Graham Kilmer

Burgelis Running for Borkowski’s Common Council Seat

Freshman supervisor will not seek re-election to the Milwaukee County Board.

By - Aug 29th, 2023 05:03 pm

Peter Burgelis. Photo courtesy of Peter Burgelis.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Peter Burgelis has announced his candidacy for the District 11 seat on the Milwaukee Common Council.

Burgelis’ announcement followed quickly the news that current District 11 Ald. Mark Borkowski plans to retire at the end of his current term. Burgelis ran unsuccessfully against Borkowski for the seat in 2020. But since Burgelis’ election to the Milwaukee County Board, the two politicians have developed a positive working relationship.

Burgelis is currently finishing up the final year of his freshman term on the county board. He told Urban Milwaukee he will not seek re-election to the board and will focus on running for the Common Council. “I am honored to serve Milwaukee County as District 15 Supervisor and am proud of our accomplishments for the county and my constituents – and even more work lies ahead,” Burgelis said in his campaign announcement.

In his time on the board, Burgelis has taken a particular interest in mass transit and transportation policy. He sits on the board’s Committee on Transportation and Transit and secured appointment to the Milwaukee Transport Services, Inc. board, which is the board of directors for the quasi-governmental non-profit that operates the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS). He also co-chaired a task force focused on safety and security solutions for MCTS and advocated for a county health clinic for transit workers.

Burgelis also managed to secure investments in his district’s local parks, like a new playground for Doyne Park and sponsored legislation that renamed the boulevard running through Washington Park for the park’s famous designer: Frederick Law Olmsted.

Burgelis pointed to his work during his short time on the county board and said he would “do the same for the City of Milwaukee as District 11 Alderperson.”

Burgelis is also the first out-member of the county board and pushed LGBTQ representation and issues. He successfully passed legislation updating the county’s Pride flag to the new Intersex Progress Pride Flag, and authored an official condemnation of conversion therapy that was passed by a majority of the board.

“Milwaukee has vibrant and diverse neighborhoods full of people who work hard and care for one another,” Burgelis said. “To improve the experience for all, there are still serious challenges that need real solutions.”

Burgelis won his seat on the county board in 2022 after defeating longtime incumbent John Weishan, Jr. in a new District 15 that had been drawn by the board less than a year earlier. One similarity Burgelis had with Weishan during his time on the board was that he did not shy away from conflict. Burgelis, at times, would take on senior county officials and subject matter experts and even argued against the advice of the board’s own attorneys.

District 11 on the Common Council represents the southwest side of the city. The latest census data shows that the voting age population of the district is 65% white, 5.6% Black, 4.54% Asian, and 21.5% Hispanic. The district used to be more than 75% white, but has undergone a demographic change since the city eliminated residency requirements for city employees like police officers and firefighters.

At the end of June, Burgelis had approximately $1,700 in his campaign account, having fundraised more than $3,000 during the first six months of the year. Burgelis has often used policies and issues that were before the board, or ongoing, to fundraise. One example, was in February this year, when the supervisor used the controversial Jackson Park Drive project as a fundraising hook.

Campaign finance records also indicate there is already a second candidate, Lee Whiting, running for the District 11 council seat. Whiting sits on the city’s Safety and Civic Commission. Records show Whiting has already been fundraising and has $4,897 in his campaign account as of the end of July. Most of Whiting’s campaign funds come from a personal loan to his campaign, but he has raised more than $600 in contributions, including $50 from Paul Dedinsky, a former Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge and Scott Walker appointee.

Common Council members are considered full-time elected officials and earn $73,222 a year. County supervisors are considered part-time and paid $24,000 a year.

Along with his elected duties, Burgelis works as a loan originator for U.S. Bank. He is also a board member for the Cream City Foundation and Chairperson of the Wisconsin Latvian Cultural Foundation.

A primary, if three or more candidates run, will be held in February. The general election will be held in April. Council members are elected to four-year terms.

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