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Election Preview: Menomonee Falls Village Board (Seat No. 5)

Incubment Jeff Steliga and Bonnie Lemmer are running for the No. 5 trustee seat on the Village Board in the April 2 election.

Menomonee Falls voters will head to the polls April 2 to vote on several races, including the Trustee No. 5 seat on the Village Board.

The candidates are Jeff Steliga  and Bonnie Lemmer. (Click on link for biographical information on each candidate; Lemmer did not return survey).

To provide residents with the most information about the election,Patch asked candidates for their positions on key issues facing the village. Here, in their own words, are the candidates' answers to those questions.

Jeff Steliga (inc.)

Why are you seeking re-election?

I have a strong commitment to Menomonee Falls, both as a Trustee and a community volunteer.

I have been an advocate for controlled growth, both residential and business, and want to see us continue on this path.

How do you feel about the way the Radisson Hotel situation was handled?  Anything you would have done differently?

Since I am involved in an organization that owned property on Main Street, I had to abstain from all meetings, discussions and votes regarding the Radisson.

However, for many years the hotel property was in poor condition, ranging from being a run-down business to a property with a partial renovation which left just the framework of the original structure.  Village leaders and residents alike wanted something done with it. 

Did the Village’s backing of the hotel work as envisioned?  No.  But the bottom line is that the Village financed the hotel.  I do believe the Radisson is an asset to our community.  As a newly remodeled hotel with a restaurant, lounge and meeting space, backed by a world-class brand with a great reputation, it has what it takes to be successful.  We need to work together to ensure its success.

What are strengths you possess that make you a valuable trustee in Menomonee Falls?

Through my work on the water, sewer, transportation, facilities and finance committees, I am knowledgeable about the issues affecting growth and development in the Village.  As a Certified Public Accountant, I understand the financial issues impacting the Village. 

I also welcome input from the citizens. That diversity of ideas and opinions is needed to consider all sides of an issue.

Where should the focus of the Village Board be over the next five years?

Menomonee Falls needs to continue following a plan for controlled growth.  I want to see the village focus on the type of quality business development and expansion we’ve experienced in recent years.  The relocation of Actuant’s headquarters and industrial facilities and Eaton Corporation’s electrical engineering division to the Falls and the expansion of the Kohl's headquarters and Wacker Neuson’s manufacturing facilities have positive impacts on our community.  

The development along the freeway starting with the new Froedtert facilities also offers exciting opportunities.  We also need to continue to attract new businesses and the right mix of businesses, particularly for our Village Center.

We also must continue to seek innovative ways to reduce costs.  People working in the private sector and some areas of the public sector have experienced cutbacks and streamlining in their workplace and we have done the same with the Village.  We’ve implemented new ways of doing things, allowing us to reduce staff while maintaining the quality of services we provide.  Innovation and keeping an open mind to the types of changes we can make will be key.

How would you describe your political beliefs?  How have you put your personal beliefs into action?

I am a Republican.

Bonnie Lemmer

Why are you seeking election?

 I have always been interested in local government and community affairs.  As a 20 year resident of Menomonee Falls, a Neighborhood Block Watch Captain and past board member of BID, I would like to be an even more direct participant in shaping the Village’s future. I love Menomonee Falls and the quality of life it provides and want to contribute to its continued success.  I offer a new perspective with fresh ideas, common sense values and ethical standards. 

How do you feel about the way the Radisson Hotel situation was handled?  Anything you would have done differently? 

I feel the current Village Board and whoever was involved in the decision to finance the hotel should be accountable for their actions.  They did not do the proper due diligence when considering financing of this project.  There were so many apparent red flags with regards to the developers and the properties they managed that the Board should have never loaned them the money to complete the project.  If large financial institutions would not lend the developers money, why did the Village do it?   And if they had to do it because the hotel was already gutted, why did they let the developers even start on the project without having proper/secured financing so we would not have had our backs to the wall and be forced to loan the money.  The Village is not a bank and should have NEVER, EVER gotten themselves into a situation like this.  Poor judgment on the part of everyone involved.  I am sure they wouldn’t run their own personal finances like this. 

What are strengths you possess that make you a valuable trustee in Menomonee Falls?

I have 25 years of combined experience in the areas of management, contract negotiations, budget development, fiscal responsibility and productivity management working for small and Fortune 500 companies.  Serving as a Board Member for Muscular Dystrophy Assn. and the Make-A-Wish Foundation have given me the ability to look at ways to fund projects without having to go into debt to do it.  Working as a manager gave me an opportunity to look closely at productivity and create ways in which to staff a department without hiring additional employees and still maintain high levels of productivity.

Where should the focus of the Village Board be over the next five years?

First, the Board should come up with a sound resolution to the Radisson Hotel debacle.  The taxpayers cannot afford to continuously contribute tax dollars to the support the Hotel nor can they afford to buy it or be its banker.  They should put a moratorium on developing new TIF districts until a thorough investigation of the Radisson Hotel and all other TIF districts are reviewed to determine the time frame for when the tax dollars will begin flowing back to the community tax base.  We need to continuously focus on attracting corporate businesses to the area because of the positive aspects it brings to the community in numerous ways.  The Board should endeavor to work with BID and the Connect Community Program to improve the downtown and Main St. areas.  This can be done by encouraging property owners to enhance the aesthetics of their buildings. The Village should enrich the appearance of the areas by providing more green space, trees and plants, parking and open areas for outdoor seating and gathering.  We should seek out businesses that will contribute to the overall benefit of the community and enhance our tax base.

