Mathias Harter

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Mathias William Harter
MattHarter MayorPage.jpg
The mayor at city hall
41st Mayor of La Crosse, Wisconsin
In office
April 21, 2009 – April 16, 2013
Preceded by Mark Johnsrud
Succeeded by Tim Kabat
Personal details
Born November 17, 1984
Nationality American

Mathias "Matt" William Harter (born November 17, 1984) was the 41st mayor of La Crosse, Wisconsin 2009–2013.[1]


Born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Harter graduated from Luther High School and attended the Minnesota State University, Mankato. Harter also served in the United States Navy.[2] He worked in his family's garbage disposal company.[3]

Mayor of La Crosse[edit]

Harter won the 2009 mayoral election over Dorothy Lenard, with 6,831 votes over Lenard's 5,505. After the election, Lenard was quoted by the La Crosse Tribune as saying "If you run a campaign and you try to win it by misinformation and false accusations, I don't know how you can enjoy the win...if you're going to go to doors and tell lies, you're going to win the election. The difference in the candidates is I'm an adult with responsibilities and a job to live up to. Matt was paid by his family to go out and campaign, and that's a luxury I didn't have.[4]

Harter campaigned on the need for more fiscal responsibility and control of city spending, and promised to maintain a stable tax levy while assessing municipal needs. After being elected, he required some departments to explain their requests for both hiring more employees while also increasing overtime hours. The tax levy did remain stable in 2009 and 2010, and city developments, both downtown and on the north side, progressed. He also called for city employees living outside the city limits to consider relocating within La Crosse.[5]


During the week of November 16, 2009, a story broke about Harter's idea to convert the entire force of 95 firefighters into an all volunteer Fire Department in two years. This set off major backlash from city unions, particularly the firefighters union, and was a major discussion point across the region.[6] During the same week, a local rock station released a calendar featuring women in suggestive clothing and positions, which included a picture of the radio disc jockeys with Harter in the mayor's office. The commercial for this calendar featured Harter stating, "I'm Mayor Matt Harter, and I approve this calendar." Harter was criticized for abusing the office of the Mayor and for promoting the exploitation of women. Harter denied knowing about the suggestive content in the calendar.[7]

In February 2010 Harter brought his father, the owner of a large local garbage disposal company, to a private meeting with the La Crosse county solid waste director to discuss whether the county should pursue increasing its waste collection and recycling role, a decision that might reduce demand for services offered by the Harter family business.[8] In July 2010, a Madison law firm released a legal opinion that Harter violated ethics codes and may have broken criminal laws by doing that.

In November 2010, the La Crosse Tribune obtained an ethics complaint filed by 45 residents with the city's Ethics Board in September.[9]

In January 2011, the La Crosse Ethics Board ruled that Harter committed a serious ethics violation by bringing his father to lobby a county solid waste official in a meeting to study matters that could affect the family business. The board concluded the mayor did not violate requirements he disclose his interest in legislation before the council or the Board of Public Works. It recommended no further discipline, fine, sanction, or censure against Harter stated that because of his lack of political experience and no prior misconduct, the public hearing and its own ruling were reprimand enough.[10]

2013 election[edit]

In November 2012, Harter announced he would not seek re-election.[11] Mayor Tim Kabat replaced him on April 16, 2013.