By Brandi Makuski
With a newly- elected mayor and several new Council Members, the city will undergo a massive transition over the next several weeks.
Outgoing Mayor Gary Wescott, who has served as interim since former Mayor Andrew Halverson’s premature departure from office last December, is the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history, having been voted into three consecutive terms beginning prior to Halverson’s service.
While his replacement, newly-elected Mayor Mike Wiza, is well-versed in municipal government and public service, Wescott takes with him a volume of experience the city may never see again. His paternal, good-natured personality made for excellent internal communication among department heads and he remained, by all accounts, easily-accessible to city workers, the public and the media.
Wiza has a tough job ahead of him, guiding the city with six newly-elected members of the City Council who take their seats this week. The majority have no experience in public service, and likely have little idea of the nuances- or the restrictions- of their respective offices, meaning the city attorney, city clerk and Wiza will need to maintain a consistent level of standards and efficiency.
While change can be and often is a good thing, the City Council is losing several decades of knowledge and experience all at once. Longtime aldermen Randy Stroik, Jerry Moore, Hans Walther, Roger Trzebiatowski and Mike O’Meara have all seen their last days in office, taking with them the relationships and knowledge base which took years to establish.
Alderwoman Mary Stroik decided to not seek reelection, opting for more time with her family. Trzebiatowski announced he, too, was retiring to spend time with family. Walther had previously served the city as 2nd District Alderman, but was ousted by the late Councilwoman Joanne Suomi. He returned to fill the seat upon her death last year.
Stroik, along with O’Meara, both have several years in public service under their belts but were bested by new faces in their districts.
The loss of so much experience all at once could pave the way to poor communication and difficult adjustments for remaining longtime city representatives; it could also become a unique and progressive unifying factor, but only if every newly-elected officer holder is open-minded to all ideas and accessible to all constituents.
The constituency itself needs to have patience as well. Things could get bumpy for a few weeks as these new Council Members learn how to work together, and that’s not an easy thing to do in front of the public and on camera.
We wish newcomers all the luck in their new respective offices. And more than that, we thank all our outgoing elected officials for their service to the community.