Mequon aldermen fail to select candidate to fill 1st District vacancy

Published on: 5/31/2013

Mequon — A committee of Mequon Common Council members on Wednesday failed to select either of the two applicants seeking to fill the vacant seat from the city's 1st District on the Common Council, foreshadowing the possibility that the seat will be left open.

The Committee of the Whole, which has the same makeup as the Common Council, was tasked with recommending an applicant to fill the vacant seat left open when Dan Abendroth won both that aldermanic seat and mayor and opted to take the latter.

However, the committee was split, 4-3, in three separate votes and even discussed flipping a coin, before the committee adjourned without achieving the five-vote consensus either applicant would need to be appointed to the Common Council.

"I'm really disappointed that this council can't come to a commitment on one of these individuals," 2nd District Alderman Ken Zganjar said. "I'm just thinking that there's this undertone of divide that's unnecessary."

City Attorney John DeStefanis said that the majority vote became the nonbinding recommendation of the committee to the Common Council, but that body, made up of the same people, must still select a candidate with five votes. If the same impasse occurs in the Common Council, the seat could be left vacant until the next elections in April 2014, however, the council could choose to revisit filling the seat any time before the April election.

Over the course of the meeting, the committee took one hour to come up with questions for the applicants, two half-hour periods to interview each candidate, and a little more than an hour debating and repeatedly voting.

The applicants are Robert Holtz, owner, founder and attorney of Mequon Law Offices and Robert Strzelcyzk, owner and founder of both Mequon-located businesses First Priority Printing and Robert James Group.

In three votes, all committee members voted the exact same way, with four voting for Strzelcyzk and three voting for Holtz.

Each alderman repeatedly emphasized how both applicants were very qualified for the job, but they also said that they had to base their decisions on small differences between the candidates.

April election factors in

One difference that weighed heavily on the minds of the aldermen as they deliberated is that Strzelcyzk also ran for the 1st District's aldermanic seat in April and lost to Abendroth, 474 votes to 415.

Zganjar, who favored Strzelcyzk, noted that 47 percent of the 1st District's voters approved of Strzelcyzk and none had a chance to voice their approval for Holtz.

"It's going to be difficult for me to answer to the 47 percent if in my vote I go with the other applicant," Zganjar said. "I think it would be disingenuous in my mind to those individual people."

On the other hand, 3rd District Alderman Dale Mayr interpreted the vote as 53 percent of voters disapproving of Strzelcyzk's positions, which he said would be a greater affront to voters, following the logic that a candidate does not run against an incumbent unless they have opposing views.

"The residents of that area had a chance to elect him, and whether it was 47 percent or 10 percent or whether it was 49 percent and the other person had 51 percent, the residents didn't select him," Mayr said. "I think they not only chose the person but they also chose the policies that that person talked about."

Eighth District Alderwoman Pam Adams, who publicly favored Holtz, said her ideal scenario is to leave the seat open, based on emails that she received from residents in the 1st District expressing a desire for that course. In that scenario, the seat would remain open until the next set of elections in April 2014.

Taxation without representation

Fourth District Alderman John Leszczynski found that to be a very unpalatable option.

"Unlike some of the people here, I think it's almost unconscionable to not have that seat appointed," he said. "To leave it go vacant, to leave people to be taxed and not represented is not the American way."

Two other issues that came up often were the applicants' views on the relationship and ongoing issues between the River Club of Mequon and the residents of Ville Du Parc, as well as the applicants' views on residential zoning and whether lot sizes should be bigger, smaller or maintained at the current size.

After three votes with the same results, the committee spent 10 minutes discussing the possibility of choosing the applicant through chance and twice voted on whether to flip a coin, a motion which twice failed.

"I tend to do my gambling in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, not in this council," said Adams.

In all three votes, council members Zganjar, Leszczynski, John Hawkins of the 6th District and Andrew Nerbun of the 7th District voted for Strzelcyzk, while Adams, Mayr and Mark Seider of the 5th District voted for Holtz. Abendroth abstained from voting.

The vote will come up at the next Common Council meeting on June 11.