Q&A with new Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly, Pt. 1

Published on: 4/8/2014

Shawn Reilly hasn't had a new office in more than 20 years.

But he's more than ready to trade his downtown Waukesha law office for the mayor's office in City Hall once he is sworn in as the city's 34th mayor on Tuesday, April 15.

He won't be moving far — it's less than a mile between the two sites — but it's a big jump nevertheless as it concerns his role in city government.

It's a job Reilly, an attorney at Hippenmeyer, Reilly, Moodie & Blum, S.C., who represented the villages of Eagle and Mukwonago, says he's ready for and he's honored to be leading Waukesha.

Waukesha NOW caught up with Reilly at his Clinton Street law office two days after he won the mayoral election with 62 percent of the vote over first-term Mayor Jeff Scrima. Below is part one of a two-part interview with Reilly on issues facing the city, what his goals are and where he wants the city to be in four years.

Link: Q&A with new Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly, Pt. 2

How does it feel to be called the new mayor of Waukesha?

It feels great. This is something that I and a bunch of other people have worked at for nine months, so obviously winning makes you feel good. It's been a lot of work and to get to the end and be worthwhile is tremendous.

Why do you think the voters responded to your message?

I think I got across that I have 22 years of (municipal) experience, that I'm willing to work with people. I know I'll be disagreeing with people, but it will be done respectfully. We'll just have a different way of handling things (than Scrima).

I'll work with the Common Council. I want them to know what I'm thinking. I want them to know that if I have issues they're going to know it at the beginning and not at the end. And (in a way) that isn't surprising. The Common Council shouldn't be surprised the mayor has a position they weren't aware of.

You won by more than 2,300 votes. Where do you think that margin came from?

I think it has a lot to do with the support (from the aldermen and former mayors), the hard work that was done on my campaign by the people who were helping me in this. We did get our message across — "No Drama, Just Work." I think people saw that I am someone that has a significant amount of experience and has the maturity to move Waukesha forward.

What do you want people to know about you?

First of all, give me an opportunity to show that I will be fair and reasonable and I will make things happen. I'll work very hard. Once again they may not agree with everything that I do and all the positions I take, but I hope they look at the overall record of what I do as mayor. This isn't something you figure out in the next 100 days. You figure it out over the next year, two years. A year from now everyone will have a better idea of what type of mayor I am.

What immediate plans do you see for yourself as the mayor?

One of the main things is to learn all the things that are happening right now. I have to learn who all the people are, the department heads. There's a lot of people that work for the city, there's a lot of people, governmental entities that work with the city and have relations with the city. The mayor doesn't know all the connections the minute he walks into office.

I fully realize you can't just step into the position and then know everything and start making decisions to change things considerably.

I have some work getting set up and making people comfortable with me and I also have to be comfortable with them. I have to work on making relationships with the people who work with the city and who have relationships with the city and the Common Council. The relationship is built over a period of time. It doesn't happen immediately.

Mayor Scrima came in four years ago saying "he wanted to shake things up." What's your philosophy?

My goal is not to shake things up. My goal is to make good decisions and to have the city run efficiently, to have the public know what the city is doing and also understands the positions the city has.

Many also predicted if you won, the shared health clinic for city employees would come forward and not be delayed anymore. Where do you see that issue going and how soon could the Common Council take a vote on it?

First of all, it's a Common Council decision as to whether entering into an intergovernmental agreement with the county and School District. The way I look at it, this has been worked on by the city along with the county and district for a year and a half, almost two years. Delaying the vote is not solving anything.

The decision for that is we're deciding not to go with the clinic. It's my opinion the vote should be taken. The Common Council should decide, each of them should decide whether we enter into this agreement.

Personally, I think it's a good idea. I think it's something that saves the city money. It saves the city taxpayers money three different ways. I can tell the Common Council what my position is, but the decision is going to be the Common Council's.

My goal is to make sure the Common Council gets this issue in front of them and they decide whether this is a good thing for the city. Everything I've looked at tells me this is a good deal for the city, but I don't have the jurisdiction or authority to make that decision.