Michael Horne
The Roundup

The Extraordinary Longevity of Milwaukee Politicians

By - Apr 5th, 2004 04:59 am

When Tom Barrett was chosen by the voters April 6th, it was only the third time since 1960 that we elected a new mayor. The political stability of Milwaukee’s four constitutional office holders is legendary, and seems to be relatively secure.

Consider this:

Milwaukee Mayors 1917- 2004

Name: Dates of Service:
Daniel Webster Hoan (1916-1940)
Carl F. Zeidler (1940-1941)
John L. Bohn (1941-1948)
Frank P. Zeidler (1948-1960)
Henry W. Maier (1960-1988)
John O. Norquist (1988-2004)
Marvin Pratt* (2004-2004)
Tom Barrett (2004-        )

*acting mayor

Assuming Barrett will take office as planned on April 20th, he will be the eighth mayor of this city, if you count Marvin Pratt, which you may or may not depending on your whim. This is an average term of nearly 11 years per mayor, even including the very brief administrations of the first Zeidler and of Pratt.

Even so, the mayor’s office has seen considerable turnover compared to the other constitutional officers.

Consider this:

Milwaukee City Attorneys 1917-2004

Name: Dates of Service:
Clifton Williams (1916-1921)
John M. Niven (1921-1932)
Max Raskin (1932-1936)
Walter J. Mattison (1936-1960)
John J. Fleming (1960-1972)
James B. Brennan (1972-1984)
Grant F. Langley (1984-        )

Langley has already served 20 years in this position, but his predecessor Fleming was in office 32 years. In all: only seven people have been City Attorney since World War I. Can any other large city claim the same? Still, the City Attorney’s office is hardly a paragon of stability compared to that of the office of Comptroller.

Consider this:

Milwaukee Comptrollers 1917-2004

Name: Dates of Service:
Louis Kotecki (1912-1933)
William H. Wendt (1933-1948)
Virgil Hurless (1948-1958)
John E. Kalupa (1958-1972)
James A. McCann (1972-1992)
W. Martin “Wally” Morics (1992-        )

As you see, only six men have been comptrollers of this city since World War I. Often the Deputy Comptroller followed in the steps of his superior, as in the instance of Morics and McCann. The Kotecki – Wendt transition was perhaps the most unusual. On July 12, 1933 Kotecki entered the office of Wendt, his deputy, and shot him. He then turned the gun on himself, fatally. Wendt recovered, and remained in office another 15 years, just a blink of an eye by Milwaukee standards. Still, the Comptroller’s office is a hotbed of instability compared to that of the office of City Treasurer.

Consider this:

Milwaukee Treasures 1917-2004

Name: Dates of Service:
John I. Drew (1916-1932)
John W. Mudroch (1932-1939)
Joseph J. Krueger (1939-1975)
Wayne F. Whittow (1976-        )

That’s right – Milwaukee has had only four Treasurers since World War I. Can any large city say the same?

Taken as a whole, twenty-four men have served in the city’s four constitutional offices since World War I. This is an average term per elected official of over 12 years. Even given the four year terms of Milwaukee office holders, this is a staggering record of continuity and longevity.

(Actual comparisons with other cities are possible, but may be imprecise since many municipalities elect their officers for only two, or in some instances three years. Some cities have switched from two- to four-year terms during the period studied. Other cities may have additional, or fewer constitutional officers. In some cases, Mayors and other officials are not chosen by popular vote, but may be elected by members of the Common Council or equivalent. Still, it seems quite unlikely that any large city matches Milwaukee in the stability – some may call it inertia – of its political leadership.)

