next week.

The new mayor said scheduling “mayor’s night out” or “coffee with Kabat” meetings with the public is also high on his list of priorities.