At 16 percent, Fitchburg is home to one of the largest Latino populations in Dane County and one of the fastest growing, expected to reach 18 percent by 2021, according to a community profile. With a developing multicultural community Alderman Jason Gonzalez thinks it’s the right time for the city to have its first Latino mayor.

Gonzalez is from the south side of Madison and an alumnus of University of Wisconsin-Madison. He moved to Fitchburg in 2007 as a part-time firefighter shortly after graduating. He ran for and won a contested election for Alder in 2013, becoming the first Latino to sit on the Fitchburg city council. He won re-election in 2015, again contested.

Over the years he has watched the city change a great deal and now believes “a new Fitchburg” needs new leadership.

“It’s turned into a tale of multiple cities and we have a struggle for a sense of identity and coming together, but over the last 18 months the city hasn’t really come together. In fact we’ve grown apart.” said Gonzalez, who blames “the divisiveness of the council” and mayoral vetoes for the disconnect.

Gonzalez said apparent miscommunications on the behalf of current incumbent Mayor Steve Arnold regarding funds being allocated towards community centers such as the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and funds being set aside to develop community spaces in other neighborhoods have lead to angry constituents and backlash.

“Over the course of these last 18 months Mayor Arnold’s leadership style isn’t a good fit for the city and where it’s at,” said Gonzalez. “I bring forward a new leadership.”

Gonzalez believes that his ethnic identity is just one way he represents and relates to “the new Fitchburg.” At 32 he is the median age for the city and like 49 percent of the community he is college educated, having both a Bachelor degree and a Law degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

If elected his main goal is to bring all sides of the city together through economic development as well as community development such as investing in community centers in the predominately Black and Latino areas of King James Way and North Fish Hatchery road. He also intends to grow partnerships with already-established entities such as the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and Leopold Elementary School.

Another one of Gonzalez’s goal is to create and implement an Affirmative Action plan for hiring, which the city does not have, only recently hiring its first two Black police officers.

“It boggles my mind that we’re in such a quote ‘progressive’ area and we don’t have that,” said Gonzalez. “Besides the police department I can’t think of any other African American employees in the city, so obviously there’s a problem. There are qualified applicants, so why are we missing them?”

As a criminal defense lawyer Gonzalez also wants to address how certain city ordinances contribute to the “pipeline to prison.”

“Our ordinance for possession of marijuana is the highest in the county and the one of the highest in the state,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, Alder Dan Carpenter, and Alder Patrick Stern co-authored an ordinance which drastically reduced the fine for possession, but according to Gonzalez push back from Mayor Arnold led to the ordinance only applying to adults, leaving juvenile offenders still subject to high fines.

“We know the police have higher contact with underrepresented people, youth in particular, so I thought this will not solve anything, it will probably make it worse,” said Gonzalez “That’s an example of how I would have led differently.”

He also added that he personally believes marijuana should be legalized and taxed so it can offset cost within the criminal justice system and help fund education.

If elected Gonzalez does not intend to sit on any committees, but instead appoint Alders and citizen appointees from each district, including those who have opinions that differ from his own.

“We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. I think too many politicians use the one mouth and not the two ears because they might think they know what’s better for people and what’s going to be the crux of my administration is listening,” said Gonzalez.

In addition to Gonzalez, incumbent Latina Alder Julia Arata-Fratta is running uncontested and two Black women, Wanda McCann-Smith and Zyronia Mims, are also running for seats on the council.

“We have a really diverse community and that’s the new Fitchburg,” said Gonzalez. “We need leadership that is not just stuck in the traditional suburban feeling.”