Deb Fenske resigned from the Waupaca Common Council Thursday, April 30.
Her resignation was effective immediately.
“Resigning from council in the middle of my term was a huge decision and it was not easy,” she said. “I truly love representing the citizens of Waupaca and fighting for them when I felt I had to.”
Fenske represented the 4th Aldermanic District.
She served a term on the council in the late 1980s. On April 4, 2006, she was again elected to a seat on the council and had been re-elected for the position every two years since then, most recently in April 2014.
In 2012, she ran unsuccessfully for mayor against incumbent Brian Smith.
Fenske said she had been frustrated with the common council for a few months.
“I noticed a feeling of complacency with some council members, and I don’t believe in ‘rubber-stamping’ items without questioning what is best for the people,” she said.
Last month’s meeting reinforced her frustration.
“We had approved the 2015-16 budgets in October 2014, including a large borrow for capital projects,” Fenske said. “We had discussed an option as the city’s debt would drop in 2018 in the amount of $800,000 and we would be able to pay off that borrow in a short time instead of dragging it out for 10 years. So projects were being scheduled, equipment was being ordered, and I thought we were on the right track.”
Fenske said she was surprised when Kathy Kasza, the city’s new finance director, “proposed changes to the budget in mid-stream.”
Kasza became the city’s finance director after the council completed the 2015 budget process.
During the April 21 council meeting, City Administrator Henry Veleker said Kasza was told to give her opinion.
Fenske said, “When I heard the changes (pulling money for street repairs and changing how equipment would be financed), I became angry. I was told it is a working document (which it is), but when I asked if the director of public works and the police chief knew about these changes before the council meeting, they answered that they had not been informed of anything. I was outraged.”
She said, “not telling department heads of changes to their budgets is wrong and surprising them at a public meeting is beyond wrong. They had no time to plan.”
Kasza did explain the recommendation in an April 15 staff report to the council, which was part of the council packet for the April 21 meeting.
Deputy City Clerk Sandy Stiebs emailed the mayor, city’s department heads, council members and media on the afternoon of Friday, April 17, telling them the April 21 council packet had been uploaded to the city’s website.
She included the link: www.cityofwaupaca.org/events/2471/city-council/
Kasza told the council the city will save $75,000 in interest over the course of a 10-year borrow, Fenske said.
“I agree it is her job to save the city money, but we would have saved a lot more than that by paying off the debt early,” Fenske said. “The vote was 9-1 (mine being the only objecting vote), rubber-stamp, done. After the meeting I went home and got physically sick.”
Raised in a political family, Fenske said she always wanted to work in politics, but never wanted to be called a “politcian.”
Her father, the late Jim Boyer, served as mayor and also as alderman.
“I learned from the best,” Fenske said of her father.
She said he gave her “three strong pieces of advice: I had to earn the trust and respect of the people I represented, I should never compromise my ethics and never ‘mess’ with the people’s money. With every vote, I would hear my dad’s advice in my head.”
While a fellow council member told Fenske he considered her the “conscience” on the council, she felt “if I stay on with the current administration, I would be headed toward something I feared the most; becoming a politician who rubber-stamps policies without questioning what is best for the people.”
Fenske said she will “miss many fellow aldermen and city employees, but working with the current administration is doing me more harm than good. Therefore, it is time for me to leave. Having said all this doesn’t mean I’m done. This community has been good to me, and I will find another way to serve.”