Waukesha mayoral race highlights City of Waukesha primary

Published on: 2/11/2014

The Waukesha mayoral primary has heated up over the last two days as the four candidates in the mayoral primary have clashed on many issues.

Voters will get their say next Tuesday in the primary election. The top two vote-getters in the primary advance to the April 1 general election.

Mayor Jeff Scrima was the newcomer four years ago when he won the five-person primary and then went on to defeat incumbent Larry Nelson. He's seeking re-election and now has three candidates looking to take his position.

His challengers are Terry Thieme, an alderman and Common Council president; Shawn Reilly, a downtown attorney and former president of the downtown Business Improvement District; and Mike Volpano, a company trainer for a financial market research company.

Residents can vote for one of these candidates.

Waukesha Now asked each candidate questions on issues in the city. Each response was limited to 100 words.

Why are you the right person for the job?

Reilly: I have the skills, ethics and integrity to make Waukesha better. Waukesha is an economic powerhouse. It can be a leader in both the county and the state. To be a leader throughout the state requires that we have a fair, ethical and strong leader. I will be that leader. Leadership requires that you listen to and engage all sides of an issue. Leadership requires open discussion and allows all viewpoints to be expressed. Leadership acknowledges competing interests. I have 22 years of experience handling complex and contentious municipal issues. I know what must be done to reach consensus.

Scrima: Proven results. City of Waukesha residents, families and businesses count on and deserve a mayor that can deliver proven results. During the last four years we have: 1.Held taxes flat. 2.Moved forward toward Oak Creek for water. 3.More than doubled our investment into road restoration. 4.Created over 700 family-supporting jobs. 5.Grown our sense of community pride. For more details, see www.scrimaformayor.com. Our residents, families and businesses count on and deserve proven results. For a future of financial stability, affordable and clean drinking water, smooth roads, continued job growth and more fun, re-elect Mayor Scrima.

Thieme: I have invested myself in the progress of this community, actively participating in budget discussions to ensure the best outcome for our taxpayers. I have the leadership capabilities and communication style to move our community forward, forging partnerships that will ensure our city thrives. I would break down the current barriers that restrict the communication with our citizens. I hear constant feedback citizens are restricted from direct contact with the mayor's office. The calls are screened and citizens receive messages that they are to communicate through email. This is a terrible way to try to instill confidence within your community.

Volpano: For all intents and purposes, Waukesha is a business — a business in need of vision and leadership. We desperately need a leader who has the ability to effectively communicate openly and honestly with all. I have experience and the ability to challenge individuals to work together and bring out their very best and to cooperate as a powerful team; a team where everyone wins. That is what I will do as your Waukesha mayor, and that is why choosing me as your mayor is important to you now. I will bring unity to Waukesha.

What's the No. 1 pressing issue in the city and how would you help solve it?

Reilly: The most important issue is for Waukesha to obtain Lake Michigan water. I have followed and studied this issue for years. I support Waukesha acquiring Lake Michigan water. As a municipal attorney, I worked to provide clean drinking water to communities. Our present and future home values, jobs and tax base are at stake. The city must obtain Lake Michigan water to have a prosperous future. My significant legal and municipal background and my ability to address complex issues make me the best choice to be the city's representative on this issue.

Scrima: The greatest challenge facing the City of Waukesha is continuing to provide tax relief and value. As mayor, during the last four years, I cast a new vision for fiscal responsibility, vetoed city budgets with unnecessary spending, took a lot of heat for it, and prevailed. Therefore, for the first time in the history of our city, we've held the tax levy flat — on average under inflation — resulting in a better value for our families. I understand that our families and businesses pay the bills (both tax bills and water bills). For a future of financial stability, re-elect Mayor Scrima.

