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Jesse Alba investigation is Waukesha NOW's No. 1 news story for 2013

From his hiring, to ultimate demotion, fire chief saga consumed much of year

Jesse Alba, who at the time was on paid administrative leave as the city’s fire chief, answers questions from Police and Fire Commission Chairwoman Cheryl Gemignani during one of Alba’s disciplinary hearings earlier this year at City Hall. The PFC demoting Alba to the rank of firefighter for violating department rules just six months after naming him chief is Waukesha Now’s 2013 News Story of the Year.

Jesse Alba, who at the time was on paid administrative leave as the city’s fire chief, answers questions from Police and Fire Commission Chairwoman Cheryl Gemignani during one of Alba’s disciplinary hearings earlier this year at City Hall. The PFC demoting Alba to the rank of firefighter for violating department rules just six months after naming him chief is Waukesha Now’s 2013 News Story of the Year. Photo By Todd Ponath

Dec. 24, 2013

Waukesha made big headlines in 2013.

There was plenty of drama — the proposed Meijer development and the BID disbanding. Controversy included the Waukesha County Museum saga. And there were business closings and openings — Golden Guernsey shuts down, while Woodman's opens.

But there's no doubt the story that consumed much of the year revolved around the City of Waukesha's Fire Department — specifically with its fire chief and the investigation against Jesse Alba.

That's why due to the magnitude of the event involving a city official, the cost to the city and the public nature in which it unfolded, the Alba saga is Waukesha Now's top news story in 2013. Here is a brief breakdown of the rest of Waukesha's top 10 stories.

1) Alba investigation — The Police and Fire Commission finally finished its fire chief search at the beginning of the year and selected Alba to replace Allen LaConte. But shortly after, Alba was accused of violating the city's anti-harassment policy. After not resigning, he fought to save his job during multiple emotional disciplinary hearings where he revealed that he had an affair with an employee he later asked to resign. The PFC put him on paid administrative leave before ultimately demoting him to the rank of firefighter.

2) Golden Guernsey closes — The year started with one of the most iconic companies — Golden Guernsey — unexpectedly closing leaving about 100 employees unemployed. A few months later, Lifeway Foods Inc., of Morton Grove, Ill, purchased the dairy processing plant after winning an auction. The plant, however, has yet to reopen.

3) Water application complete — Three years after submitting its initial application for Great Lakes water to the state's Department of Natural Resources, the city sent a revised application in October with updates on cost, preferred supplier and return flow route.

4) Museum saga — It was a busy year for the Waukesha County Museum. With financial questions, its CEO/President Kirsten Lee Villegas pleaded for more money from the Waukesha County Board, Mayor Jeff Scrima suggested consolidating into the Waukesha Public Library, then Villegas resigned, former County Executive Dan Finley was brought back as the interim CEO before the county board denied additional funding.

5) BID disbands — After 2012 ended with the downtown Business Improvement District in question, it formed again with some new leadership. But after the board made changes to its bylaws, property owners petitioned to have the BID disbanded.

6) Meijer controversy — In the weeks and months after Scrima announced a Meijer supercenter could be built on the southeast corner of Sunset Drive and Tenny Avenue, neighbors were in uproar over the development. However, it has passed every hurdle at the city level.

7) More guitars — After a successful first year, the Gibson GuitarTown project returned to the city with more guitars and more artists contributing. The project also included murals that were painted in downtown and coincided with the opening of the long-awaited Les Paul exhibit at the Waukesha County Museum.

8) Annexations — Annexations were prevalent in 2013 as around 250 acres of town land was annexed into the city. Some related to the town not being in the water service area, while another related to Dunkin' Donuts getting denied in the town.

9) Town drama — The year began with a heated election where the town chairwoman and a supervisor lost elections.

The infighting between town board members didn't stop and the year ended with multiple resignations (clerk/treasurer, auditor and attorney).

10) Business opens — Waukesha brought hundreds of jobs and much-needed development to the city's northeast side when the large and spacious Woodman's Food Market opened this summer.

— Compiled by Christopher Kuhagen

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