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Two Waukesha city attorney candidates will advance to general election

One will be eliminated after Tuesday's primary

Feb. 11, 2014

Next week's primary election is the first step toward finding a replacement for longtime city attorney Curt Meitz, who is retiring at the end of his term.

The primary is between Rick Congdon, Brian Running and Christopher Wiesmueller.

Running, who practices law in downtown Waukesha, was the first to put his name in the mix for the position.

Shortly after, Congdon, who has past legal experience in the private and public sector and previously served as a Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge, announced his intentions.

Wiesmueller, the youngest of the three, who opened his practice with his wife in 2009, was the final entrant in the race.

Voters may vote for one candidate. Waukesha Now asked each candidate questions in advance of Tuesday's primary.

Responses to each question were limited to 100 words.

Why should voters choose you as the next city attorney?

Congdon: I would bring experience and professionalism to the office. I have been practicing law or in the judiciary for more years that the other candidates combined. I was honored by the Supreme Court and was appointed to sit on the local Lawyers Ethics Committee for the maximum three terms. As a Circuit Court judge, I ran a courtroom that was orderly and respectful to all. I was also required to have the knowledge and expertise to understand, weigh and determine the evidence to make the correct decision. As a plan commissioner, I am very familiar with its government.

Running: The city attorney handles a wide range of legal matters, from contract negotiation and drafting, ordinance drafting, real estate, employment law, litigation and day-to-day consultation with city officials. It's a position that requires a diverse legal background and the know-how that only long experience can give. I am the only candidate that has spent his entire career working with the kinds of legal issues that the city attorney faces every day. My clients trust me as an adviser on all the issues that businesses face every day. That kind of experience translates directly into what the city attorney does.

Wiesmueller: I have real litigation experience. I have a vision for how the city attorney's office can help make our community safer and stronger. I am passionate about making sure we get Lake Michigan water. It is not just the radium issue; the city's aquifer is dropping: We are running out of water. We need Lake Michigan water to make sure our city doesn't become a dried-up ghost town. The path to Lake Michigan water is likely going to involve litigation, not just negotiation.

The city attorney is heavily involved in negotiations and assists in drafting documents for the city's request for Lake Michigan water. Why are you best suited to help lead in that effort?

Congdon: Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission plays an integral part of the application process and defines our water supply service area. I served as a SEWRPC commissioner for six years, which will be beneficial as I work with them. I serve on the city Plan Commission. The commission adopted a comprehensive plan to guide the city's physical, social and economic development. Elements of that plan include utilities and facilities development. We also review and vote on 10 to 20 petitions a month, which deal with environmental issues. I have studied the application and consulted with the city attorney and environmental lawyer.

Running: The nature of my practice requires cooperation and collaboration to achieve the client's goals successfully. Litigation is only a last resort, after all collaborative efforts fail, and should be avoided at nearly all costs. Obtaining the Great Lakes diversion permit is no different. I understand the process of negotiation very well after many years of doing it successfully. I have spent the last 24 years negotiating and drafting commercial and construction contracts, many of them with federal, state and local government agencies. Being able to do these things well only comes from doing it for a long time.

Wiesmueller: To call it negotiations is not really accurate; we are not going to negotiate much from this point forward. The Wisconsin DNR (Department of Natural Resources) approval is more meeting requirements than negotiating, as will be the Great Lakes diversion application. The possibility for litigation on the water issue is very high. An environmental group may sue after we gain DNR approval. It is also possible that the city could sue if the diversion is denied at any point. I understand the process and am passionate about making sure Lake Michigan water reaches our faucets.

The city attorney job involves communication with many governmental bodies. How does your approach lend to this aspect of the job?

Congdon: I note first that the city attorney does not make policy. That is the province of the council, the mayor and other various decision-making bodies. My approach will be to communicate to them as if they were my clients and give them the best legal advice possible (being careful to avoid a conflict of interest if those bodies disagree with one another). As to other governmental bodies other than within the city, I would hope to maintain open and nonconfrontational lines of communication with our neighboring governments. I believe that communication is usually more effective than litigation.

Running: My approach has always been to remain factual and objective. Experience shows that being contentious and over-aggressive is a hindrance, and not in the client's best interests. People who work with me, whether I am representing them or their opponents, know that I am always, open, honest and objective, and can be trusted to communicate freely. Everyone in City Hall will know they can approach me and receive objective advice, unaffected by political ideologies or other biases.

