Jeff Speaker, the former mayor of Brookfield whose eight-year run ended when he lost to Mayor Steve Ponto in 2010, is hoping to retake the seat in April.
"I've heard from so many people that there hasn't been as much attention paid to quality of life in Brookfield, and that's why I'm getting involved again," Speaker said.
Ponto, who is running for re-election, said he was surprised by the challenge and said he thought he has been a more active mayor than Speaker.
"I really think he had a passive approach," said Ponto, who was an alderman while Speaker was mayor. "I truly enjoy the job, and I think that's shown. I've been a hard-working, hands-on mayor."
Speaker says residents unhappy
Speaker said he thought some of his supporters didn't show up to vote in 2010 because they thought he was going to win.
"People thought it was made," Speaker said.
Following the election loss, Speaker said, he took time off to spend with his family, then took a position as a security manager at Brookfield Square Mall.
Speaker said he decided to run after hearing from residents that they felt like they weren't being heard.
"I'm hearing people say they feel they don't have a forum anymore," Speaker said. "You have to get out and talk to people. I think that was one of my strongest suits from last time I was mayor."
Speaker said he wants to be more proactive about property development. He cited issues with the Sileno property, where the city has struggled to limit plans by Super Excavators to dump clean fill from the Zoo Interchange. Speaker said the city should have had a development agreement in place on the property years ago, before the state passed a law that tied the city's hands in blocking the fill.
"I would have been out ahead of that," he said.
Ponto defends position
Ponto said he has taken a different approach to mayoral leadership than Speaker did.
"He looked at policy as council's business, and administration as department heads' business," Ponto said. "I see myself as more involved. I've provided leadership moreso than he has done in the past. I've really led on policy issues."
Ponto pointed to the unanimous passage of plans for a mosque in Brookfield as a strong moment.
"I feel I really led the council to focus on the building itself, and not get distracted by arguments over religion, and I think that was really important," Ponto said. "I think a lot of citizens were really proud of the city government for that."
Ponto also said he has made an effort to take on work in administration, meeting regularly with staff, and writing his own press releases, for example.
"I think Jeff farmed out a lot of work," he said. "I do all my own work."
He said this approach has helped make up for a slight decrease in staffing as the city has dealt with levy limits.
Ponto also said he thinks he's made progress in asserting Brookfield as a state leader, through work with the Waukesha County Corporation Counsel, other mayors and state legislators on issues such as room tax revenue.
Anyone wishing to run for mayor must register and submit nomination papers by Jan. 7. The election will be April 1.
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