Panetti and Martin in rematch for Oconto mayor

The race for mayor of Oconto is a rematch of the contest that John Panetti won in 2022. In addition, there are eight candidates on the ballot for four positions on the Oconto City Council.

After a primary election pared down the field of 11 candidates, voters will choose April 2 from among Darrell Anderson, Kim Bronikowski, Dee Donlevy, Mike Feldt, Casey Sowle, Lori Stensrup, Jamie Younger and Dan Zoeller.

Martin and Panetti responded to a request for candidate information.

Cliff Martin

1. Background and qualifications? I am a semi-retired paper and packaging industry consultant and have spent 10 years on the Police and Fire Commission, serving five years as president and five years as vice president. Past and present community involvement includes being a member of the Oconto Hospital Citizens Foundation, Oconto Redevelopment Authority, Oconto Lions Club and Oconto Booster Club, and volunteering for Miles 4 Madyson. The proudest achievement in my personal life is my family. My wife, Donna, of 52 years, and four children and their families are the cornerstone of my life. Witnessing the growth of my children and the formation of their own families has been, and remains, an incredible journey that I am grateful to experience firsthand.

2. What do you think is the most significant issue you’d like to work on during the coming term?

Revitalize our downtown, attract tourism and manufacturing firms to Oconto. I plan to work with businesses, property owners and residents to revitalize our downtown and encourage a mix of businesses that complement each other while drawing a variety of customers. I will start by contacting owners of vacant buildings and look for opportunities to fill them. I will be proactive and collaborate with the key stakeholders to develop a plan to further attract continuous tourism to our community. I will work to attract job creating, tax paying manufacturing firms to Oconto by actively marketing our city to potential investors.

3. What is the most significant issue for residents? We need to rebuild the trust between the citizens, city employees and the political body of Oconto, and I believe we can accomplish this through transparency and open communication. A citizens’ forum will be established to garner community input on issues that might be facing the city of Oconto. Regulating of the budget and budgeting process to control and pay down debt will be a priority. Consistent and fair enforcement of laws, ordinances and regulations in Oconto is necessary. Rules need to apply equally to all citizens and I feel this is essential in preserving community order and fostering growth. With my experience as president of the PFC, I am confident I accomplish these goals.

4. Why would you like voters to choose you over your opponent? I pledge to be transparent with the citizens of Oconto no matter if the information is positive or negative. I commit to uphold and enforce a code of ethics that prioritizes accountability, integrity and honesty. Input from the citizens of Oconto is valuable and will be encouraged and taken seriously.

John Panetti

1. Background and qualifications? I was born, raised, and graduated from Oconto High School creating my commitment with passion to promote our amazing city. The experience I gained by attending Purdue University allowed me to teach and lead students into productive careers. The extensive business experience gained from starting a business over 37 years ago brings leadership, team building, and problem solving, along with fiscal responsibility.

2. What do you think is the most significant issue you’d like to work on during the coming term? Oconto’s five largest employers all face the same problem, a shortage of skilled labor. This is not a healthy situation as it restricts company growth plus creates the potential for companies to relocate their businesses out of Oconto. We need to attract more residents to the city. We can accomplish this by offering affordable child care options along with additional affordable city housing. I am working with TEDCOR (OCEDC) seeking grants and low interest loans for developers as this is my number one priority to grow Oconto.

3. What is the most significant issue for residents? From day one as mayor, my open-door policy to meet with residents is extremely popular; meeting either in person or 24/7 via a phone call. My goal has never been to raise taxes; by utilizing leading edge technology with improved efficiencies, growing business and tourism, this will continue to keep taxes in check. I am committed to keeping the lines of communication open for all residents. This ensures that all residents will have a voice and play a key role in growing Oconto.

4. Why would you like voters to choose you over your opponent? Being honored to have already served as mayor and acquiring valuable knowledge, I believe my “on the job” experience is an advantage in continuing to grow Oconto. As incumbent mayor, I am in Wisconsin year-round and do not spend my winters in Florida. I attend all Committee of the Whole meetings, chamber meetings and many of the 13-plus committee meetings per month. I have extensive experience working with government officials including Gov. Evers, Sen. Baldwin, Congressman Gallagher, state Sen. Wimberger, and state Rep. Behnke to promote funding and investments in Oconto.