The next Milwaukee County Executive is…

As Scott Walker prepares to leave for Madison, the candidates to fill the county executive's chair are lining up.
November 29th, 2010 |
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Is Milwaukee's future county executive among these contenders? Photo illustration by Brian Jacobson

In a few weeks, Scott Walker moves to Madison and leaves the County Executive’s office empty.

If it wasn’t for the impending financial doom, running Milwaukee County might be an appealing job for someone with political aspirations. But who is gutsy enough to take on the Executive’s mantel?

Lee Holloway is the most obvious choice – he’s the current County Board Chairman and has made it known that the job is on his radar.

When the Shepherd Express asked who would make a good Executive, Holloway said “it needs a person like Lee Holloway. I think I’ve got all the skills and the ability. And the big initiatives all came from me, for a long time.”

Was he referring in part to this outburst in October, telling county staffers that if they disrespected the board again he would fire them when he became the County Executive?

Holloway will be the Executive for 30 days after Walker leaves. During that time he can appoint an interim Executive until an election is held or he can resign as the County Board chair and serve until April. Either way, I suspect H0lloway’s ego will have him announcing his candidacy sooner than later.

Not that it will be easy for H0lloway. Having presided over a board that has raised the county’s tax levy, he is wearing a bulls-eye for Citizens for Responsible Government, the same group that helped remove Tom Ament and numerous County Supervisors in 2002. Plus, Holloway’s record as a slumlord gives opponents a built-in issue to question his ability to effectively manage a $1.5 billion budget and follow rules and regulations.

Another name being tossed about as a potential Democratic candidate is former State Rep. Sheldon Wasserman. He represented the county’s north shore in Madison for 14 years before returning to his OB/GYN practice. He has the political experience and personal wealth to mount a campaign quickly, considering the election cycle for this seat is a mere 4 months.

Looking back on some of Wasserman’s prior campaigns, he favors reducing the size of government by reducing the number of state counties. He also promised not to support tax increases in 1994, but eventually did agree to increased cigarette taxes for health care funding.

Wasserman has relied on some of the gimmicks Walker employed as executive, such as returning 15% of his state per diem and returning a legislative raise; but since he lost the State Senate race to Alberta Darling in 2008, he has remained out of the public eye.

Would he be willing to put his lucrative medical practice on hold to steer the county’s sinking ship?  Possibly, and his medical background could come in handy as the county deals with the broken mental health care system.

Two other Democrats being mentioned are recently unemployed state senators Jim Sullivan and Jeff Plale. Sullivan had represented portions or Milwaukee, West Allis and Wauwatosa until losing to Leah Vukmir. Plale was deemed “not liberal enough” for the UWM east side and southeastern suburbs, losing his senate primary to the ultimate winner, Chris Larson.

Photo courtesy Jim Sullivan for State Senate

Jeff Plale photo courtesy Wisconsin State Senate

Plale has advocated for improved access between Milwaukee and its southern suburbs via I-794 and the Lake Parkway and for increased commercial development around Mitchell Field. Sullivan touts his independence and breaking with his party on tax increases, having voted no to Gov. Doyle’s last budget.

Republicans, conservatives and Tea Partiers will probably coalesce around State Rep. Jeff Stone, who currently represents parts of Greenfield, Greendale and Franklin. When Sheriff David Clarke announced last week that he didn’t want the job, Stone moved to the top of AM talkers Charlie Sykes and Mark Belling’s list of acceptable candidates.

Stone has served in the assembly since 1998 and he’s on the right side of conservative and CRG issues – no to partial birth abortions, no to gay marriage, no to BadgerCare Plus and yes to virtual charter schools and school choice.

But what really matters to conservatives and Walker supporters is Stone’s position on taxes and spending. Americans for Prosperity gave Stone 93 out of 100 on holding taxes down, while all of the major business lobbying groups – MMAC, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin Prosperity Project have thrown full support behind Stone lower tax stance.

As with Holloway, Sullivan and Plale, Stone has a war chest he could tap and a campaign Rolodex that is ready to go. And if Sykes and Belling continue to chat Stone up, he will save a lot of time in the fundraising race.

These men are all qualified candidates for the job, but I have another name in mind and I think she has proven her worthiness for the office.

Sue Black. The current director of the Milwaukee County Park System has the administrative experience needed for this tough job. 

As Parks Director, Black has shown she can do a lot with a little, a skill that will be sorely needed in the future as Milwaukee County’s obligations continue to increase while shared revenues shrink and taxpayers push back against levy increases.

I’ve heard Black is not interested in the job, but wouldn’t it be great to have a strong, competent woman among the choices?

So who do you think or  hope will run for county executive?  Speak up and share your ideas.

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7 Responses to “The next Milwaukee County Executive is…”

  1. Stacy Green says:

    I vote Sue Black !!!!
    I only have this to say: dedication, honesty , experience She’s the best choice

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  2. Tom Strini says:

    Supervisor Lynne DeBruin, the only one who saw the pension fiasco coming and tried to sound the alarm, would be the best possible county exec. She’s smart, honest and fearless, and she’s a big believer in open government. She’s also not one of the usual old-boy suspects, and she’s not tainted by Walker’s utter failure, as Black, a Walker appointee, would be.

    Let’s start the Draft DeBruin right here.

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  3. Marion says:

    The new County exec will have a huge job. Milwaukee County is being left with huge lawsuits, loss of jobs / layoffs of county workers, a very large deficit, and other problems too numerous to mention here. The situations and decisions that caused these problems should either never have happened in the first place, or should have been addressed in the past few years. Scott Walker did not fill the big chair or we would not have to face these problems. Now we have to choose someone who will first pay close attention to the county and NOT to their own career. I heartily endorse Sue Black. Her heart is in Milwaukee, she has a proven track record, she is creative and knows how to problem-solve, and she pays attention to the details. I can only hope that she will heed the call!!

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  4. Virginia says:

    While reading this, I was thinking ‘blech’, ‘blech’, ‘blech’, ‘blech’, and ‘BLECH!’ (in no particular order), until I got to the part about Sue Black. I completely agree. She’s done much for the parks system and definitely has the experience. I’d love to see what she can do with the County. I wonder if she could be persuaded…..

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  5. What a depressing article! Of the crowd, Sue Black is by far the best person, although apparently nto a candidate. Plale was voted out of office for a reason – not representing the people of his area. We don’t need more of that. I don’t know if he’s thinking of running, but Milwaukee County Treasurer Dan Diliberti would be my favorite. He has a long record of honest public service and if anyone knows the County’s financial issues, he should!

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  6. Seth says:

    For those that are mentioned above I could accept Plale and Stone, to a degree. I feel that Wasserman or Holloway would be an absolute trainwreck, God help us if either of them are elected. To say that Holloway is qualified for this postition is an insult to the position itself.
    Staying away from the ‘lesser of two evils’ way of thinking, how could anyone not think that Sue Black would be a great fit for the County Executive position? Of all those qualified to run for this office, Sue Black has the best chance of being successful at running this County. I sure hope she considers this. People on both sides of the aisle respect her. She certainly knows how to work with a budget.

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  7. Tim John says:

    I agree with you regarding Sue Black, since she has created success in the park system despite having less money. Let’s find the most talented individuals to run instead of accepting whoever throws their hat into the ring.

    [Reply]

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