City of Sun Prairie logo

The City of Sun Prairie Common Council has received a total of four applications to fill each vacancy on the council in District 1 and District 2.

More applications have been received for the District 1 alder opening on the council, bringing the total number of candidates interested in that opening to four. No more candidates applied in District 2 before the deadline.

Richard Barden, a Columbus Street resident who works as materials test specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, is seeking the District 1 aldermanic vacancy.

A past commander for American Legion Post 333 in Sun Prairie, Barden served as Commander for the Dane County Council of the American Legion’s Department of Wisconsin. He is a US Air Force Vietnam era veteran, serving from 1972-76, and was a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard from 1980-93.

Barden has also served as chartered organization representative for Boy Scout Troop 333, he has an associate’s degree in civil engineering technology from Madison College, a bachelor’s degree with an emphasis in management organizational development from Upper Iowa University and has a master’s in business administration from UIU. He has also completed core subject material to receive a doctor of business administration from Walden University.

Theresa McIlroy, a North Street resident, also submitted her application for District 1 Alder. Currently retired, McIlroy was co-owner and vice president of ProAdSpec from 1991-2017 and has also worked as a service representative for Ameritech from 1972-1991.

McIlroy has extensive experience serving on library-related boards. Mayor JoAnn Orfan appointed her to serve on the Sun Prairie Library Board. She has served as library board president as well as president of the Sun Prairie Public Library Foundation. She was active with the Sun Prairie Public Library’s Capital Campaign. She also was a member of the Friends of the Library’s Construction Committee and Recognition Committee.

She was appointed to the South Central Library System Board of Directors by former County Executive Kathleen Falk. She also served four consecutive years as chair for the Sun Prairie Library Foundation’s fundraising Book’n It Run.

Other past involvements include serving on the Sun Prairie Comprehensive Plan Ad Hoc Committee after being appointed by Mayor Joe Chase, and serving as vice president of the Cottage Grove Chamber of Commerce. She also served as Flags of Freedom Parade Chair from 1992-94.

Currently, McIlroy is a member of the Sun Prairie Historical Library and Museum Board, and served on the Downtown Task Force charged with reviewing and recommending a plan for the Bristol-Main intersection stemming from the July 10, 2018 natural gas explosion in downtown Sun Prairie. Her current community involvements include being a member of the Sun Prairie Optimist Club and serving as a “cookie queen” for the annual Downtown Sun Prairie Christmas Tree Lighting.

Brian Berninger, a Powder Horn Road resident, has applied for the District 1 alder vacancy. A past member of the Sun Prairie Library Board, Berninger also served on the Deerfield Town Board in 2016. He is currently a member of the Sun Prairie Alcohol License Review Board.

Berninger worked for both Democrats and Republicans as a volunteer, including Gov. Tony Evers and Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Berninger’s additional political experience includes being an election observer in the City of Sun Prairie in 2012. From 1985-87, he was a caucus analyst for the Wisconsin State Assembly Office of the Minority Leader, and worked as a legislative assistant in the State Assembly from 1987-88.

He volunteered with the YMCA in 1998 and YWCA in 2005, assisted with the Wisconsin Public Television pledge guide in 2003, volunteered as a Big Brother with Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Dane County from 1987-96, and worked as a City of Madison poll worker from 1991-93.

His additional experience includes being a former reporter for the Marshfield News-Herald as well as being a residence hall counselor, an afterschool teacher for Madison Central Montessori School, and as a line therapist for the Wisconsin Early Autism Project.

A licensed professional counselor, Berninger has worked as a therapist in the Dodge County Jail and at Wisconsin Community Mental Health Counseling Centers in Mequon. He currently works for his own business Life Matters Counseling in Madison. He has a master’s degree in psychology and counseling from Goddard College in Planfield Vt., and a bachelor’s degree in science and culture from Purdue University.

Candidates already filed

Heather Barkholtz, a Tara Drive resident who works as the Chemical Testing Section Chief with the Wisconsin State Patrol, has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UW-Oshkosh and a PhD in chemistry with a nanotechnology emphasis from Northern Illinois University. She has served on the Sun Prairie Library Board since 2019.

“In lieu of presenting specific action items or initiatives, I will instead share a few of my defining values: family, safety, collaboration, transparency, equity and diversity,” Barkholtz wrote. “These values will shape my performance and stance on issues, so I intend to be candid about them.”

Chadsworth Drive resident Bradley Templin works as a risk manager of the State of Wisconsin and holds a Radio and Television certificate from Madison Media Institute. He offered no statement of intent on his form.

Crossing Ridge Court resident Bob Jokisch recently retired as a senior policy advisor for financial aid and student success from the UW System Administration, but volunteers as a tutor through the Schools of Hope program. He ran unsuccessfully for the Sun Prairie School Board in 2019.

“As a resident of the City of Sun Prairie for 25 years, I am interested in serving my community and representing the residents of District 2 on the Sun Prairie City Council,” Jokisch wrote.

Kyle Utech, a Hawthorn Drive resident who is an IT junior systems administrator for a Madison law firm, has applied for the District 1 alder vacancy.

“My interest in the alderperson position is due to my desire to help drive the future of Sun Prairie and help guide my community to an even better Sun Prairie,” Utech wrote in his application filed March 11.

John Holmes, a Chandler Lane resident who works for the Wisconsin Department of Administration, has applied for the District 2 alder vacancy.

A Sun Prairie Volunteer Firefighter from 1982-2000, Holmes said he has an interest in the anti-bullying campaign current taking place with the school board.

“If I were to be appointed to this position,“ Holmes wrote, “I would donate my salary to the Sunshine Place, Sun Prairie.

“My interest stems from my lifelong residency and my desire to keep Sun Prairie the best place to live in Dane County,” Holmes added. “Public safety is a top priority of mine.”

Holmes also has endorsements from Sun Prairie Municipal Judge Tom Hebl and attorney Kim Ripp, as well as other Sun Prairie residents.

It is expected that both the District 1 and District 2 individuals appointed will seek candidacy for the elected office being held in a spring election on April 6, 2021.

The successful candidate elected will complete the term ending April 17, 2023.


As the Legislative or policy making Branch of Municipal Government, alderpersons manage and control the city properties, finances and public services through the adoption of city ordinances, resolutions, and policies.

The council has the power to license, regulate, borrow money, and levy taxes.

Alderpersons represent the residents of their aldermanic district in the City of Sun Prairie providing vision and leadership.

In addition to attending council meetings, alderpersons are expected to prepare for, attend, and participate in various standing committees as assigned by the Mayor.

Compensation -- $6,963 per year, paid monthly.

Appointment process

Applicants who qualify for office and have submitted their letter of intent, will be considered by the Common Council on Tuesday, March 31 at 5:30 p.m.

Both successful candidates are expected to run in the spring election being held on April 6, 2021.

All participants in the alder vacancy process were required to agree to the requirements established by the City of Sun Prairie.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.