Voters in Waukesha haven't experienced a contested race for city attorney in 28 years.
That's when City Attorney Curt Meitz defeated Jess Martinez Jr. in 1986 during his first election after taking over the nonpartisan seat the previous year. Meitz didn't have a challenger for his position throughout his tenure.
But with Meitz announcing his retirement at the end of his term, three sought out his position. After local attorney Christopher Wiesmueller was eliminated in the primary, it is down to former Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge and Plan Commissioner Rick Congdon and local attorney Brian Running.
Congdon was first in the Feb. 18 primary with 1,666 votes or 42 percent of the overall vote, while Running advanced after taking second with 1,374 votes, 34 percent.
So what differentiates the two as voters begin to think about the April 1 general election?
"We're both talking about experience, but I actually have experience in City Hall dealing with ordinances and zoning issues over the years," said Congdon, who practiced law for more than two decades in Waukesha before being appointed as a judge by then-Gov. Jim Doyle in 2009. "I know City Hall as a plan commissioner (the last three years) so I have more experience."
Running, on the other hand, said his experience trumps Congdon's because he has worked his entire career in law.
"The right candidate is the one who's made a career of dealing with a broad range of legal matters in which the city attorney's office regularly deals," said Running, who joined a Waukesha law firm in 1993 before starting his own firm two years later. "Rick has spent his career primarily as a criminal-defense and divorce lawyer. I've spent my 25-year legal career working with businesses, dealing with the wide range of issues they encounter, including representing them before government agencies at the local, state and federal level.
"Being a part of the Plan Commission, while it certainly gives some insight into that piece of the city's operations, does not make up for the fact that he has spent his career handling matters in which the city attorney is never involved. The right kind of experience matters."
But Congdon adds that when he practiced law, he was a managing partner who managed four to five lawyers.
"He's never had that experience," Congdon said. "I have decades of experience doing that as our firm continued to grow."
Running added that "lawyer management is simply not a current need in the city attorney's office. My 25 years of experience working in a very broad range of legal subjects is what matters."
When asked who he plans to support for the mayoral race, Congdon said he is staying away from that question.
"I had breakfast with Shawn Reilly a couple weeks ago and had coffee with the mayor recently," Congdon said. "They're both good people, and I'm not taking part in that race. People have speculated alliances for the mayoral and city attorney race, but not from me. I can work with either Reilly or Scrima."
Running said he can as well and is "professional enough to work well with anyone." But he is making it known he backs Reilly.
"The most important issue facing both the city overall and the city attorney is the Great Lakes water application and securing a source of water for the city, and Shawn has grasped the significance of the city's water situation from the beginning," Running said. "He has supported me from the beginning of my candidacy, as well."
Congdon said, in the end, he's "looking for a promotion."
"I want to go from the Plan Commission to the city attorney position," said Congdon, who added that he intends to enlarge his campaign "substantially" over the next few weeks. "It was very clear to me that the voters spoke, and at the preliminary stage I was No. 1. It will give me the motivation to work even harder."
Running will too.
"I am very pleased that I did as well as I did in the primary," he said. "But the real campaign work is beginning now."
Years of residency: Lifetime resident
Education: Waukesha South High School (1967); bachelor's degree, University of Wisconsin-Madison (1971); doctorate in law, Marquette University Law School (1974); State Bar Continuing Legal Education Program (1974-present); Wisconsin Supreme Court Judicial College (2009)
Community involvement: President and co-founder of Waukesha GuitarTown, plan commissioner, Waukesha Early Risers Kiwanis, past president of La Casa de Esperanza, past member of Waukesha County Museum Board, former director of Waukesha Habitat for Humanity, involved with both Waukesha Sister City Programs in Nicaragua and Kazakhstan
Family: Wife Linda, four adult children
Contact Information (phone, email): (262) 521-0633 (home), (262) 366-5922 (cell), email@example.com
Employer/occupation: Brian Running Law Office
Years of residency in the city: 21
Education: Bachelor's degree in history, University of Wisconsin-Madison (1983); doctorate in law, Marquette University Law School (1989)
Community involvement: Director and secretary of The Park Foundation of Waukesha; president and director of Music in Cutler Park Inc.; chairman of the City of Waukesha Administrative Review Appeals Board; past member of Waukesha BID Development Committee; past secretary and president of the Kiwanis Club of Waukesha and the Waukesha Kiwanis Foundation; past member, Waukesha Symphony Orchestra board; past vice president of the Volunteer Center of Waukesha County; past director of Boy Scouts Friends of Scouting campaign; Junior Achievement teacher; past chairman, City of Waukesha Parking Committee; Waukesha Parks & Recreation boys baseball coach; judge for Waukesha County High School Mock Trial Competition
Family: Wife, Debbie, daughter Charlotte, son Chris, son Drew
Contact Information (phone, email): (262) 574-0082 (work), (262) 574-1786 (home), firstname.lastname@example.org