Election Daze

The mayor’s race was played out on N. Water Street in the final day of the campaign. Tom Barrett sent out a press release saying he planned to hit the town’s sports bars that evening for his last-minute campaigning. No sooner had he headed west than the Pratt RV pulled up outside of Brew City Barbecue. His Honor, Acting Mayor Marvin Pratt made his way through the crowded taverns, stopping in at Fitzgibbons Pub, 1127 N. Water Street en route to BW3. Former mayoral candidate Vince Bobot stuck to Pratt’s feet like gum on a hot sidewalk, appearing nearly everywhere with his candidate. It is hard to tell if Bobot was looking for a position in the Pratt administration. We’ll see if he will be using the transition website to apply for one in the Barrett administration. An interesting development late in the campaign was a Pratt campaign advertisement that showed an image of the candidate with his adviser, H. Carl Mueller. Nice cameo, Hans! … Election day dawned nice and pretty in Milwaukee, a rarity in early April as we all know by now. I exercised my franchise at the Riverview public housing project on East Kane Place. Two spruce trees in front of the tower died over the winter, and I blame the chemicals they always spread on the lawn there. After the vote, I whiled away the hours until the polls closed, even paying a cameo visit to my office. By 8 p.m., I had bicycled to Santo’s Restaurant on South 1st Street. The former Monreal’s was the election night party headquarters of Jim Witkowiak who hoped to win his aldermanic seat back from Angel Sanchez, who had snatched it from him four years previously. At 8:40 the victorious Witkowiak entered the restaurant, telling his crowd of about 25 “we won.” One beer later, I pedaled off to the Italian Community Center where hundreds of people had gathered for Tom Barrett’s victory celebration.

Among those present were JoAnne Anton, Terry Perry, Rita Renner, Gary Strothmann, Paul Nannis, Ron San Filippo, John Tries, Dan Jones, Candice Owley, Jim Kaminski, Bill Ward, Julie Penman, Eric Von and others too numerous to mention, including Supervisor Gerry Broderick who exclaimed, “we’ve got a new board” over at the courthouse.

While the crowd milled around the packed room Marvin Pratt was over at the Hilton blaming any number of people for his defeat, which he did not quite concede. Finally, at 11:20 p.m. Tom Barrett took the stage with his family and spoke of the wonderful new days ahead.

Maestro Orchestrates Divorce

Mark Metcalf, the Hollywood star who moved to his wife’s home state of Wisconsin to open a restaurant in Mequon, has filed for divorce.

Petitioner Metcalf, 58, filed for “default divorce,” “annulment/legal separation” in Milwaukee County Case 2003FA008969 on December 12, 2003. His wife, Elizabeth “Libby” Wick, is listed as the respondent. The next hearing on the case will be July 14, 2004 (Bastille Day) in the Family Court Commissioners Office before Michael J. Bruch.

Metcalf was best known as the character Niedermeyer in the Animal House motion picture. He also had a recurring role on the television sitcom “Seinfeld” where he played an imperious musical conductor who insisted on being addressed as maestro.

Metcalf and Wick operate the Libby Montana Restaurant at 5616 W. Donges Bay Road in west-of-the-river Mequon.

Election Aftermath

Jim McGuigan put everything he had into his failed bid to regain his seat on the County Board, going so far as to mortgage his house. Opponent Joe Rice took the honors in the race, and is seen to be one of Scott Walker’s principal allies on the new County Board. McGuigan and his wife strolled hand-in-hand south on N. Farwell Avenue at E. Windsor Pl. the day after the election at about 12:42 p.m. He looked rather dejected.

Getting Ready for Bush

The last time George W. Bush was in Mequon, Wisconsin it was front page news in the New York Times. He was a candidate for president then and appeared at a fundraiser at the Brooks Stevens Automotive Museum, a building that has since been razed. The president will return to the Queen City of Ozaukee County to speak at the graduation ceremonies at Concordia University, the Lutheran college that occupies the former site of the headquarters of the Catholic School Sisters of Notre Dame. It has come to my attention that although some of the office equipment in the college – er, university, doesn’t work, crews are busy installing air conditioning in the facility where the president will make his speech. We all know how hot it can be at the lakefront in May.

New Miwaukeeworld Feature

Local prices at the pump now just a click away

This week we include a new feature on milwaukeeworld. The Gas Buddy icon, displayed here, lets you see the current high and low price for gasoline at the pumps in the Milwaukee area. If you click on the icon, you can find out much more information, including the current cost of gas in your neighborhood, or in the vicinity of your travels. You are also enlisted to call in pump prices that you may encounter in your travels. The data will soon be available by cellular telephone. Check out Gas Buddy today!

Michael Horne, Editor/Publisher, Milwaukeeworld.com

Your comments are welcome.

Michael Horne, Editor/Publisher, Milwaukeeworld.com

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