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By Keene Winters

It’s mid-July, and city hall finds itself in the middle of yet another controversy.  A developer, T. Wall Enterprises, staked-out its rights to sue Wausau for the failure of the riverfront development.  And, once again, no word  from our mayor on what comes next.

Keene Winters is a Wausau financial advisor who served two terms on the Wausau City Council from April 2012 to April 2016. (Photo credit: Life Touch)

Several weeks ago, I wrote a letter asking Mayor Katie Rosenberg to share her plan for making city hall a better place in an op-ed.  We are still waiting, despite ample opportunity to respond.  Most notably, the mayor and the council had a strategic planning retreat at the end of June.  One would have hoped that would have sparked the outline of some kind of plan that the mayor could tell us about.

However, it appears that the meeting went astray.  Topics like the I-39 billboard or hiring city administrator never came up. Rather, the primary recommendation likely to come out of the meeting is that the city should hire a 40-hour per week communications director.  Presumably that would to make all the “bad press” go away, and everything would be fine. 

Ironically, the last thing one would expect our mayor to need help with is communications.  Rosenberg has a masters degree in Strategic Public Relations from Georgetown University. Communications should be her forte.  By contrast, her resumé shows little experience in management and supervising people. It is overseeing the work products and professional development of her direct reports that she seems to struggles with. Clearly, a city administrator would be a much better choice to round-out her administration.

As uncomfortable as it may be, it is always the weaknesses that need attention.  Back in the 1990s, I had the privilege of serving as a state and national officer in the Jaycees.  Besides specific ministerial duties required by the positions, much time was spent visiting local chapters and serving as a sounding board and coach to local club presidents. One of my observations from that time is that a person could get to be chapter president on the basis of a single strength.  He or she could be a good people person.  He or she could be a very well-organized. That would be enough to get elected.

Then, once in the position, it would be the president’s personal weaknesses that caused strife in his or her organization.  The people persons needed to become better planners.  The organizers needed to hone their people skills.  In other words, to be a successful leader always meant becoming more well-rounded.  Good leaders often have to take steps to shore-up their weaknesses.

Wake up Wausau is a good rallying cry.  City hall is a toxic and all-consuming environment.  I have been there.  It is easy to get sucked into the day-to-day bickering and lose all perspective on reality. Misbehavior and performance failures are accepted as routine.  The city can keep adding debt without limit. Until citizens start putting pressure on their elected officials to bring in an administrator from outside to right the ship we are going to continue to sink in this dysfunctional morass with really dire consequences for this wonderful community.

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