Mequon — An upcoming Sept. 10 special election will decide what the Common Council could not, whether Rob Holtz or Robert Strzelczyk will fill the vacant District 1 council seat.
The seat has been vacant since April, when longtime District 1 alderman Dan Abendroth unseated incumbent Mayor Curt Gielow in a neck-and-neck contest, at the same time beating Strzelczyk for the District 1 spot. Abendroth chose the mayoral post and created the vacancy.
Since then the council has failed on numerous votes — almost resorting to a coin flip at one point — to appoint either Holtz or Strzelczyk by the required five-vote majority. Each vote has produced the same 4-3 gridlock, with aldermen Ken Zganjar, John Leszczynski, John Hawkins and Andrew Nerbun voting for Strzelczyk, and aldermen Pam Adams, Dale Mayr, and Mark Seider voting for Holtz.
Their repeated stalemates precipitated the special election, which will determine a District 1 representative through April 2016. After the council decided in June to hold the special contest at a cost of about $2,800, Holtz and Strezelczyk emerged as the only two candidates to successfully circulate nomination papers. Holtz gathered 38 signatures and Strzelczyk 25.
Just short in April
Strzelczyk, founder of Mequon-based First Priority Printing, garnered 47 percent of the District 1 vote in April by campaigning on a platform of citywide unity, growth in the business tax base, and a focus on reversing the trend of declining school enrollment by encouraging young families to choose Mequon.
In an interview Tuesday, Strzelczyk said his focus is on "listening and working effectively with a divided set of opinions" when it comes to development throughout the city, which was a key issue in the spring mayoral election. Gielow emphasized higher density residential development, while Abendroth argued that the city should stick to its land use plan and resist urbanization.
Strzelczyk said he has met with Abendroth since his successful mayoral bid and feels like the two of them can work together effectively.
"I ran my first campaign on being objective and being open minded," Strzelczyk said. "My second campaign will be no different."
Development key issue
Holtz, an attorney and owner of Mequon Law Offices, represents his and eight other families in the continuing lawsuit between River Club of Mequon owner Tom Weickardt and the city. After Weickardt's plans to develop a 42-acre lot in the Ville Du Parc neighborhood stalled due to the discovery of a much-debated open space easement, he and the city have been mired in a suit since December. Holtz and the other families, who joined the suit in the spring, oppose Weickardt and argue they have a right to access the lot.
Though some council members had questioned Holtz's ability to remain neutral on Ville Du Parc issues, he has maintained that he will make the right choice.
In an announcement regarding his candidacy, Holtz emphasized the importance of the development issue.
"This is a critical time for our community," Holtz said in the announcement. "The recent mayoral race showed that Mequon residents care about future development issues and I'd like to ensure their voices are represented properly."