Waukesha mayoral election entering home stretch

Published on: 3/19/2014

After a long campaign season that has included multiple debates, a close primary and plenty of back and forth banter, Shawn Reilly and Jeff Scrima are entering the home stretch in the 2014 mayoral election.

Who leads the city over the next four years will be decided in less than two weeks in the general election April 1.

Reilly, the challenger, has been the aggressor from the start standing behind his "No Drama, Just Work" campaign slogan, while Scrima, the incumbent, says the city should move forward with him because he has delivered "proven results."

Nonetheless, Reilly, a longtime municipal attorney, won the four-person primary over Scrima in February and overall 67 percent of the voters voted against the first-term mayor. After the primary, third-place finisher Terry Thieme and fourth-place finisher Mike Volpano put their support behind Reilly.

"Shawn Reilly is far and away the most qualified candidate in the race for mayor," said Thieme, the Common Council president, at a news conference last week. "And I wholeheartedly agree that we deserve better leadership in our next mayor. A vote for Shawn Reilly is a vote to move the city forward."

In addition to Thieme, aldermen Steve Johnson, Aaron Perry and Eric Payne as well as former alderman and current county board supervisor Duane Paulson were there supporting Reilly as was former Mayor Larry Nelson. Since then, more aldermen (Joe Pieper, Joan Francoeur, Christopher Hernandez, Cory Payne and Peter Bartels) have put their support behind Reilly. Former Mayor Paul Vrakas has also backed Reilly.

In response to local officials showing their support for his opponent, Scrima said "it's not important who endorses a particular candidate but rather which candidate has a proven track record and who has the best plan to move Waukesha forward."

"Waukesha is stronger today than it was four years ago," Scrima added. "When the citizens elected me they wanted a change agent. We have shaken up the status quo and that's a good thing and through that we've delivered proven results."

He says this includes holding taxes on average under the inflation rate, the city entering into an agreement with the City of Oak Creek for the sale of Great Lakes water, creating more than 700 family-supporting jobs and seeing the city's front-porch events like Friday Night Live, the Farmer's Market and Fiesta Waukesha grow.

"These are the things that we've done together over the last four years," said Scrima, who added if re-elected his top goal is still for Waukesha to become the No. 1-rated best small city in America by a national organization. "We've set the trajectory over the last four years to get there.

"We're going to continue the positive momentum and our focus is to create the highest quality of life at the best price."

While Scrima then said he has "maintained a positive campaign" he took a shot at Reilly in an interview this week.

"He has no record in the City of Waukesha government," Scrima said. "Therefore he's an unknown. When the citizens look at me they see tangible results."

When told that he was a newcomer four years ago when he defeated the incumbent Larry Nelson and he didn't have a "record" Scrima didn't say how that's any different. He simply added "the difference is the citizens elected me to bring a new vision and we've done that in the areas that matter."

Reilly, the former president of the Waukesha downtown Business Improvement District whose law office is in downtown Waukesha, says the city deserves better from what it has gotten from Scrima over the last four years and has blasted Scrima's record. Reilly adds that his 22 years of experience guiding and advising leaders in municipal government has prepared him for the position.

Meanwhile, Reilly, a lifelong resident of Waukesha, says Scrima does not make his positions known on issues until last-minute vetoes to the Common Council, specifically during the budget process, which often leaves more work for aldermen.

Moreover, Reilly who supports the city's application for Great Lakes water and said his negotiation skills will benefit the city, has criticized Scrima and his actions relating to the Great Lakes application such as when Scrima refused to sign a letter to the Department of Natural Resources saying that the Great Lakes option was the most sustainable choice. This came after it was approved by the Common Council and drafted by the city's Water Utility Department to move the application forward.

Most recently, Reilly has called out Scrima on his involvement in bringing ProHealth Care to a Common Council meeting to present an alternative option on the shared health clinic with the county and school district after a vendor was already chosen.

"As a candidate for mayor, I have spoken to city employees," Reilly said. "They are confused and concerned because of Jeff's political antics.

"If Jeff was doing his job for the last four years, he would not have to resort to political shenanigans to grab headlines."

Reilly has made it clear that his philosophy is to work with the Common Council and not against them and will advocate for fiscally prudent spending. He also said he wants to improve transparency in the mayor's office by providing packets for all city-run meetings online.

"We deserve better," Reilly said. "We expect better."

Jeff Scrima (inc.)

Age: 36

Address: 125 N. Greenfield Ave.

Employer/occupation: City of Waukesha, mayor

Years of residency in the city: 32

Education: 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.

Family: 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

Shawn Reilly

Age: 53

Address: 121 E. Park Ave.

Employer/occupation: 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.

Education: 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.