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Dear editor,

In support of transparency in Wausau’s local government, I’m writing to express my concern over the new mayor’s flawed process in seating alders for standing committees and other new developments.

In one case … the Finance Committee … three recent members of this body who requested to be re-seated, were all inexplicably overlooked … effectively removing many years of valuable institutional knowledge and impeding continuity for this important body … and making the new committee members’ jobs needlessly more difficult.

In the case of the Economic Development Committee, the two most recent chairs, who requested re-seating, were both denied, thus removing a full dozen years of experience on ED. These chairs, who have fostered working relationships with staff and the business community, have now been removed from the equation.

Other committee appointments that were not requested or conflicted with alders’ outside responsibilities were retained despite concerns being voiced.

After several alders’ earnest discussions with the new mayor asking him to reconsider, he chose to not alter any of these appointments.

While it is the mayor’s prerogative to make appointment decisions, one would expect those choices would reflect an appreciation of veteran alders’ experience to best serve the city’s interests and to help new alders flourish in their new roles. It’s simply Management 101 to effectively mix new blood with tenured experience in order to achieve smooth transitions and maintain operational continuity. In my previous eight years on council, this was always the norm.

On top of this, the new mayor is trying to distance the council as a whole from contact with department heads and staff, saying he plans to be the sole point of contact in the development of meeting agendas. This is unprecedented in my experience and stifles interactions with professionals who always provide insight and clarity. Bear in mind, the new mayor has only two years’ experience in city business and lacks practical knowledge in many areas.

The new mayor has even expressed an interest in consolidating the six standing city committees into just two … imagine cramming all of the city’s business into bloated agendas that will result in grueling meetings (pack a bag lunch). This would be a huge disservice to the council and to members of the public who may attend with interest in specific issues. A better streamlining solution to reduce redundancy between committees is to utilize more joint meetings or committee-of-the-whole sessions.

All of this begs the question of the mayor’s motivation and has set a disturbing tone in the new administration’s infancy, with potential negative ripple effects on the local business community and economy, and I fear we may lose vital staff as an added result.

I wish all the best to all of the new city committees and I’m sure all of our alders will support each other and their colleagues on staff to ensure the city’s work is well-managed going forward.

After campaigning with a “leader with a vision” tagline, it would be interesting to hear how these draconian actions fit into a new, positive vision for the city. So far, it looks more like “leader with division.”

Tom Neal, Wausau City Council Dist. 4