August 12, 2009
Kelli Stein to become the City Council's newest member
Kelli Stein is in line to become the newest member of the Racine City Council.
Stein, 31, was elected by council members to serve out the term of Tom Friedel, who resigned to become city administrator. Stein beat out seven applicants to represent the 10th District, which is located on Racine's south side.
Stein was the top vote-getter in all three rounds of voting and beat out Dennis Wiser in the final round 7-3. (Ten aldermen were present to vote; four did not attend.)
Stein's nomination likely will become official Tuesday when the City Council meets to ratify her selection. In theory the council could change its mind and vote for another candidate, but that's unlikely given Wednesday night's outcome.
Stein works as a desktop analyst for Wheaton-Franciscan Healthcare in Racine. She's married and lives at 2325 Gilson St. She's an active member of Young Professionals of Racine and is a Leadership Racine graduate. She also serves on the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Board.
The eight applicants for the open seat included: Stein, Wiser, David Martin, Donald Dwyer, Thomas Gursky, Geraldine Larson, Melissa Lindgren and Curtis Lockrem.
A ninth applicant, Jamie Anderson, did not live in the district and had no intention of moving to the district.
The council's vote came after the candidates answered nine questions over about 90 minutes. Council members then voted three times. The first two rounds they cast two votes and the final round they cast one.
Stein won the first round with six votes followed by Wiser and Martin with four each, Dwyer and Gursky with two each and zero votes for the other three candidates. (Two aldermen only cast one vote on their ballots, leading to two "under" votes.)
Stein then won the second round with nine votes followed by Wiser with six and Martin with five. Stein then won the final vote over Wiser.
Sitting in the audience as the results were read, Stein looked shocked to have emerged as the winner. "I was genuinely surprised and honored to be selected," she said.
After the council's decision was clear, aldermen took turns shaking her hand with congratulations. The results came so swiftly it took Stein about a half hour to call her husband with the results.
Stein said she applied for the seat because she believed you have to "put up or shut up."
"When the opportunity arises to do something, you have to do it," she said.
Stein said she plans to run for election to a full two-year term in April.
For a minute-by-minute recap of Wednesday night's meeting, click the link below.
The candidates are here, but two aldermen are missing. They’re over at a Parks and Rec Board meeting, but should be here in five minutes.
The council chambers are setup with eight applicants seated at desks usually reserved for the City Council. But the aldermen are pushed to one side for the night to make room for their potential future colleagues. So far we’re missing Ron Hart, Jim Spangenberg, Aron Wisneski, Terry McCarthy, Bob Mozol and David Maack.
Wisneski and McCarthy are here, and now were minutes away.
And a few more minutes.
Wisneski was late to the meeting because the Parks and Rec Board had an interesting debate over whether women should be allowed to play in a men’s softball league. The city doesn’t offer a women’s league, so a woman joined a men’s team. Seven weeks into the season a few men tried to get the woman kicked out. The board didn’t take action, but is looking to set a policy that clearly states women can play on a men's team.
And we’re off. Ten of the 14 sitting aldermen are in attendance. Ron Hart, Jim Spangenberg, Bob Mozol and David Maack asked to be excused, and it is so noted.
Shakoor, the City Council president, asks the committee to defer action on three agenda items not related to appointing the 10th District alderman. One item was a succession plan if the mayor is forced to resign, and the other was to create three-year, instead of two-year, terms for aldermen.They'll take up the issues at a later date.
Eight of the nine applicants are here. Not sure who didn’t show up. (Late found out it was Jamie Anderson, who didn't actually live in the district.) Shakoor reviews the rules about time limits and voting, which will be done in three rounds.
Shakoor says they’ll try to make a decision tonight. If the council is deadlocked, it may take longer.
Opening statements are underway. Donald Dwyer (who Shakoor referred to as Dryer for most of hte night) is first up. He’s lived in the district his whole life and feels he has something to offer.
Thomas Gursky Jr. has lived in the district the last 10 years. He works as a bailiff for the courts. Interested in representing the district because the district needs a strong voice. He’ll confront people with different opinions.
(Note: My notes from here on out are a bit choppy, so don't expect decent grammer or even sensical sentences.)
Dennis Wiser is up. 30 years as a teacher and led the REA for six years. Intensely involved with teacher issues, School Board issues, involved with – seen a dramatic change in how the association functions; still on the School Board. Feels he has something to ffer
Melissa Lindgren is up. She’s buying a home in the district and has an extensive background in customer relations. She enjoys helping people solve issues.
