Fallen incumbents reflect on Town of Waukesha's heated politics

Published on: 4/14/2014

Elections haven't been kind to incumbent supervisors over the last 12 months in the Town of Waukesha.

Supervisor Joe Banske lost his supervisor's seat to Jim Radke in the April 1 election. Angie E. Van Scyoc was voted out of the chairman's seat the year before. Both had been voted in together to the board during a recall election in 2010.

Combined with Supervisor Everett German also getting voted out last year and Mike Laska's retirement from the board this year, a new era has begun on the board. At least, it's certainly a shift within the town from four years ago.

"I think this will significantly change the landscape of the Town of Waukesha from a policy and potentially a structural standpoint," Banske said.

So what changed?

Both Banske and Van Scyoc point to October 2012, when German and others in the town began filing complaints to the Waukesha County District Attorney's Office that related to violating open meetings laws and ethics complaints. No wrongdoing was ever found against Banske and Van Scyoc, but from that point on, heated town board meetings have often become the norm.

Van Scyoc

"The misinformation that was cast was done to discredit us and was clearly orchestrated," said Van Scyoc, who had looked to rejoin the town board in a supervisor's role but fell to Michael Doerr by 133 votes. "It was dirty politics. They had no basis for their claims and people didn't realize what was being said was true or not. ... But time will reveal all."

Banske agreed with Van Scyoc's basic premise, noting that the rift between board members grew relatively recently.

"The first three years of my time on the board was spent working collaboratively," Banske said. "... There was a good collaboration between the board members.

"It was only during the election seasons and the last 18 months that people had a different agenda, where it was nonstop campaigning with lots of rhetoric and accusations, and that's unfortunate for the town and people who wanted to serve the town."

Watershed moment

Van Scyoc said she and Banske came together in 2010 because they were worried about the city's plan to purchase property on the Lathers Property for wells to be used as Plan B if its Great Lakes application is unsuccessful.

"It's always been about the water and the threat to the town," she said. "And we were right to have our concerns. That's the message I was trying to get out in this election."


Van Scyoc reiterates that she has always wanted the city to be successful in its quest for Great Lakes water and that keeping the town out of the city's future water service area — an element that has since changed — was done to "enhance the city's application, so there was a greater likelihood that it would be approved. Their success is our success."

Van Scyoc says her message has been lost and the perception that she and Banske were fighting the city is not right.

"We've always supported the city's application because that preserves our water," Van Scyoc said.

Still politically involved

After Van Scyoc lost the town chairman election last year, she was outspoken at meetings and kept an eye on the town board. Asked if she would ever consider another seat on the town board, Van Scyoc said "I never say never."

"The margins were very, very close and I believe in the message of advocating for the town," Van Scyoc said. "It's disappointing that there were negative campaigns. We ran a clean campaign. But for me, it's not just about being an elected official. That was not the goal. It's about protecting the town."

Banske would like to continue serving the community as well, but he could take his service to the state Assembly. He said last week that he is about "80 to 85 percent" certain that he will run for the District 97 legislative seat, to which embattled Rep. Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, will not seek re-election.

Waukesha Alderman Aaron Perry has already filed to run as a Republican candidate.

The 'bickering' issue

In successfully unseating Banske, Radke ran his campaign in part on the ideal of "ending the bickering" among board members.

Banske said the "bickering" was often campaign rhetoric and he felt meaningful dialogue couldn't happen in recent months because he was often being blamed by the chairman on almost every issue.

Banske added it has been a struggle over the last number of months on the board, which has included his town's email account being altered and emails being deleted without his knowledge. He went to the District Attorney's Office last summer but an investigation could not reveal a suspect.

Banske said the new board will likely bicker less, "but as a community we'll have to see what policies get created and how those policies impact the town."

Regardless, he is pleased with what he accomplished on the board.

"I've been blessed to have been able to serve the town and it was personally a high level of satisfaction," Banske said. "It was not easy and it was certainly something that took a significant amount of time but I'm glad I did it."