As the outgoing mayor, I had the opportunity to say a few words last night at the Common Council’s annual organizational meeting. The Common Council was overly kind to me at the meeting and, frankly, I was overly emotional. But, to close out my tenure as mayor (I will not be posting to this website in the future), I decided to post my comments here:
What we do in these chambers is not the essence of city government business.
The real business of city government involves plowing and paving roads, catching the bad guys, putting out fires, conducting elections, mowing parks, assessing properties, burying pipe, inspecting properties and all the other things the majority of city employees do on a daily basis.
We should be both proud and grateful that all those things get done with relatively few complaints and relatively little input by this body. Mequon has great employees.
But, even in our supportive or secondary role, we have an obligation, and we try to do things well. As you know, I am always worried that the city does not get things done quickly enough. I was concerned that, particularly as a result of COVID, not enough was accomplished.
So, I put together a list of things the common council, with staff’s guidance, accomplished over the past three years. It is an interesting read.
There are 30 significant ordinance code changes and 118 other significant achievements. The list does not include equipment purchases we approved, road projects and all the other usual and customary business of this body. It was all done while the real work I listed before was done.
Let me highlight those initiatives that I think have been most important. It is likely everyone here would make a slightly different list.
- The agreement to merge the Mequon and Thiensville fire and emergency medical services departments. Although that came together over the last four months, it is actually the culmination of at least three years’ work and work by a lot of people.
- The new conservation subdivision ordinance.
- Rezoning of the Ulao Creek area.
- Planning for the OIT Crossing.
- Support for the police department, even while the world heaped criticism on cops, including a second school resource officer, license plate cameras and a new public safety IT coordinator.
- The Community Development study.
- Planning for the redevelopment and long-term success of the Port Washington Road business area. Hopefully that will be a sustained effort by this body.
- Multiple Town Center efforts, including working through the Foxtown Development, helping to finalize Spur 16, planning for new public improvements, the Gateway sign and the expansion of Settler’s Park.
- The citywide survey.
- The informational technology study and upgrades.
I believe these efforts, assuming there is follow through, will positively impact Mequon for generations.
And we did that while maneuvering through COVID with unanimity and more responsibly and with less disruption than most communities.
You should be proud of how much you accomplished, particularly in the face of a pandemic and during a time that the world just seemed angry.
These were not my accomplishments, I had little to do with most. Instead, they belong to the department heads and city employees, who did most of the work, and this body and various committees. I thank all of you.
As I said, there needs to be follow through on many of these issues. Behind the list of achievements, I attached my list of unfinished business. Maybe that list will be useful. That is up to you.
The final couple of pages of my handout contain some additional thoughts.
I would add five more suggestions:
- You do not need to make new rules and restrictions to govern well. Most of what we did over the last three years added transparency and consistency, not new rules. The world has too many rules.
- Do whatever you can to enhance communications. The public appreciates it.
- If you do not like a rule, change it, do not just provide an exception or variance. Government is better when there is less negotiating and more transparency and consistency.
- Long meetings are not better meetings.
- Be guided by your principles but keep partisan politics out of City Hall.
Serving as mayor has been the greatest honor. I expect I received more good than I put into it. There is a true sense of accomplishment when you can do something for others. And I made many friends, including many people in this room. I am going to miss so much of this.
But it is time to move on. When I was first elected 21 years ago, I was in my 30s and for a long time I was the youngest alderman. Suddenly, that is no longer the case. I have always tried to give 110% to my efforts here 110%. I shouldn’t hang on when the rest of my life prevents that effort.
I have committed to Mayor Nerbun that I will stay out of things unless asked. Nobody wants the former guy hanging around second-guessing everything. It is not good government. However, if I can help in any way, please ask.
I have enjoyed working with the people in this room. Thank you for working with me when you thought I was right, and for respectfully overruling me when you did not. Mostly, thanks for your friendship and advice.
As I did in the News Graphic article, I want to thank Stacey and my daughters for allowing me this opportunity. I could have worked more and made more money. I could have been around more evenings. But they patiently understood my need and gave me the freedom to work for this community I love.
Mequon is the best place to live, work and play in southeastern Wisconsin.
I tried not to break it. I hope I had some positive impact.
Again, thank you.