Wiesmueller: I have had over 500 clients in six years, up to 50 at a time; I can handle communications with the various city boards and committees, especially with the very competent staff that comes with the office of city attorney. I have a very good understanding of the role the various entities have and the various political viewpoints that may be in play. I have previously been employed by state and municipal governments. I am young, energetic, strategic and persistent.

How will your past law experience translate the best to the city attorney position?

Congdon: The city attorney has appeared in the state and federal courts of appeal and the State Supreme Court — as have I. Court experience is an important aspect of this job. I have been both a trial attorney, an appellate attorney and a judge and have more courtroom experience than my opponents combined. Also, the city attorney has a staff of four attorneys as well as support staff. I am the only candidate who ever managed a law firm and dealt with staff attorneys. Maintaining an effective team of professionals is also an important part of the city attorney's job.

Running: I have worked very hard over the years to build a reputation as a hardworking, trustworthy and respectable attorney. I think I have been successful at that, and I know that I am respected and trusted by my clients, by other lawyers and by judges. The city attorney, as a representative of the city and its residents, must be respected and free of questions of ethics. I pledge to the residents of Waukesha that I will always be worthy of their trust and respect, and will work hard to give the city the legal counsel that it deserves.

Wiesmueller: Anyone who tells you this job is about real estate law is lying or doesn't understand the job. This job is about legal drafting, advising, negotiation, litigation and municipal citations. I have handled all of those practice areas. I have had more jury trials as an attorney than any of the other candidates. I'm ready on Day 1.

Rick Congdon

Age:

64

Address:

408 E. Roberta Ave.

Years of residency:

Lifetime resident

Education:

Waukesha South High School (1967), University of Wisconsin-Madison (BA, 1971), Marquette University Law School (Juris Doctor, 1974), State Bar Continuing Legal Education Program (1974-present), Wisconsin Supreme Court Judicial College (2009)

Community Involvement:

President and co-founder of Waukesha GuitarTown, plan commissioner, Waukesha Early Risers Kiwanis, past president of La Casa de Esperanza, past member of Waukesha County Museum Board, Former Director of Waukesha Habitat for Humanity, involved with both Waukesha Sister City Programs in Nicaragua and Kazakhstan

Family:

Wife Linda, four adult children

Contact information (phone, email):

(262) 521-0633 (home), (262) 366-5922 (cell), rcongdon@wauknet.com

Brian Running

Age:

54

Address:

312 E. College Ave.

Employer/occupation:

Brian Running Law Office (300 Wisconsin Ave., Suite 200, Waukesha)

Years of residency in the city:

21

Education:

University of Wisconsin-Madison (Bachelor of Arts in History, 1983); Marquette University Law School (Juris Doctor, 1989)

Community Involvement:

Director and Secretary of The Park Foundation of Waukesha; President and Director of Music in Cutler Park, Inc.; Chairman of the City of Waukesha Administrative Review Appeals Board; past member of Waukesha BID Development Committee; past Secretary and President of the Kiwanis Club of Waukesha and the Waukesha Kiwanis Foundation; past member, Waukesha Symphony Orchestra board; past Vice-President of the Volunteer Center of Waukesha County; past director of Boy Scouts Friends of Scouting campaign; Junior Achievement teacher; past Chairman, City of Waukesha Parking Committee; Waukesha Parks & Recreation boy's baseball coach; judge for Waukesha County High School Mock Trial Competition

Family:

Wife Debbie, daughter Charlotte (2008 graduate of Waukesha South High School), son Chris (2010 South graduate), son Drew (seventh-grader at Waukesha STEM Academy, Saratoga Campus)

Contact information (phone, email):

(262) 574-0082 (work), (262) 574-1786 (home), brunning@tds.net

Christopher Wiesmueller

Age:

32

Address:

313 E. Laflin Ave.

Employer/occupation:

The Wiesmueller Law Firm, partner/attorney (2727 N. Grandview Blvd., Waukesha)

Years of residency in the city:

I've had an office in Waukesha for six years and lived here for three years

Education:

UW-Milwaukee (BA Political Science); Oklahoma City University-School of Law (Juris Doctor)

Community Involvement:

Member, Trinity Lutheran Church; Member, Waukesha Bar Association

Family:

Wife Corrine, sons Andrew, 4, and Adam, 2

Contact information (phone, email):

(262) 542-5292, chrisjd@gmail.com

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