Stein says her heart goes to community involvement. New set of eyes on the council will be beneficial to Racine.
David Martin is up. He’s interested in being an aldermen when he started doing work with manufacturing companies in the area. He has two small children and a third on the way; he's interested in the city for their benefit
Geraldine Larson owns a business, runs it on many levels, works with cstoerm. She feels she can bring wisdom and a level-head to the council.
Curtis Lockrem has been in Racine since 1945. Lived on Drexel Ave. since 1966. Racine is a very important part of his family’s life.
Now we’re on to the questions. Helding cracks that there’s almost as many candidates as there are voters. His question: How long have you been a resident? Why do you want to be an alderman?
Gursky is up. He loves the district and wants to serve.
Wiser – about 30 years, pursing the job, talents and experienced and interest you should get involved. I would like to bring the same contributions to the city of Racine because the city of Racine has been good to me.
Lindgren – lived in the 10th district my entire life. Help take care of the community, plan for the future of the community, four children and one more on the way. Want my children to grow up, hope they have job stability
Stein – Resident of the district for eight years, running for aldermen; if you’re going to stand and complain, you’re just as much a part of the problem as the problem itself. you’ve got to step up and do something about it.
Martin – lived in the 10th District for 10 years. Property owner for six years. Decided to put my nae in the ring because of the work I do with the industrial sector, private sector of the city. Make sure the public sector is working with the private sector to push things forward.
Larson has lived in the district much of her life and she hopes to bring positive change
Lockrem – believes people should serve. Prior experience is with church and other schools. Look forward to the opportunity to serve the city
Dwyer, 23, was born and reasied in the city. Played on the playground, my childhood. fresh face unaffected by other parties at this point in my life; run countryside for the past 3 ½ years. Want to get back to the community I was raised in.
Wisneski's question (which actually came from a list handed out to the council): What is a major issue facing the city? What is a major issue facing the district?
Wiser says mult-generational poverty is an issue for the city. Difficult to get peopleon the right track; high birth rates, unemployment – key to changing city. comfortable place – more and more houses standing empty, owners are gone, nobody living in them. Hope that can be dealt with in an effective fasion.
Lindgren – Smaller businesses are being forced to close their door becase uof the economy. Affecting our businesses, as well. People losing jobs with health insurace. Feel that’s something to keep jobs in Racine
Stein – Be a broken record. Economy of Racine is where a lot of problems come from. Manufacturing has disappeared, not much coming back in, exasperates it. overall feeling in the city – reflected in the houses for sale;
Martin – City of Racine suffers from a bit of complacency and a bit of a reactionary nature. Good enough, sit here to wait it out; hard to get in front of the curve; build infrastructure to the interstate. We have to plan further in advance. We have to demand a higher level of accountability. Districtwise, the 10th district is a nice neighborhood, like a lot of places, hosues are vacant. Schools are slightly overcrowded, busing patterns are convouated,
Larson – Poverty is not financial, it’s a frame of mind. I’ve seen a lot of people go for it and make strides in their life. Crime is an area of importance in the city. Police patrolling more in District 10, citizens don’t feel its under control. Traffic issues. Unemployment and crime is what I would attack first.
Lockrem – Major problem is the job market. Losing homes, having torelocate. Until we can improve that,it’s going to be extremely difficult to bring in other employers.
Dwyer – grandparents lost their jobs, neighbors around him lost their jobs. Don’t want to see it sliding further than before. A lot of residential – traffic issues near West Blvd and Highway 11. Constituent issues.
Gursky – Despair, disappointment, helplessness. City needs hope. Average person is not seeing anything happen in their life personally. What we need is more of the stimulus money to help our distrct. What are the people getting fro this? The people need some hope. Why can’t we give more back to our people.
Weidner gets in some snark by introducing her questions as "the question prepared for me to ask is about how previous work will help with the job."
Lindgren goes first. Work as 911 dispatcher helps her deal with all types of people and filter out important information. Took over as a bank manager, was working in the bank during an attempted robbery. Scary experience – maybe people need help, maybe he lost his job. That scary experience led me to my next job as an insurance agent. I can definitely listen. I can definitely help.
Stein works at Wheaton-Franciscan Health Care. She’s a desktop analyst – tech support. I’ve had a lot of interaction with people frustrated, dealing with people and their personalities. Involved with YPR,
Martin talked about living in Eau Claire and working for a large company in Milwaukee. Both experiences gave him experience for the aldermen’s job. Completed the Leadershipo Racine course, worked through college,
Larson is up. She cites her business experience as an example of “doing what it takes.” Learned in business. People who are aldermen want to sit and do nothing. I couldn’t disagree more. As a business owner I know how to problem solve, produce what they want, really good at research. Mechanical design engineer for 22 years – I can find a solution.
