“Very honestly, it’s almost exactly what I expected it to be.”
By Brandi Makuski
With almost two weeks in the mayor’s seat behind him, Mike Wiza said he’s settling into a routine of making positive changes within city government.The first couple of days on the job, he said, yielded no big surprises because of the time he’d spent with interim Mayor Gary Wescott the week before Wiza was sworn in.
“Very honestly, it’s almost exactly what I expected it to be,” Wiza said. “I had the advantage of shadowing Gary [Wescott] for a week, so I met with all of the alders, and all the department heads, during that week to get an idea of all their interests and ideas.”
Wiza said meeting with members of the City Council was essential, and the knowledge he gained from those meetings would set the tone for inner-government communication for the next few years.
“It was important for me to hear the alders’ ideas and concerns from their districts so I could start compiling a list of those goals,” he said.
“We sat down at this table and I said, ‘is there anything you really want to do?’. I wanted to make sure when it came to committee appointments, they weren’t taking on more than they could handle with their own time restrictions,” Wiza said.
Wiza had previously been a full-time employee at Skyward while juggling a family life and serving in elected positions for both the city and on the Portage Co. Board of Supervisors. That experience, he said, gave him a unique perspective of how much extra work newly-elected Council members could handle.
Wiza also said he wanted to make sure each new alder got the training they need, and said City Attorney Andrew Beveridge will be conducting a class for the new Council members to discuss Robert’s Rules of Order- a series of legal rules which govern city meetings- and the state’s open meeting laws.
Wiza also said he has appointed each of the Council members to two of the city’s standing committees to ensure a good representation of all the city’s districts- something which he said hasn’t always been the case.
“Statutorily, they’re each supposed to serve on one [committee],” he said. “That’s typically all I ever got- one committee. I wanted to make sure everyone was serving on two committees. Everyone should be able to get that experience because there’s a learning curve that comes with City Council service.”
Wiza said he’s already beginning to fulfill one of his campaign’s platforms: common sense.
“I found out we didn’t recycle batteries,” Wiza said, saying he stumbled on the problem when he tried replacing some AA remote control batteries in his office. “I had Kelley [Pazdernick, an assistant in the mayor’s office] make a few phone calls, and we found out we could get a discount on new batteries if we recycled the old ones. Now, that’s pennies, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Wiza said he’s also already maintaining an open door policy- something which wasn’t the case during most of his time as an alderman, when he says former Mayor Andrew Halverson only invited him into the mayor’s office “three times in seven years.”
“I’m available to anyone anytime they want to discuss something,” he said.
Wiza says he knows he’s different from other mayors the city has elected. He plays quiet classic rock in his office, sometimes rides a motorcycle and is publicly visible via social media. Wiza refers to them as “toys”, and says when it comes to his job as mayor, he’s “all business”.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. “I’ve got a great relationship with city employees and department heads, and with the new blood we’ve got on the Council, I think it’s going to be a great next four years.”