OPINION: Have Applicants for Vacant District 3 Council Seat Made the Decison in Advance for Council Members?

Only one applicant, Joe Warren, is willing to respect council’s preference for placeholder status

Nothing  seems easy for the Oconomowoc Common Council. In October, it decided to temporarily fill the aldermanic position vacated by the resignation of District 3 alderman Cathleen Slattery with a short-term appointment, a “placeholder.”  Council members said they did not want to district under-represented by only a single alderman, especially given the council’s agenda over the next few months. They also wisely felt that ultimately the voters in District 3 should elect their representative, not the aldermen. Therefore, in a compromise of sorts, they decided to appoint someone who would serve only until the general election in April. To their credit, they also recognized that the person appointed, if they decided to run for the post in April, would have an advantage over other potential candidates because they would be an incumbent. In Oconomowoc, being an incumbent is often tantamount to being re-elected. So to ensure that this did not happen, the council said he would prefer giving the appointment to someone who would agree not run in April.

So far so good. Unfortunately, two of the three applicants for the placeholder position don’t appear to be on the same page as the aldermen (see article). One says he won’t agree to refrain from running for the seat in April and another says he is undecided as to whether he’ll accept the council’s stipulation. That leaves only one applicant, Joe Warren, meeting the criteria laid out by the council members back in October.

Doesn’t this seem a little odd? Why would people ask for an appointment without accepting the parameters developed for the position? Do they plan to challenge the “preference” during the Council meeting next week? Legally, the Council probably can’t tell the applicants they won’t be considered if they don’t agree not to run in April, but realistically, why would the council appoint someone who is not acceding to their stated, public intent?

Has one or more of the applicants been told that despite the council’s public stance that it will give preference to someone who agrees not to run in April, there are members on the council who will support their application?

As it stands today, only Joe Warren says he will abide by the council’s wish and will not run in April. Accordingly, isn’t Warren the logical choice for the appointment? Isn’t he the only one meeting the criteria spelled out for the appointment?

Warren may not  have Daggett’s name recognition, but he has no ties to current council members (Daggett is a former city employee) or Pabst Farms (Daggett is also a former Pabst Farms employee) and he has conscientiously attended council meetings for the last two plus years. In essence, Warren’s been attending a graduate school in local government. He was also willing to test the political waters last spring when he challenged the district’s other alderman, Mike Miller. Daggett and Manke have not been regulars at the meetings and neither has been willing to suffer the slings and arrows that unfortunately come with being a candidate for public office. Advantage Warren.

When the council set the appointment process in motion, its vision for how things would play out was probably very different. How could it have anticipated having applicants who would not agree to refrain from using the appointment as a springboard to election next April?

This means Tuesday night’s appointment process, already controversial for a number of different reasons, has gotten even more controversial and complex. It will be interesting to see how the members meet this challenge. It won’t be easy.

Editor’s note: Oconomowoc Today does not endorse candidates for public office and this is not an endorsement of Warren. In addition, the author and Warren worked together in a group opposed the city’s plans to extend Thackeray Trail.

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