Getting things done for people has been the hallmark of Tara Johnson’s life as a La Crosse County Board Member and Chair, Executive Director of the United Way of La Crosse, a former union member, mom, and proud Democrat. She spent more than 30 years of her professional life building communities, mentoring dynamic local leaders in public service, and bringing people together to tackle some of her community’s most challenging and urgent issues. She’s running for Congress to restore a woman’s right to choose, protect our democracy, fight for rural Wisconsin communities that are too often left behind, and create economic opportunity for every Wisconsinite.
Tara Johnson was the youngest of four siblings. She worked her way through Carroll College in Waukesha, as a manager of the student union and theater box office and as a food service worker. Tara stayed active and engaged in college, serving as President of the Student Senate and as a leader of the Campus Activities Board. As the Student Senate president, she regularly reported to the college’s Board of Directors, developing lifelong connections that led to her United Way career. Tara knows firsthand how important it is to expand access to post-high school education, whether getting a degree or learning a trade.
In her 15 years at the United Way, she worked in communities across Wisconsin to fund organizations that allow everyone the chance to succeed. She worked first in Milwaukee, helping allocate resources to organizations working directly to better their community. She was an AFSCME member as a United Way employee and was part of the contract negotiating team. After seven years, she was hired as the campaign director in Brown County, then moved to the La Crosse area, where she served as the Executive Director for seven years. Under her leadership, United Way identified needs, prioritized funding, and expanded its impact in the community.
Tara knows that for communities to be stronger, we need elected officials who understand the challenges residents face and are willing to build policies that help improve the quality of life for everyone. Tara decided to run for office and was first elected to the La Crosse County Board of Supervisors in 2000, serving for 20 years. She was elected the first female Chair of the La Crosse County Board in 2011 and was re-elected four more times, balancing budgets, cutting taxes, and expanding programming. During her tenure, she served in various leadership positions, including as Second Vice Chair, First Vice Chair, and as Chair of the Health and Human Services and the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee.
Tara has also served on the board of the La Crosse Promise, a place-based scholarship initiative in La Crosse’s most challenged neighborhoods, United Fund for the Arts and Humanities, a collaborative cultural arts fund-raising effort in La Crosse, Rotary Club of La Crosse, Emerge Wisconsin, La Crosse Community Foundation, and the Wisconsin Counties Association.
Tara and her husband, Tim, live in the Town of Shelby in southern La Crosse County. Tim owned his union electrical contracting business for 41 years and recently received his 50-year IBEW union pin. They are the proud parents of adult children Nicholas and Layna, who were raised in La Crosse and attended public schools in the La Crosse School District.