Jay, who has lived in the Waukesha area for over 20 years, is an active volunteer who has served on numerous local boards and committees. He's married to Colleen with three kids having gone through the Waukesha schools. He is the VP of a local distribution company.
Today I read about Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson delivering his version of a "State of the Union" address to the Common Council. Basically a recap of his first two years serving as Mayor, his presentation covered many of the positive developments which occurred during this time frame.
This occasion pushes the question: Should "Mayor Larry" be judged by his own assessment, or should public and media comments singlehandedly frame our opinions?
The Mayor has unquestionably been tremendous fodder for the local media. From his footwear choices, to travels which invariably conflict with some meetings, to unabashedly wearing his Democratic loyalties on his (short) shirt sleeves, Mayor Larry has certainly taken his share of criticisms from many corners. Ok...Maybe it wasn't politically expedient being photographed at an Obama rally with your new Administrator in tow - during normal working hours. Why - he even had the audacity to try to protect the budgets of several Waukesha municipal services from cuts in this era of "taxation hell!"
On the flip side - Go to most established community charity fund-raisers; The Mayor will usually be there lending support. Walk through Downtown during an Arts Crawl - Larry will be talking to anyone who will listen. Need to add "gravitas" in getting a new local event off the ground? Ask Mayor Nelson for his help and he will step to the plate whether speaking or just attending. When Waukesha needed decisive action on the critical "water" issue, Mayor Larry was in Madison lending his support, and then took a couple days of intense politically-driven media poundings for taking a stand... When the ugly realities of education funding rears its' (to some) ugly head, the Mayor will flat-out come forward and reiterate the value of a quality educational product within one's Community.
QUICK! How many cities were named as "One of the 2008 100 Best Communities for Young People in the United States" by America's Promise Alliance? For the second consecutive year? The answer: Only Waukesha in SE Wisconsin! And Waukesha Mayor Nelson was there proudly beating the drums to garner attention for the Community.
HERE'S ONE! Name the last higher-ranking public official who will return phone calls and emails, and then go on, albeit interminably at times, about the great things occurring in Waukesha - The (trick) answer? Both Mayor Nelson and his predecessor Mayor Carol Lombardi. Interestingly, he will even ask your opinion on local issues...
It's obvious Larry Nelson enjoys being Mayor. He also truly believes the role of mayor extends far beyond presiding over Common Council meetings. His unflagging support for all things "Waukesha" is demonstrated on a daily basis. Is the Mayor outspoken on many issues? YES!! Does he bring that same frank and earnest approach to the public table on behalf of Waukesha? YES!! Will he continue ruffling feathers? YES!! And will he maintain that unmistakable air of individuality during his tenure? YES!!
Mayor Larry Nelson will walk the path he believes in. With over 50,000 people in this Community, I am sure he will find someone who disagrees with almost every single thing he says or does. His persona will continue to draw attention to any gaffes - large or small. But his heart belongs to the City...and one must respect that.
I held reservations about "Larry as Mayor"... I still harbor suspicions about his "Crocs" footwear (or whatever those things are...). Waukesha is a fiercely proud, individualistic, political, diverse Community. Why would you want your mayor to be any different?