Franklin voters will be choosing a mayor this spring. Here's a look at some key issues in the race.

Incumbent Steve Olson (left) is facing District 6 Alderman John Nelson (right) for the Franklin mayor's seat in the April 4, 2023 election.
Incumbent Steve Olson (left) is facing District 6 Alderman John Nelson (right) for the Franklin mayor's seat in the April 4, 2023 election.

Franklin's incumbent Mayor Steve Olson is facing current District 6 Alderman John Nelson in the Spring 2023 mayoral election.

In advance of the April 4 election, Now News Group asked the candidates questions relating to the recent news of Northwestern Mutual leaving the city for downtown Milwaukee, Pretzilla moving to Franklin, the Strauss saga which saw lawsuits against the city from a resident-formed non-profit, plans to develop the area around 76th Street and Rawson Avenue, the future of Franklin's common council with many incumbents not running again, and more.

Each candidate was limited to 100 words per answer, per question.

Franklin is seeing a lot of positive growth with expansions at Ballpark Commons, plans in the works around 76th and Rawson, and Pretzilla's move to the city. How does the city continue that momentum?

Steve Olson: Continuing with development across the city and continuing strong and broad relationships in the development community keeps the momentum. The Corporate Park,with more than 1 million square feet of light industrial, valued at more than $100 million, already built with room for more than 1 million more square feet. The Ryan Road business park soon to be home to [Cellco Partnership] (Verizon). Re-development of Orchard View to a mixed use residential/commercial is important but needs to be developed in a fiscally responsible way with proper planning and community involvement. This will only happen with continued experienced leadership.


John Nelson: Development at 76th and Rawson could meet the city’s need for a destination center. The city should encourage development that offers amenities and services desired by residents. I believe success starts with applying predictable and fair development procedures. Additionally, it is vital for our city’s leaders to rely upon knowledgeable experts to guide our decision making. The right leadership, coupled with community input, will help continue the momentum of Franklin’s economic growth.

Conversely, Franklin has had its issues with Northwestern Mutual moving out and the tensions regarding the Strauss proposal over the last few years. What have you learned from these two situations that will help future planning and decision making?

Olson: NM’s decision was startling but I know that effective relationships with regional development partners and NM we will have a great result come from what could have been trouble for our city. Strauss’s proposal was approved because it represented good growth for an existing company. Without the company effectively presenting their plans, others can create a narrative of their own that can result in the issues that we have faced with this development. Both take strong leadership to weather the storm and make sure that the city thrives in the end. That involves a positive plan and experienced leadership.

Nelson: With secrecy and inequitable application of our processes, the city has been involved in multiple lawsuits and endless open records requests. Losing Northwestern Mutual and the Strauss situation reaffirms we need transparent and inclusive decision making. Lacking both transparency and inclusion has led to distrust among our residents. We must not continue down this path. City decisions require resident input. We need consistency in our processes. Elected officials need to trust our existing, written procedures, and follow them accordingly. Under my leadership, administration will be open to all viewpoints resulting in improved planning and execution to meet our goals.

The common council will feature many new faces following this election — what do you bring to the mayoral seat that will best help this new council lead the city forward?

Olson: Decades of experience and history in leading Franklin. I know the employees and work with them effectively. I know our procedures and how to get the most of them. I know the budget and how to get great results from the money the taxpayers give us. I know our ordinances and our history and I know our people. And I’ve been a long term alderman as well as mayor so I can help the new elected leaders become effective for the benefit of our constituents.

Nelson: I am an experienced leader with extensive professional training. I have completed various leadership programs including the School of Police Staff and Command. I am a command level Lieutenant with decades of experience who manages personnel and navigates demanding situations. My experience will allow me to make a cohesive plan for the city that takes into consideration the disparate needs of our residents. My experience as an alderman affords me the ability to better understand our new council. My open-door policy and willingness to work constructively with others will be a complement to the council.

Candidate bios

Steve Olson
Steve Olson

Steve Olson

AGE: 67

ADDRESS: 8091 S. Meadowcreek Ct.

PREVIOUS ELECTED EXPERIENCE: Mayor, 9 years. Alderman (2 districts), 12 years.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: City of Franklin Plan Commission and Community Development Authority (chair), 27th Street Steering Committee with the City of Oak Creek (chair), Finance Committee, Board of Health, Personnel Committee, Cable Television Commission, Technology Commission, Fair Commission, Economic Development Commission, Milwaukee County Intergovernmental Cooperation Council, Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District Executive Committee, Milwaukee County Emergency Medical Services Council, Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission Board of Directors, graduate of Franklin Police Citizens Academy, graduate of Federal Bureau of Investigation Citizens Academy, Franklin Chamber of Commerce (president and chair), Franklin Senior Citizens, Inc., St. Martin of Tours (member)

CONTACT INFO:, 414-425-9060,

John Nelson

John R. Nelson
John R. Nelson

AGE: 55

ADDRESS: 7787 S. Northcape Rd.

PREVIOUS ELECTED EXPERIENCE: Alderman for the City of Franklin's 6th District, with six years of aldermanic service, including: Business Licensing Committee, City Finance Committee, Personnel Committee, Board of Public Works, Environmental Commission and Parks Commission, each as the appointed Aldermanic Representative

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Decades of volunteer and municipal service time including the Franklin Noon Lions Club, St. Martins Fair Commission (chair and member), Fire and Police Commission (vice president and chair), Parks Commission member (non-elected), Notary Public; State of Wisconsin, and 29 years of Law Enforcement (currently serving as Lieutenant, Waterford Police Department)

CONTACT INFO:, 414-587-0587,

Contact Erik S. Hanley at Like/follow his Facebook page, The Redheadliner, and follow him on Twitter @ES_Hanley.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Northwestern Mutual, Strauss are key issues in Franklin mayor election