Otto first student to run for Eau Claire City Council seat

Nate Otto says he has a good answer to why he is running for City Council as a student.

He sees the city of Eau Claire as a doughnut.

“We have a hole in the middle of the city,” says the UW-Eau Claire senior. “That hole is the downtown.”

Downtown revitalization is one of three platforms Otto will voice his ideas on when campaigning for Third District alderman in this spring’s race for City Council.

As a an active participant in Student Senate since his freshman year, Otto gained an interest in politics and in being involved in a community.

“I realized how important student government was,” Otto said.

During his time at Student Senate, Otto worked in several positions, one of them being a student liaison to the City Council, and enjoyed being a part of local government.

His interest in this aspect of government, and the fact that he wanted student concerns to be heard, played a large part in his decision to run for City Council.

“I was bent on making sure a student ran,” Otto said. “I just didn’t think it would be me.”

The opportunity to possibly be a student voice in a group of Eau Claire decision-makers means Otto must step down and say good-bye to his current position on Student Senate.

Otto resigned as director of Intergovernmental Affairs at Monday’s Senate meeting.

It would be a conflict of interest to be on both City Council and IGA, he said, adding that the resignation was very difficult.

“I’ll miss being involved in something that good,” Otto said.

As part of IGA, Otto has worked on efforts to increase student voter registration.

Student Senate President Justin Hentges said Otto is the type of Senate leader who is always willing to lend a hand.

“Nate has put the focus back on issues that directly affect students,” Hentges said.

But as a member of City Council, Otto thinks he can continue this effort to make sure that student concerns are heard. If elected to City Council, Otto would have the chance to represent a portion of Eau Claire that contains mostly students: the area behind Water Street.

“I can represent students in a unique way because I’m one of the population,” he said.

And according to City Clerk Donna Austad, Otto is the first student to run for a city council position, although a few students have held other positions, such as members of county boards. In one instance, a student in the ’70s served as chairman for the town of Washington.

“I think there is a certain element of this town that thinks you have to be a certain age to serve,” Otto said. “But I feel I’m qualified.”

In his platform of downtown revitalization, Otto wants to find ways to bring life back to the center of Eau Claire, to lessen the “doughnut hole” in the middle of the city.

Along with downtown revitalization, other platforms Otto is running on are job security and coalition building.

As part of the coalition building platform, Otto would like to work on the rift between residents and student residents.

“I’ve seen both perspectives,” said Otto, an Eau Claire native. “I want to work real hard to find out what the answers are.”

Primaries for City Council elections are Feb. 20. Otto will face Ron Pettis and incumbent Bev Boettcher.

Hentges said Otto will be missed at Senate.

“It will be hard because he is such a great leader,” he said. “But it would be good for the community and students.”