Thieme: Our water application. We want to make sure we see this through to completion. I have been supportive of this from its inception and strongly believe this is the best way to proceed. Obtaining funding for this is essential, and I would do everything in my power to solicit intergovernmental cooperation to obtain as much funding as possible. I would promote harmony in our leadership at all levels of government, be it local, state or federal. I would always look out for what is best for the citizens of Waukesha and put aside any personal opinions or preferences.

Volpano: Competent leadership. Waukesha needs a mayor with vision, who has open and honest communication with city departments (and residents), and who knows how to lead. Many issues that we have had thrown in our collective laps today are a direct result of a leader not having vision and knowing how to mold consensus. Making ill-considered decisions, in private, based on incomplete information is not leadership. Imagine how many issues we would not be facing now if Waukesha had a thorough leader. With skillful leadership Waukesha would move forward.

What would you do to help attract and retain more businesses downtown and throughout the city?

Reilly: I will focus on attracting manufacturing and high end office development because this type of development increases the tax base but does not greatly increase costs. To be able to attract these developments requires knowing the process of how these entities decide to locate within a community, how to maximize federal and state resources and how to offer incentives to the business and still create a net gain for the city. I have numerous contacts among the business community. Only I possess the skills, contacts and background to best attract and retain business.

Scrima: As mayor, I will carry on my proactive approach to reaching out to businesses, and continue to make the process swift, simple, and certain for them to meet their goals. During the last four years this method brought unprecedented growth to Waukesha — resulting in over 700 new family-supporting jobs, and adding over $100 million of new assessed value. This job growth was one of the primary reasons Money Magazine ranked Waukesha as the only Wisconsin city in 2012 on their list of "Best Places to Live" in America. For a proven and relentless pursuit of future business, re-elect Mayor Scrima.

Thieme: It is crucial to keep open the lines of communication and stay in touch with what our current businesses need. I don't make a distinction between downtown businesses to businesses throughout the city. The job of the mayor is to look out for all aspects of the city and its business and not recognize any kind of divide between them. For, as the city goes as a whole, is the sign of progress. I will be a mayor that recognizes the City of Waukesha, not just one segment of it.

Volpano: The answer is twofold. First we need to bring various city business associations and organizations together to focus on the greater good of Waukesha instead of their own agendas. With sincere communication and unselfish cooperation, much can get done. Secondly, city government needs to work to attract business here. If it means changing ordinances or zoning regulations to bring people and jobs here, we should be more flexible. In order for Waukesha to grow, we need to do everything we can to be a 'user friendly' city.

What's your reaction on the downtown Waukesha Business Improvement District disbanding last year and the effect it has had on downtown?

Reilly: Dissolving the BID was and is detrimental to the downtown. The dissolution of the BID was caused by our present mayor. He was unwilling to appoint a balanced board. Most of his appointments decided that BID funds would be used to fund "events." The BID Board was told that property owners were opposed to the use of BID funds to fund events but it did not listen. The result was that the BID was terminated. The long term detriment is that the downtown no longer has a point person that serves as the downtown ambassador.

Scrima: The BID was funded by an additional downtown property tax, and outlived its usefulness. Since then, we've grown our sense of community and pride through privately funded community front porch events like Freeman Friday Night Live, the Farmer's Market along the Riverwalk and Fiesta Waukesha. As mayor, I have encouraged the growth of these events and was instrumental in bringing the Gibson GuitarTown National Art and Music Project to Waukesha — which donated over $140,000 to local charities. These events — with their largest attendances yet in 2013 — draw thousands of families and thousands of smiles. For more fun, re-elect Mayor Scrima.

Thieme: I feel that disbanding the BID was a mistake. Had there been a more collaborative effort put forth, the differences could have been worked out to have a more viable solution. Not enough effort had been put forth in trying to make this work. Now Alderman (Roger) Patton has put forth referrals to different committees that have to deal with duties that the BID used to do. These range from cleaning the streets to general upkeep to preparation for certain events.

