Mayor Brian Smith will face Council Member Deb Boyer Fenske in the April 3 mayoral race.
Smith is seeking his sixth two-year term as mayor.
“The reason I’m running is I think at this time – not only in the city – government needs somebody who has the experience,” he said.
Smith, who served on the Common Council from December 1996 until being elected mayor in April 2002, says he has grown with the position.
“The city administrator runs the day-to-day operations,” he said. “I still feel the importance of having someone who works well with the administration, and employees and the council.”
He sees the mayor as being a liaison between city staff and the Common Council and said that during the last 10 years, the city has accomplished a lot.
Those accomplishments include the recreation center project, followed by the remodeling and expansion of the police department, he said.
“Another thing we did was the bypass,” Smith said. “We incorporated the airport (project) and bypass together. The minimum saved was $800,000 by doing the two projects together.”
When the city established Tax Incremental Financing District No. 8 in that area, it chose to install water and sewer so the area would be ready when businesses wanted to build there, he said.
When Fleet Farm begins its expansion project this spring, the company will connect to that existing infrastructure and will pay its cost to hook up to it, Smith said.
“We will now see what will happen. We’re ready for them in that area,” he said. “I think people forget how long it takes development to occur.”
Like other communities, Waupaca was affected by the economic downturn.
“We’re starting to see some growth. Things are starting to happen again,” Smith said. “The Waupaca foundry is a true indicator of where things are. They have been going strong a good year now.”
A native of Waupaca, Smith received a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business education from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and taught in Racine from 1979 until 1983, when he moved back to Waupaca with his wife, Terri.
Smith taught at Waupaca High School from 1983 through 1989 and coached various sports in both of the school districts where he taught.
He started his accounting business as a part-time venture in 1985, eventually deciding to go into it full time and moving to his present location in June 1989. He presently has more than 2,800 clients.
Smith also officiates football games and is part owner of Paca Pub with his brothers. He and Terri have three children and five grandchildren.
“I have a full-time job,” Smith said. “This job (the position of mayor) I take very seriously. I think I put in a good number of hours into this job. I think it’s important to involve everybody – the administration, the council – in everything we do.”
He said the city has faced tough budget years, as well as a reduction in state shared revenue.
“We’ve been able to balance the budget without increasing property taxes,” Smith said. “We’re going to see in the future that 2012 and 2013 are our most difficult years because of the amount of debt payments. The debt drops dramatically after 2013.”
Smith believes the most important thing the city can do is to give its residents property tax relief.
During these tough budget years, the city has held off on infrastructure and building improvements and equipment purchases, he said.
“We’ve been putting them off with the idea that after 2013, we can start doing these things. I believe we will be able to give property tax relief and more forward with these things,” Smith said.
He said as mayor, he is the lead person in negotiations. “You need somebody who has the experience to go through these things,” he said.
Of running for re-election, Smith said, “I’m doing this because I love the city of Waupaca. I grew up here. I think I can make a difference in the community. It takes a true leader to get through tough decisions in tough times. I’m proud to be the mayor of the city. I really am.”
Fenske is seeking her first term as mayor.
She currently represents the 4th Aldermanic District on the Common Council – a seat she has held since 2006. Fenske’s term on the council is up this April, and she is seeking re-election.
This means if she were to win both the mayoral race and the aldermanic race, she would be able to choose which position she wants.
She also served on the Common Council from 1988 to 1990, representing the 3rd Aldermanic District during that time.
Fenske said she is running for mayor because “I feel it is time for a change. I have noticed that over the past few years, the Council has not been notified in advance on major decisions.
“The (former Parks and Recreation Director) Jim Ash case and the recent mistake with the tax bills are two examples. I would not have agreed to give Jim his benefits. The Council should have been given an opportunity to discuss all options instead of being told after the fact.”
She further said, “I was notified of the tax bill mistake with a copy of the press release. I probably would have agreed to resend the bills, but I was not asked for an opinion. I feel that for me to do my job and face my constituents, I should know in advance so I do not have to use the words, ‘I didn’t know.’ That makes all of us look bad.”
Fenske said she feels strongly about economic development.
“When our economic development director took another job, we chose not to replace her. We asked our staff to divide the responsibilities and add economic development to their current positions,” she said. “I now feel this may have been a mistake. As everyone knows, we have TIF districts that need development. We have staff doing their own jobs and, in addition, trying to do economic development on top of very busy schedules. Something has to give.”
She does not believe the city should hire someone and said with her marketing background, it is an area she would like to devote a lot of time to.
“I worked for Gusmer (Enterprises) for 24 years in sales and marketing. Now that I have the time, I can help market the city,” said Fenske, who left that position last fall.
She said economic development has to be done carefully.
“We want to maintain businesses on our beautiful Main Street while filling the TIF districts with business that will enhance the community. We always have to keep the taxpayers in mind with our decisions,” she said.
Fenske is not a stranger to city government, saying she had her political eyes opened in 1979 when her father, Jim Boyer, ran for Common Council and served as an alderman until 1986, when he ran for mayor, serving as Waupaca’s mayor from 1986 to 1994.
She decided to follow her father and ran for Common Council in 1988, serving until 1990.
Fenske says it was great serving the community with her father as it gave her an up-close opportunity to watch and learn valuable lessons from him.
“We were building the new city hall/library at that time and had to make careful decisions on how to spend taxpayers’ money,” she said. “It was important to talk to the people of Waupaca and find out what they wanted. My father taught me three important lessons – never ‘mess with’ other people’s money, keep the lines of communication open – talk to everyone you can – and always be accountable for your actions and decisions.”
In 2006, Fenske said she decided to run again after thinking poor decisions had been made regarding TIF districts, particularly TIF 8.
She believes she is qualified to be Waupaca’s mayor because of her experience serving on the Judiciary Committee, Finance Committee, Personnel Committee, Board of Public Works, City Planning Commission, Library Board, Parks and Recreation Board, Community Development Authority, Emergency Planning Committee, Historical Preservation Commission and Historical Society. She is a graduate of the Waupaca County Leadership Program and was the Waupaca County Republican Party chair.
Fenske moved to Waupaca with her family in 1967 and studied elementary education at UW-Stevens Point.
She and her husband Steve have been married for 25 years, and she says people may remember when the two of them rode on the firetruck with their dalmatians in the July 4 parades.
“It’s always in my mind when I vote – how will it impact the people? What is best for the city?” Fenske said. “I think I would definitely be a hands-on mayor. If there was an emergency, I’d be right in the middle of it.”