Falls board incumbents challenged for seats
Newcomers want more transparency, less wasteful spending
Menomonee Falls - Incumbents Michael McDonald and Jeff Steliga, who have a combined 40 years of board experience, are being challenged by newcomers Bonnie Lemmer and Jeremy Walz who are looking to bring fresh perspectives to the Village Board.
Walz, an Army National Guard veteran, has worked for a Menomonee Falls machine shop for 15 years.
Walz has bachelor's of science degree in history and political science and has worked as a substitute teacher in the Cedarburg and Grafton school districts.
McDonald, who owns Express Dry Cleaning in Menomonee Falls, has overseen 32 subdivisions, seven TIF districts and three shopping center expansions through his time on the Planning Commission and board, as well as the expansion of Kohl's that is building a corporate campus.
Steliga, a self-employed certified public accountant and computer consultant, has served as trustee since 1994. As a board member, Steliga is most proud of organizing monthly recycling days that evolved into a curbside recycling program in the village.
Steliga is challenged on the ballot by Lemmer, a Shorewest real estate agent. Lemmer has 25 years of corporate management experience. She has served on the boards of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Make-A-Wish Foundation as its first executive director, and the Council on Developmental Disabilities for the state of Wisconsin.
Redeveloping is key
If elected, Lemmer said it is key to manage the budget in a way to ensure taxes remain low. Working to improve the downtown area , while increasing the corporate and commercial presence is also at the forefront of her campaign."
Another concern for Lemmer is the current strip malls that have numerous vacancies. She said they should focus on filling those before they become blighted areas as opposed to building new ones.
In addition to Kohl's, Steliga said he is proud to be part of a board that has "fostered an environment where we have more family-sustaining jobs than we have people in town." Falls has the third highest valuation of industrial property in the state, which is key in providing property taxes to the village while not over-stressing the school district.
With the negative climate from Washington, small businesses struggle to get a start. Steliga said the village needs to help those small businesses by streamlining efforts for them to get started and "try to make government easier to wade through the rules and regulations."
Loan, trail a waste
Walz said the village needs to stop wasting taxpayer money, citing the Radisson Hotel where the village lent $18 million for its development and the proposed bike trail along Fond du Lac Avenue as unnecessary expenses. He said the village needs to focus on attracting businesses to Appleton Avenue and Main Street as the "crown jewel" of the village.
"In my three years, you will immediately see a common man with common sense," Walz said, adding he will be a voice that represents the taxpayer.
With national economic issues and state-mandated revenue limits converging on the village, McDonald said it will take experience at the board level to maintain quality village services while continuing to attract businesses to the area.
"I can't overemphasize what having the background and experience in these issues will mean to think outside of the box," in coming up with ways to maintain a vibrant community, despite extreme financial restrictions.
He said the southwestern quadrant of the village, along the expressway near Main Street and Pilgrim Road that is part of Tax Incremental Finance District 8, is pivotal for the future of the village.
This means ramping up infrastructure, such as fire and safety, which the village is currently working toward.
"We have a game plan for that area that I helped create," McDonald said. "We've made sure any development in the village takes into consideration the needs of the people who were there first. It's paramount to maintain the village atmosphere we have come to enjoy, respect and the reason we live here."
Lemmer hopes to boost communication between the village and residents, proposing to create a newsletter paid for by advertisement to be sent with water bills.
"I, as a trustee, plan to have quarterly meetings with the residents to meet face to face and they can bring concerns to me and be more open and transparent because I think that's lacking in the village," she said.
Steliga said the village needs to focus on attracting more restaurants, saying it's something residents desire, while closing TIF 8 with new development. He said the village needs to work hard to control expenses to live within the revenue caps, maintain job growth and services at the level people expect.
"Being a village trustee, I've had the opportunity to meet a lot of incredible people who work in the village or live in the village from all walks of life and it's been an awesome experience," he said. "Having done this for a while, you kind of learn the ins and outs of things and you have an institutional kind of knowledge."
Walz said he will look at every expenditure and ensure there is not wasteful spending at the board level, saying he will not be afraid to vote "no" on projects.
"There is no one in there to stand up and say 'no, we're not going to do that,' and I'm going to stand up and say 'no, we're not going to waste our money this way,' " Walz said. "That's what we want, we want to be fiscally responsible, we want to serve the needs of the people, efficient government - not wasteful."
If re-elected, McDonald will continue to focus on high quality, low density development.
"It's something I've always championed and it's something I will continue to champion," he said. "It's provided us with the foundation to attract businesses like Kohl's, Eaton Corp., Wacker Corp., Briggs and Stratton, different TIF parks are filling up and it's a direct reflection of that philosophy I initiated in 1990."
The election is April 2. Trustees serve three-year terms and are paid $5,500 annually.
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