Volpano: I was shocked and very disappointed. Where was any leadership when BID imploded? Not one person involved with the city or BID had the courage or vision to stand up and take charge. It has perpetuated unhealthy divisiveness among several downtown groups. What we need is to bring groups together to agree on measures to improve our downtown area. It is not a matter of supporting one group over another. It is about supporting all of them so we can focus on making Waukesha a destination city.

Are you in favor of the city going to Lake Michigan for Great Lakes water and were you always in favor of going this route?

Reilly: Yes and yes. I will personally meet with the governors of all eight (Great Lakes) states. The purpose of the Compact is to protect the waters of the Great Lakes. I will show how Waukesha's application meets the terms of the Compact. I will show by approving Waukesha's application, the legitimacy and workability of the Compact is strengthened. Achieving Lake Michigan water is needed to attract and retain business. Manufacturing facilities and large business entities look for certainty in determining where to locate. If the water issue is solved, one of our major impediments to business growth will be removed.

Scrima: As mayor, I support the City of Waukesha's application for Lake Michigan water from Oak Creek. Initially, City of Waukesha families and business owners were concerned over the hidden costs of water from Milwaukee, because Milwaukee had resolved to use water sales to help balance their budget and control suburban businesses, jobs, housing, and transportation (Milwaukee Resolution File #080457). However, the City of Waukesha has since redirected. We met with the leaders of Oak Creek, and I signed the Letter of Intent to purchase water from Oak Creek. For a future of affordable and clean drinking water, re-elect Mayor Scrima.

Thieme: I have answered this questioned previously but to reiterate, I have always been in favor of obtaining Great Lakes Water. I have sat in on many meetings that have dealt with this and evaluated the options.

Volpano: A need for an alternative water source is of paramount importance to residents of Waukesha. The operative word here is 'alternative.' I would have to ask if all viable alternatives have been considered. If we get Lake Michigan water, what, if any, concessions will Waukesha have to give to cities to the east? What will be the ultimate cost of bringing Lake Michigan water to us? What kind of 'politics' do we have to play to receive water. I will entertain all viable alternatives and make decisions based on what will be of greatest benefit to the residents of Waukesha.

What's your thought on the current financial situation the Waukesha County Museum is in and what role should the city play in helping it?

Reilly: The Waukesha County Museum is an important cultural asset. It's an important anchor to the east side of our downtown. The museum is suffering financial problems but in a few years, the museum will be on sound financial ground. Individually we should support the museum. I recently contributed. I urge others to do likewise. What role the city can play in the museum's financial picture will be clearer after the museum's audit has been released. I am not opposed to the city providing financial support to the museum. The city can and should help the museum become self sufficient.

Scrima: We value our history and want to see it preserved. Remember that over 10 years ago Waukesha County turned the museum over to an independent board. Since that time, this independent board has repeatedly floundered and lost money. As mayor, I recently reached out to and met with the museum's new leaders Dan Finley and Tom Constable. They have assured me that they will soon be publicly presenting a fresh approach, with a solid business plan. I have hope that they can turn this around, and will be here to assist them in doing so. We value these artifacts.

Thieme: The museum is having its issues. I would not be opposed to sitting down with staff and trying to figure out a solution to this. At this point, I would not be in favor of committing any city tax dollars to the museum. I feel that it is important to be a part of these discussions however to see what type of viable solution could be found to solve their financial woes. You never find out though unless you're willing to sit at the table and talk.

Volpano: Our Waukesha (County) Museum is a resource to not only city residents, but also to city visitors. How we utilize and promote that resource is where our focus should be. Waukesha is the seventh largest city in Wisconsin. It would be an injustice to our city forefathers to relegate our heritage to an obscure backroom or basement. We need to look at new areas of opportunity how our museum can promote itself and become more self-sufficient. Again vision, open, honest communication and leadership from the mayor's office will play an integral role in uncovering new opportunities.

In what areas do you feel the city needs to improve in?

