Thieme represents city during presidential visit

Todd Ponath
President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to the Waukesha General Electric Gas Engines facility Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014.
Published on: 2/4/2014

The City of Waukesha wasn't represented by its mayor when the General Electric Gas Engines facility welcomed President Barack Obama last week, but it still had representation: Common Council President Terry Thieme.

"I felt that it was important that the City of Waukesha be represented," said Thieme, on his way out of the manufacturing plant on Jan. 30.

Thieme's proactive approach helped him land a seat for the president's visit to Waukesha.

After Thieme, who is also running for the mayor's seat this spring and will be on the ballot during the Feb. 18 primary, found out that Scrima had declined an invitation from the White House earlier in the week, he called Secret Service.

When he was connected to White House staff, he told them that he'd like to represent the city given that he is the Common Council president. It was already Tuesday at this point and Obama was speaking in Waukesha just two days later.

Thieme wasn't given any guarantees, but he received a call from the Waukesha Police Department the night before Obama's speech.

They said 'hey the White House staff has been trying to get a hold of you,'" Thieme said.

Thieme then got in touch with White House staff and was approved.

Scrima said he declined the invite because his position ought to remain "non-partisan" and later said that he has not attended any events hosted by Republicans during his first-term as mayor.

He had also told media outlets that Obama and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are "extremists." After Obama's speech, Scrima later posted on his campaign Facebook page "I'm more interested in getting my own work done than supporting someone else's political agenda."

Regardless of other local political official's party affiliation, many attended the event, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, and Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas, a Republican. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele was also there, as was Waukesha County Chairman Paul Decker and former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle.

A couple Waukesha County supervisors were also there, including Michael Crowley.

"We're fortunate for us to have a president of the United States come to Waukesha and put us in the limelight on a national perspective," said Crowley, who was invited by GE President Brian White. "GE's a great company, great employees are here and I was here to support the employees, support the president of the United States and the White House. Any elected official should welcome the president to their community so I was proud to be here to represent our community."

Thieme shared the same sentiments. He also said it was an opportunity — as the city representative — to meet Milwaukee's top officials.

"I met a lot of good connections that we can try to partner with after I'm elected mayor," Thieme said.

"This goes to show you put politics aside, you work together for the common good, good things will happen," Thieme said. "And I think that's very important."