By Shereen Siewert

About 50 people attended a campaign kickoff event Thursday at Downtown Grocery for Wausau mayoral candidate Katie Rosenberg, one of two early contenders vying for the office.

Rosenberg, who currently represents Dist. 1 on the Marathon County Board of Supervisors, described her local ties to the community before moving on to more serious issues.

“I spent summers at Memorial Pool,” Rosenberg said. “I played WAYSA soccer at Airport Park. I benefited from the careful planning and considerations of previous generations of leaders — mayors and councils who looked ahead and invested in Wausau.”

Rosenberg said when she first had an inkling that she didn’t quite understand what was happening in Wausau she looked for the city’s strategic plan — and didn’t find one.

“Do you know what I found? A graveyard of project plans: Sears. The movie theater. The mall. Liberty Mutual,” Rosenberg said. “The perpetual promise of development along the river littered with broken promises from people negotiating in bad faith. The city picking up the tab for moving businesses, entire public facilities, and leveling properties. Thomas Street… and the revolving door of missteps, concerns, and unanswered questions.”

A strategic plan, Rosenberg said Thursday, is a narrative that tells the city’s vision for the future and the goals that should be met along the way.

If elected, Rosenberg said she will spend the first 90 days engaging with the public to gain input from individuals, neighborhood groups, neighboring communities, large and small business owners and the city council to jumpstart the process of creating a strategic plan for Wausau.

“We should care about the ratio of public and private investments in big projects,” Rosenberg said. “We should want to know how long before we can expect a payoff for the investment of our public dollars. We should want to understand and untangle the TIDs and how they affect how we budget for necessities like snow plowing, police, and potholes.”

Rosenberg also pointed to the importance of effective leadership and best management practices in governing the city.

“Leadership matters,” Rosenberg said. “We need the fortitude to ask the tough questions. We need to have the patience to negotiate the right kinds of deals that help our city grow. We need an administration and a governing body that recognizes that our strength is in our diversity. We need a mayor and a council that puts a healthy city at the heart of every policy, every project, every penny.”

Though the election is more than nine months away, Rosenberg and a second challenger, Chris Norfleet, have already filed candidacy papers signaling their intent to run for office. Norfleet is co-founder of the local advocacy group, People for the Power of Love, and a key participant in the Toward One Wausau community project.

Wausau’s current mayor, Rob Mielke, has not yet indicated whether he will run for a second term. In the most recent mayoral election held in April 2016, Mielke defeated Jay Kronenwetter for the seat by a 1 percent margin.

Nomination papers or declarations of candidacy for April elections are due by 5 p.m. Jan. 5, 2020.