February 3, 2009

Mr. Mayor: Tom Friedel will hold the job just 91 days

Tom Friedel tries out the mayor's seat for the first time

By a unanimous vote, the Racine City Council elected Alderman Tom Friedel as mayor tonight -- a post he'll hold exactly 91 days, until his successor is elected on May 5.

The council's action came just 20 days after Mayor Gary Becker was arrested on child sexual enticement charges, and exactly two weeks since Becker resigned the position he'd held for five years.

Friedel was sworn in at 8:05 p.m. the high point -- though fully expected -- of an otherwise desultory council meeting. The only other actions of any importance were agreement with the Plan Commission's rejection of a 55-apartment West Racine project and a decision to reject the Committee of the Whole's recommendation to hold the mayoral election on June 2. The Council moved the election back to May 5 -- a move Friedel had argued against -- with the primary to be held with the regular spring elections on April 7. All those votes were 14-0.

After he was sworn in, Friedel said he was glad the city could now put behind it "the minor incident of one individual."

"We'll work together," he said, on brownfields, on getting state aid and grants, on other city issues. "My sincere hope is that at the end of four months we'll have an election and you'll hardly know I was here."

He gave credit to the city staff for their handling of city business in the interim, and said, "To the citizens, I promise no less than the best of my ability. I don't always get it right, but I will listen to you."

Council members and citizens gave him a round of applause after he took the oath of office from City Clerk Janice Johnson-Martin and handshakes and hugs from members of his large family: wife, daughter, three brothers, a sister and cousin who were all in attendance.

Friedel came in for some good-natured kidding after his opening remarks. Ray DeHahn said he had heard rumors "of two cars in every garage, and a chicken in every pot." Q.A. Shakoor II asked the usually casual Friedel, "What are you doing with a tie on?" Jim Kaplan thanked Friedel for stepping in, and said, "I couldn't be more proud." Jim Spangenberg also praised Council President David Maack for his "honor and dignity that brought us through this, and the phone calls in the middle of the night."

As the meeting broke up, Friedel said, "The burdens will come later, but I don't feel any different right now."

"It's an honor," he said, "but not a time for celebration. These are not the circumstances anyone would want. It's not an election."


  1. He looks like a Mayor....I'm actually looking forward to watching this on Ch.25, I think he will do good.

  2. Why were they sucking up to him? He's only a part-timer!

  3. Prio the real election is in 2011.

  4. I think it is actually longer than 91 days. the new mayor will not take office on the day of, or day after, the election. There has to be time for any vote challenge and for the city clerk to fulfill her duties. It probably will be two weeks after the election.

  5. Will Friedel look into Beckers travel spending why no oversight and pursue charges if The Pedophile owe the city money or sweep it all under the rug?