O'Connor, Siegel square off for Bay presidency
Newcomer wants more transparency; incumbent touts experience
Whitefish Bay — Newcomer Anne O'Connor is attempting to unseat incumbent Village President Julie Siegel in the upcoming April 1 spring election.
O'Connor, a seven-year Bay resident, grew up in Madison and later went to high school in Green Bay. She earned a bachelor's in business administration with a specialization in marketing and international business from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since then O'Connor, 48, has lived in Madison, Chicago and the London area while working in marketing and fundraising.
More recently, O'Connor has gone back to school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is working on a master's in art history, which she intends to use someday to pursue a career that would "combine artistic expression and community building."
O'Connor, a married mother with three children in the district, is the current president of the Whitefish Bay Civic Foundation, the secretary of the Whitefish Bay Little League, a liaison the Business Improvement District, a member of the Garden Club, and is active in the Richards Elementary PTO.
Incumbent Siegel, a 22-year village resident, is no stranger to local politics. She remembers the dinner table talks when she was a girl and her father, Samuel Dickman, was on the Shorewood Village Board and her mother, Peggy Dickman, was on the School Board. Her father is now the 15-year president of Bayside while her brothers, Sam and Max, both serve in their home communities.
Siegel, 48, graduated from Shorewood High School before earning a bachelor's degree in finance, and later a master's in social work, from UWM. She is a social worker at Froedtert Hospital and a married mother of three adult children.
Qualifications and ideas
Siegel said she has benefited greatly from mentoring and hands-on experience while on the Village Board, first as a trustee and later as president. As Whitefish Bay's representative on the North Shore Fire Department board, she recalls the move to cut firefighters' health insurance to fund retirement benefits as a decision that was both difficult and necessary. She said that sort of experience gives her the ability to move forward "with an eye on fiscal awareness."
"I try to mesh the needs of the community with the realities of fiscal policy," Siegel said, "and not create a huge tax burden for the residents."
The theme of O'Connor's bid for the presidency is transparency. O'Connor said that as president she would continue the Thursday office hours she has held during her campaign and would push for more information on the village Website and social media.
"I feel my style is very different," O'Connor said. "I place a heavy emphasis on resident input and collaboration."
Infrastructure and finances
Of great concern to Bay residents is the infrastructure work planned to revamp the village's aging stormwater and sewer system and prevent home flooding. The Village Board last year struck down a project that would have rehabbed sewer laterals and mitigated some of the flooding issue, and will revisit its 15-year capital improvement plan each year to approve or reject further projects aimed at rehabbing the stormwater and sewer infrastructure as a whole.
To Siegel, the best course is to proceed with the CIP at an affordable pace and give property owners the option of repairing their laterals while the street is open.
O'Connor said the board should re-examine the CIP to make sure the village is "solving the problems in the most productive way that minimizes the impact financially on individual residents."
When it comes to managing the village's budget, which has been squeezed in recent years as a result of state-imposed levy limits, Siegel said the village should partner with other local governments and community groups. She said all services should be on the table when it comes to consolidation talks.
"You're sort of hemmed in, and being creative, and partnering with other communities to cost save, I think those are the two things that are always on the managers' minds, and the board's mind," Siegel said.
O'Connor said the board should review the budget "with a fine-toothed comb" and aggressively seek out grant funding. She favors consolidations in concept and said she would propose more conversations with the school district.
"I'm open to exploring it, because saving money for the taxpayer is always a good idea," O'Connor said of a police merger, "but the devil's in the details."
On the ongoing and extensive dialogue concerning the use of pesticides and "green" turf management at village parks and open spaces, O'Connor said she is pleased with the recent creation of the turf management committee, though there needs to be further review of village policies.
She encourages a more aggressive use of aeration.
"There's sort of a fallacy out there that natural turf care is the same as no turf care," O'Connor said. "That's not the case. We have to take care of it."
Siegel, too, said she is pleased by the collaborative committee, which she hopes can come up with a solution at a reasonable cost to taxpayers.
"This is an issue that's going to be evolving over time," Siegel said. "It's an issue that's going to take some compromise."
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