Lockrem cites his background in manufacturing management positions. Much of his job was evaluating processes and analyzing problems.
Dwyer notes he’s young, so he doesn’t have a lot of work experience. He says working at Countryside shows him the best and worst people, which will help him deal with constituents. He’s also starting a nonprofit.
Gursky said his leadership skills blossomed when he was 12 years old and he signed up for Boy Scouts. He worked at Western Publishing until it closed, worked at a temp position that turned into a supervisor’s position. He said this shows dedication and organizing skills.
Wiser is up. Had direct contact with 3,000 students and 3,000 feelings, so he feels he knows the community and the community knows him. Working with REA, he signed the first ever four-year contract. “I’m not afraid to take on difficult issues and I don’t leave unitl the job is done.“ Serving on Racine Unified gives him experience in local government and worked on major board. “I have a pretty good clue about what I’m getting myself into,” he said.
Shields asks about the city’s economy and what needs to be done.
Stein goes first and says Racine needs to take advantage of its location between Chicago and Milwaukee and its lake to spur development.
Martin is up. He says the roll of the council is to be encouraging and make sure the guidelines and rules don’t get in the way of companies coming to the city. The council should also look out for bad businesses with poor business plans.
Larson says the whole world in crisis, Racine included. “We do not need middle-class people worrying about how they’re going to feed their families,” she said. She also talked about losing jobs to China and the need to bring jobs back.
Lockrem said what the city can continue to do is expand water and sewer westward so there’s more areas of development along the interstate. “This seems to be a booming area,” he said. The city should encourage service companies to relocate to the city.
Dwyer said the great lake will help with tourism. He also wants incentives for existing businesses and for new businesses.
Gursky wants to build a water park and hopes to workwith the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs for children. He also wants more time on infrastructure.
Wiser said Racine has a lot of resources for companies. Land and workers are available and the city should do what it can, in a fiscally responsible manner, to attract businesses.
Lindgren talked about the Workforce Development Center and getting word out about it to the community. This will help people get jobs.
Alderman Coe asks what will be done to keep the district clean, safe and attractive.
Martin said it comes down to simple pride. He picks up garbage from kids walking to school, and believes other people should, too. He advocates being neighborly and keeping events like the National Night Out going.
Larson said she’d talk to apartment building owners about problem areas in the district. She said parents don’t feel like schools are being patrolled. She would like crime cleaned up in the district.
Lockrem says a lot can be done with Neighborhood Watch. He also mentioned community pride and knowing your neighbors.
Dwyer said he would focus on re-establishing a sense of community in the district. He wants a neighborhood litter clean-up day and would focus on educating residents about what they can do.
Gursky says sometimes you have to treat adults like children without letting them know they’re treating them like children. It’s a real skill, he says. He recommends a citywide competition on cleaning up the district. He wants to give out certificates to reward people.
Wiser says the vast majority of the district want a clean, safe district, but they don’t know where to take their issues. No. 1 thing he can do as alderman is to know they can call or visit him to get help with their issue, being it call the police, health department or other district.
Lindgren says the whole district needs to come together with a family ethic. It would be a wonderful thing, she said.
Stein says she rides her bike through the district she feels safe. The majority of the district is homeowners, and she would focus on rental property owners to make sure they keep up their buildings and monitor their tenants.
Kaplan asks: What contribution would you make to the 10th District? And to the city as a whole?
Larson says she wouldn’t have a private life. She also believes in being on time and, citing her black belts, being disciplined.
Lockrem said communicating with the district would be his No. 1 priority. He also said he was a team player.
Dwyer said he contributes a lot to the district already. He would serve on the council to learn and share the perspective of younger candidates.
Gursky said his hard work earned the respect of his co-workers over 29 years. “I can do the 10th District, I can make them proud,” he said.
Wiser cited his REA background as proof of his listening skills. He also said you can’t always wait for people to bring their problems, especially when you know problems exist. He’d work for complete solutions.
Lindgren said she would bring compassion and understanding to the district. She said she has four children, which has taught her how to listen.
Stein said she can talk to anybody at any time about anything, which wuld help on the district level. On the city level she’d try to work outside the box.
