Assistant Professor of Biology Israel Del Toro was elected to Appleton Common Council on April 5. Photo from Lawrence University Communications Office.
Assistant Professor of Biology Israel Del Toro, from Lawrence University, was elected to Appleton’s Common Council on Tuesday, April 4. With 58% of the vote, Del Toro defeated his opponent Virgil Van Asten to secure a two-year seat and his first term on the council.
According to Del Toro, he hopes to ensure that teachers and students have the resources they need to be successful in school. One such goal is the construction of Appleton’s new library. He also seeks action to take care of the natural resources in the city and move towards developing a sustainable future.
Del Toro got involved in local politics in part through the community integration of his research lab.
Associate Professor of Biology Kim Dickson made note of Del Toro’s community involvement through citizen science, especially through his efforts to support pollinators. For example, Del Toro connects with community members to put gardens in their yards and different places throughout Appleton. He does a lot of experiments that engage citizens, Dickson noted.
“Even before he ran for public office, he was really well connected with a community just through his own science.” Dickson said. “He communicates well with people and can rally a lot of enthusiasm for projects.”
Associate Professor of Government Jason Brozek, who currently chairs environmental studies at Lawrence, has worked together with Del Toro in the environmental studies program and was likewise thrilled to see his colleague elected.
“I’m jazzed to see him take on this new community leadership role.” said Brozek. “I know he’ll be doing good work for the whole city of Appleton on issues like sustainability and livability.”
Outside of city council and teaching at Lawrence, Del Toro leads Appleton’s No Mow May program. The program works to promote the growth of flowering plants to help pollinators flourish during the early growing season. After convincing the city to test drive the project for a few years, No Mow May is now an official Appleton program as of March 2022.
In addition to Del Toro’s election, the city of Appleton and Outagamie County reelected three incumbents, Vered Meltzer, Denise Fenton, and Nate Wolff, and former council member Chris Croatt. According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, Meltzer, who ran unopposed, is the first known transgender man to hold public office in Wisconsin. The newly elected councilmembers other than Del Toro were Joss Thyssen, who was elected to fill an open seat, and Vaya Lauren Jones, who defeated incumbent councilmember Michael Smith.
In other election news, Pheng Thao was elected as the first Hmong-American to serve on the Appleton Area School Board. Thao received the most votes with 8,427 and earned a three-year term. Calumet, Winnebago, and Outagamie counties are the home of 8,200 Hmong-Americans as reported by the Post-Crescent.