Deb Fenske is seeking her first term as mayor.
She currently represents the 4th Aldermanic District on the Common Council – a seat she has held since 2006. Fenske’s term on the council is up this April, and she is seeking re-election.
This means if she were to win both the mayoral race and the aldermanic race, she would be able to choose which position she wants.
She also served on the Common Council from 1988 to 1990, representing the 3rd Aldermanic District during that time.
Fenske moved to Waupaca with her family in 1967 and studied elementary education at UW-Stevens Point.
She and her husband Steve have been married for 25 years,
Fenske worked for Gusmer Enterprises for 24 years in sales and marketing. She left the position last fall.
“After working 24 years at the same place, I needed some downtime,” she said. “I took two months of downtime, thinking about what I wanted to do next. I have been applying for jobs. I did have a couple interviews. I would love to start my own business or work out of our house.”
Of the 2013 budget, Fenske also said that it will be a tough budget and that the city has to maintain the course it is on now.
After 2013, the city’s debt will drop off, and then, it will be time to prioritize the capital needs of the city, she said.
The first consideration, according to Fenske, should always be safety.
In discussing the city’s needs, another consideration should be whether something will result in the city being more efficient and cost effective, she said.
“Is it something that will take a little bit off the taxpayers?” she asks.
Workplaces should be arranged in efficient manners, and Fenske said when decisions have to be made, they have to look at how much taxpayers can bear.
“I want the community involved,” she said.
With the city’s 2012 budget including the addition of an economic development director late in the year, Fenske said, “If I had all the money I wanted, I would hire one immediately. I think Henry (Veleker) and John (Edlebeck) are doing an unbelievable job with a little amount of time.
Veleker, the city’s administrator, and Edlebeck, the city’s director of public works, are each helping with economic development duties in the absence of a director for that area.
Fenske wishes the city had filled the position when former director April Mielke left several years ago.
The city has Tax Incremental Financing districts that are open; some are in trouble, Fenske said.
“We need somebody who knows how to go out there and grab the businesses,” she said. “The community has to be able to support it.”
Fenske said the character of Main Street needs to be maintained.
“Yes. It is a priority,” she said of filling the economic development director position. “I personally don’t think we can wait anymore. We need businesses in town to take the pressure off the TIFs.”
When asked what the most important thing is the city can do now to encourage economic development, Fenske said it is something that can also include the input of citizens.
If someone is traveling and sees something in the community that would be a good fit in Waupaca or has an idea of a certain business the community could support, that person needs to bring the idea forward to the city, she said.
“Because then, we have people buying into it and excited about it,” Fenske said.
When asked if the new membership fee for senior citizens wanting to use the senior center should be a permanent or temporary solution to the budget, she said, “I think it should be temporary, because our seniors are the backbone of this community. I don’t think we should be charging something that gets them out of the house, into the community and volunteering in the community. We should be honoring our seniors.”
When asked if the change in how much city employees must contribute to their pensions and health care has affected employee morale, Fenske said, “I believe and I still believe in Scott Walker’s plan.”
She said the city knew the idea that employees should be paying more toward their pensions was coming.
Fenske said such changes do affect morale, but she never heard any rumbling from Waupaca’s employees.
“I have to give credit to our employees. Our employees in Waupaca are amazing,” she said. “If there were rumblings among the employees, they kept it to themselves.”
She thinks the health care plan the city now has is a good one.
“It’s the safety and wellness of our community,” Fenske said. “If one person’s life is saved (from the wellness aspect), it’s worth it.”
She was also asked if she thinks the city could have handled the Ash case differently.
“We should have handled it differently,” Fenske said. “Why didn’t Jim have a contract? If he had had a contract, that’s it. We wouldn’t have paid him all that stuff.”
She said that as soon as the issue began, the council was not asked what its opinion was.
“The council did not decide to give him any money,” Fenske said. “I think the whole thing could have been avoided if there had been an employment contract in place. I think hindsight should be telling us that we should have them for all city employees to protect them and the city. It is telling them what their legal rights are and what we expect.”
Fenske believes the city’s residents are “disappointed in us, because you know what, I’m disappointed in us. I want to know what the people think. I think they’re looking to us for answers, and right now, we haven’t given them the answers they want.”
She said the city must be proactive and keep the citizens in mind with each decision that is made.
Keeping residents up-to-date through various means of communication is a step toward improving the city’s image, Fenske said.
“As council members, how can we be out there more?” she asks.
Fenske says she is the transition in her life where if she were elected mayor, she would have time for the position. “If elected, I would look for a part-time job,” she said. “And, if I were to come into the position, I would want to be busy during the mayor office hours.”
She would want to be approachable.
“I respect Brian and the job he has done and is doing,” Fenske said. “I’m running in response to the requests that I’ve gotten from people. Brian is a dear friend. I respect everyone on the council and the time they’re putting in. I hope that regardless of how it turns out that the next council will be able to handle it as we have done.”