How would you describe your political beliefs?  How have you put your personal beliefs into action?

I am a fiscally responsible conservative.  While serving on non-profit Boards I was responsible for making and approving decisions that would ensure the organization’s goals were met, meaning that administrative costs were held to a minimum so that the majority of funds were used to better the lives of the people whom the organizations served.   As the Executive Director of Make-A-Wish Foundation, I was responsible for developing fund raisers incurring only minimal expenses.  I had a fiducially responsibility to stay within strict financial guidelines I developed  to ensure that our fundraisers were self-funded and produced enough  revenue to enable the Foundation to operate  per national guidelines.  This was done entirely with volunteers, one part time employee, I as a salaried employee and thousands of dollars from corporate and private donations. Two of the major fundraisers were the four-day Celebrity Sports Classic and the Vince Condella’s run which made the Milwaukee Make-A-Wish Foundation known statewide and brought in thousands of dollars.  On a personal and business level  I have a budget that I adhere to by setting goals for expenditures and adjusting accordingly to enable me to live within my income.  I would put these same practices into my decision making process as a Village Trustee on the Board.

Nuitari (Grand Master Editor) March 24, 2013 at 08:26 PM
"I do believe the Radisson is an asset to our community. " Three (?) prior failed hotel managements over the past couple decades says otherwise Jeff. You must be someone who expects "A", only to always get "B". Being a CPA, something should have came up on the old radar of bad numbers, but as you claim, you had a conflicting interest with this whole deal, thus you wash your hands of blood.
Todd March 24, 2013 at 09:08 PM
I am disappointed that Bonnie Lemmer didn't return the survey. That signals a poor start to informing and working with the public. And Jeff is right he had to abstain from voting. However, the heart of the matter is, we are still infusing money into the Radisson where we wouldn't do it to any other struggling business. It would have been cheaper to knock down the core structure, recycle the concrete for roadways and sell the steel for scrap. I've been to RBG and I enjoyed it, but I don't want to own it. I think it's time to rethink how we hire our Village Administrators. I still feel we are paying way too much for one guy that has cost us more money than what he has saved us. Anyone can cut the quality of life services. When we dig deep into protective services like police and fire yet write a check for the Radisson Taxes, it's time for a change in the front office.
Bonnie Lemmer March 25, 2013 at 02:28 PM
Fedup: I did return the survey...see comments above. It was sent to the Patch at a later date.
Steve ® March 25, 2013 at 10:03 PM
lol Jeff Steliga do you know the definition of "asset" ? The hotel is a liability, actually it is a huge debt on all our taxes. Time to get your google machine out.
Steve ® March 25, 2013 at 10:07 PM
►As a Certified Public Accountant, I understand the financial issues impacting the Village. ◄ Even more lulz. Time to retake your exam because anyone that calls a bankrupt hotel "an asset" needs to not be in accounting. We can't sell it without a $10 million loss. Time for two new jobs Jeff.
Nuitari (Grand Master Editor) March 25, 2013 at 10:07 PM
And an adding machine.
Todd March 25, 2013 at 11:28 PM
Sorry Bonnie, the article said you hadn't provided a survey and they originally didn't print it when I read the article. Let me ask this question, the root of the matter is one person was the driving force in us going into the Radisson Hotel mess. It was on his recommendation that the board followed his lead. You can ask any one of those politicians and watch the tapes of the meetings. This was a win, win situation. It didn't turn out that way. If one person was the driving force for us to go into $18 million in debt and growing by throwing more tax money in for their operation. Now the cost of the attorney to administer this boondoggle is mounting. If this is an appointed person, how would you deal with this person? I don't see the quality of life services getting better. All I see is a raise for a person that should be happy as heck to still have a job.
Former Resident March 26, 2013 at 01:57 AM
As a CPA, maybe Jeff can explain why it takes 6 months to get the Village audit done, particularly when the same firm has been doing it for a number of years. Heck, maybe he can't.
W . Benz March 30, 2013 at 01:21 PM
That a boy Don -- Hows things in GT ...
Tommy Webb March 31, 2013 at 10:37 PM
Time for new faces in our village government !
Menomonee Falls Taxpayers Association April 01, 2013 at 12:32 PM
Like the rest of them on the board, Steliga spent 18 million dollars on a 9 million dollar hotel? Vote for Lemmer!
W . Benz April 01, 2013 at 01:36 PM
MFTax - Amature response from a group that hasn't said anything to change this election -- Just what have you done for the taxpayer ? Steliga said he never voted for Hotel and MFTax said nothing ..
Menomonee Falls Taxpayers Association April 01, 2013 at 06:52 PM
Vote for Lemmer all the same! Happy Easter to all, by the way.
W . Benz April 01, 2013 at 10:57 PM
MFTax- Ghost Organization - Notice they never answered any questions or add any value in any election . Another self -serving feel good " lets kept it civil " and vote for Don . Again ! Today is your Day--- Wild Bill -----Happy Fools Day
Menomonee Falls Taxpayers Association April 02, 2013 at 02:49 PM
Vote Roggensack Vote Walz Vote Lemmer Vote Pridemore Happy Happy happy!

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