Reilly: The streets throughout the city have become more unkempt over the last four years. The downtown streets used to be cleaned three times a week but not anymore. I will work to keep our streets free of refuse, clean up the discarded electronics from our streets, fill our potholes and have the downtown streets be cleaned on a regular basis like before. I will be a mayor the city will be proud of. I will be respectful, honest, open and ethical. I will be aware that as mayor, I represent the entire city, not my own interests.

Scrima: Mayor Scrima's top three ideas for moving Waukesha forward: 1. Responsibility: relentlessly pursue tax relief and value. 2. Reliability: secure Lake Michigan water from Oak Creek, and forcefully advance road restoration. 3. Growth: invite and aggressively assist businesses in meeting their goals, and grow our fun and family-friendly community front porch events. See www.scrimaformayor.com. Our goal is to become the No. 1 best small city in America. Getting there will take each and every one of us. Feel free to share your ideas with me. For an outstanding future, please mark your calendars to vote Feb. 18 and April 1.

Thieme: Communication is the key to success. We have to make sure that we are using everything that is available to us. You have to know what is going on in your departments without portraying the feeling of micromanagement. There is a fine line between obtaining knowledge and micromanagement. The discerning line between them is the amount of sincerity that you give to everyone.

Volpano: We need to make our city attractive for new businesses to locate here and for existing businesses to be able to flourish. We must also foster open, cooperative working relationships with neighboring cities. Expanding the scope of Friday Night Live and also developing these types of events centered around other city commerce and public areas, will serve to draw people here on a regular basis. We missed a huge opportunity with the last Harley-Davidson anniversary celebration. Businesses suffered loss and residents were extremely perturbed by this glaring blunder.

What are your other strengths, not already mentioned, that you would bring to the position over the next four years?

Reilly: Strengths not already mentioned include my work ethic, my ability to find common ground with those who have different viewpoints than me and my sense of humor. There is so much that can be accomplished if there is an open line and respectful dialogue between elected leaders. I will engage in respectful dialogue with all elected leaders.

Scrima: While running for office four years ago, I promised giving half of my pay back to the community. Four years later, through creating a community fund held with the Waukesha County Community Foundation dedicated to providing vitality to the city, I've kept that promise. This fund, through collaboration, provided the start-up money for the national Gibson GuitarTown Project to come to Waukesha, saved and restored the city's Farmer's Market structure along the River Walk, and recently approved the start-up money for several new city gateway entrance signs. See www.scrimaformayor.com. For a trustworthy candidate that keeps promises, re-elect Mayor Scrima.

Thieme: I am a very optimistic person. This is a strong character trait as well as the ability to try to work together for a positive outcome. There are so many things that can be worked out if a person is just willing to sit down, talk, and be open minded without a predisposed opinion. I believe in giving credit where credit is due and build upon the success of my team in the city. I believe in building positive relationships and truly have the feeling of an open-door policy. Be welcoming, legitimate, honest and sincere.

Volpano: In addition to my full-time employment, I have concurrently been a full-time or part-time business instructor and corporate trainer at WCTC since 1991. My course load consists of several business-related subjects, including sales promotion and sales principles, marketing and direct marketing, and most importantly leadership development. Also, by contracted training, through the college, I have been involved in developing and delivering curriculum to local business and industry including adapting to change, lean business practices, diversity and communication. Every single one of these skills will play a part in leading Waukesha into an open and honest era of city government.

Shawn Reilly




121 E. Park Ave.


Attorney specializing in municipal, real estate and business law. Partner at law firm of Hippenmeyer, Reilly, Moodie & Blum, S.C. located in downtown Waukesha (720 Clinton Street)

Years of residency in the city:

For the first 24 years of my life and then since 2005. Have worked from my office in downtown Waukesha since 1989.


St. Mary's graduate in 1975, Catholic Memorial High School in 1979, UW-Madison in 1984 (Bachelor of Science) and earned a Doctorate of Law from Northwestern School of Law, Lewis & Clark College in 1989. Since 1989 continued education through multiple seminars, most notably attending the League of Municipalities Municipal Attorneys Institute every year since 1989.

