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Part 1: Harter looks back at time in mayor's office

By Lou Hillman, lhillman@wkbt.com
Published On: Mar 19 2013 07:36:14 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 19 2013 10:51:39 PM CDT
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

In two weeks, La Crosse voters will elect the city's next mayor, marking the end of Matt Harter's one and only term.

News 8's Lou Hillman sat down with Mayor Harter to take a look back at his four years in office.

Hillman: You told me you wouldn't miss all the meetings. Did you enjoy being mayor?

Harter: Oh absolutely. I enjoyed it. It's been the best experience of my life. I've learned more than I ever have in my life. I've met more people than I ever have in my life. So it's been a great experience. It certainly has enriched me as a person. I only hope that I've given as much back to the community as what I've received having the opportunity to serve in this position.

Hillman: What do you think was your biggest accomplishment as mayor?

Harter: Over the past four years, we have broken the cycle of raising taxes at the maximum rate.

Hillman: You took office at the age of 24, the youngest mayor in the history of La Crosse. Looking back, do you feel that your age played any role in some of your challenges as mayor?

Harter: I don't feel like my age presents a very definite obstacle. There are things, such as experience, that come with age. To focus on those things or inabilities, I don't feel like is helping us accomplish what we need to accomplish.

Hillman: And just to follow up on that, did you ever feel disrepected here at city hall because of your age?

Harter: I never felt not respected because of my age. Overall, I feel like I've been treated fairly and given a fair shake.

"The age was certainly a piece of it," said City Council President Audrey Kader. She believes Harter was overwhelmed at first with all the duties that come with running a city.

Over the past four years, Kader has been an outspoken critic of the mayor on several issues That includes the repeated use of his veto pen. News 8 counted nine major vetoes in the last 21 months alone, only two of which the city council did not eventually override.

"It really didn't matter much anymore. If there was another veto, it was a situation of 'oh dear here we go again.' I think the overuse of it probably took away from the value of it," said Kader.

Hillman: Why sign some of those vetoes when you know or have a very good indication that they'll just be overridden here by the city council?

Harter: Well, to me, that is leadership. That is showing what the mayor's office feels is best for the city, whether the council agrees with that (or) whether there are members of the community that have other opinions. But every night I left this building knowing that I did what I could to make this city better a place and uphold my oath to look out for this city.

News 8 will continue its look back at Mayor Harter's term Wednesday night on News 8 at 10.

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