Martin cites his sales experience. He said it comes down to solving problems clients have instead of pushing products on them. Martin said not living in Racine his whole life gives him perspective.
Anderson asks what they like most about the district and the city.
Lockrem said he likes the south side of Racine, where he’s been raised. The 10th District has a lot of good people and is a well-kept area. He cited Downtown, North Beach, Kids Cove and the Zoo as examples of good things in town.
Dwyer said he likes the people who live near him, the parks and said it’s beautiful. He says Racine has a lot to offer, which a lot of people don’t appreciate.
Gursky said he can’t picture himself on the north side. The south side has new development and the mall. It’s also quiet. Citywide he said his Dad was a zookeeper and he spent a lot of time there growing up. He wants to take a lot of the safety on the south side and move them to the north side. He wants to settle everybody down and make them feel comfortable.
Wiser said he grew up in Fort Atkinson where he was safe, comfortable and nice people wherever he went. He said he moved to the south side because it felt like where he grew up. His favorite part of Racine is the close connections among residents.
Lindgren said she feels safe to let her children play in the district. She likes Racine’s prom along with everything else good in the city.
Stein said she feels safe walking and biking around the district. She likes in Racine how she knows so many people and it has a “Midwestern feel” that is unique in the city.
Martin said he moved to the district to be close to family. He loves Racine because it’s close to world-class metropolitan areas. There’s lots of opportunity to live in a small city while connecting to larger areas.
Larson says she loves the district. People in the district are “the backbone of the community.” The industrial park employs many people and that’s a benefit to the city.
Alderman Ray DeHahn asks, What do you look at for the future of Racine?
(At this point, everyone is pretty much fried. But the applicants soldier through.)
Gursky answered by I missed what he said.
Larson says you can’t have a “yes man.” We’re not here to be friends, but we can be friendly.
Dwyer said as soon as the economy responds, the city will want to return to 10 years ago.
Wiser cracked the joke of the night with the line, “I spent most of my lifeworking with ninth-graders, so this would be enjoyable.”
Stein said it was hard to picture Racine in 20 years. She hopes there will be different thinking that brings in new business, like green companies, or attracts tourists.
Martin said he’s hopeful about Racine Unified’s future and the city renovating its manufacturing base with new development.
Lockrem said the big challenge is getting through the economic downturn. It’s going to be a tremendous burden.
Lockrem says he’s hopeful, but will work with whoever is elected
Dwyer asks the council to overlook his age
Gursky called on all of the candidates to stay involved.
Wiser said he came by accident, but stayed by choice. He’s not afraid to deal with diffcult issues, will work to resolve problems
Lindgren said the night has been a wonderful experience.
Stein points out a few months back 11 people wanted to be mayor, and now eight people want the “unglamorous” job of alderman. She offered to help whoever is selected.
Martin said he moved out of the city when he turned 18 with no intention of returning. Seven years later he returned by choice and now he works in Racine and is immensely interested in keeping the city sustainable.
Larson thanks the aldermen for being at the meeting and complimented them on their questions. She said she will work hard and give it her all.
OK, we’re done with the talking and now it’s time to vote. Shields says to the seven people who aren’t picked to consider running for the seat.
Shakoor accidently calls Alderman Weidner “Candidate Weidner,” which draws a few chuckles. Shakoor responds a few minutes later, “We’re always candidates.” Weidner reminds the person selected that they’ll be up for re-election in a few months and also encouragedthe others to stay involved.
Kaplan points out the candidates didn’t have to gather signatures in the cold and rain. He asks the applicants not to get discouraged. Alderman DeHahn thanks the candidates.
The candidates now move to the public side of the chamber while the council votes.They'd been sitting in the aldermen's desks to answer questions.
Shakoor points out that you need six votes to get elected. The aldermen are now voting for the first and second choice.
The mysterious ninth candidate is explained. They don’t live in the district and have no intention of moving there.
They’re now counting up the ballots and Shakoor just said there will be three rounds.
Dave Martin, Kelli Stein and Dennis Wiser advance to the second ballot.
Here’s the total:
Dwyer – 2
Gursky – 2
Martin – 4
Stein – 6
Wiser – 4
Larson, Lockrem and Lindgren received zero votes.
Only eighteen votes were cast out of 20 possible votes.
Wiser and Stein advance to the final ballot.
Here’s the total:
This time all 20 votes were cast.
Kelli Stein is the new 10th District alderperson on a 7 to 3 vote. Actually, it's just a recommendation at this point. But it's a strong recommendation and it's likely Stein will join the council on Tuesday.