Previous political experience or other related experience/community involvement:

I do not have prior elected political experience but I have actively participated in municipal meetings since 1992. I served on the BID as both its vice president and president. The city appointed me as a citizen member to the Joint Review Board for TID 19 and 20. Some of my community involvement includes volunteering with downtown cleanups, the Farmer's Market, GuitarTown and at the Carl Zach Bike Race. Founding member and past president of the Mukwonago Rotary Club, on the board of Seniors on the GO and Phantom Lake YMCA Camp. United Way volunteer, guide for blind skiers and coach and judge for Mock Trial competitions. Member of the Carroll University President's Council. Purchased a home near downtown that had sat abandoned and unheated for two years. Gutted the house and remodeled it into an asset to the neighborhood and community.


Two daughters: Brynne, 18, and Izzy, 15

Contact information (phone, email):

(262) 844 6935, shawn@electreillymayor.com

Jeff Scrima




125 N. Greenfield Ave.


City of Waukesha, Mayor

Years of residency in the city:



Graduate of Waukesha Public Schools, Wheaton College and Harvard University's State and Local Government Program

Previous political experience or other related experience/community involvement:

Business owner in the City of Waukesha for seven years, Member of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Chorus for 10 years, Completed the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) University of Shopping Centers – School of Retail & School of Economic Development, Received the "Arts in Community Award" by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities and Arts Wisconsin, Completed Waukesha Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department's Trailbreaker Half-Marathon in 2012 and 2013.


Parents, three siblings, spouses, niece, nephews all live in the City of Waukesha

Contact information (phone, email):

(262)524-3700, jscrima@ci.waukesha.wi.us

Terry Thieme




1712 Stardust Drive


Card Support Coordinator, Kohl's Department Stores

Years of residency in the city:



Associates Degree from Waukesha County Technical College and Bachelor's Degree from Mount Senario College

Previous political experience or other related experience/community involvement:

I have been an alderman in District No. 1 for the City of Waukesha since 2008 and currently the Common Council president. I am currently a Water Utility Commissioner and on the Human Resource Committee. I am a member of the Carroll University Presidents Advisory Board and have served on the Transit Commission, Public Works Board and Ordinance and License Cimmittee. I was on the Trinity Lutheran School Board and board of trustees. I coached Basketball and Soccer at Trinity Lutheran School along with soccer at the Waukesha Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department. I was a police officer for 25 years with the last 19 years in the City of Waukesha. While a Police Officer I had assignments on the Waukesha Police Department Tactical Team, Bicycle Unit, Field Training Officer, School Resource Officer at Waukesha North High School, Community Policing Board, and an Acting Detective I was a member of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Rock County and honorably served my country as a United States Marine.


Wife Karen and three adult children and one grandchild

Contact information (phone, email):

(262) 524-1627, terrythiemeformayor@gmail.com

Mike Volpano




2013 Woodburn Road


I am a full-time company trainer for a market research company focusing on gathering data to service the nationwide financial industry. Throughout my career, I was a manager with the JCPenney Company for 14 years and owned and operated two successful businesses, consecutively, for the following 30 years prior to my present position.

Years of residency in the city:

Lifelong Waukesha resident


Waukesha South High School graduate and attended Waukesha County Technical College in the marketing program and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management

Previous political experience or other related experience/community involvement:

I have always been involved in what goes on in our fine city. I have attended meetings at City Hall which I occasionally voiced my opinions. I have served as a committee member for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, volunteered my services to The Big Yellow House, I am a volunteer at my church in Waukesha, and served as President of Spring City Soccer Club among other civic activities.


Wife Cheryl, four children and three grandchildren; two stepchildren and six step-grandchildren.

Contact information (phone, email):

(262) 349-9382, waukeshamike4u@yahoo.com