Whitefish Bay — Come the April 1 spring election, incumbents Tara Serebin and Garry Davis will attempt to stave off former write-in candidate Will Demet for two seats on the Village Board.
Serebin, 48, is a 21-year village resident who was appointed to the board last year when trustee Lauri Rollings stepped down. Serebin has a bachelor's in elementary education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master's in curriculum and instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She was a longtime elementary and substitute teacher before taking on the executive director post at the nonprofit Peace Learning Center of Milwaukee. She is married with two children.
Davis, 56, has lived in Bay for 15 years and is two years into his first term on the board. He grew up on an Iowa farm before earning a bachelor's in German, French and political science at the Central University of Iowa and a master's and PhD in Germanic languages from the University of Michigan. Davis is a professor of linguistics at UWM, is married, and has two children.
In 2011, Demet entered the local political scene at the age of 19 with an unsuccessful bid for the Village Board as a write-in candidate. Demet, 22, has spent nearly his entire life in Bay with the exception of the three years he spent at Marquette University earning a degree in political science and history. Since graduation, Demet has landed a job as a researcher at nonprofit advocacy firm School Choice Wisconsin and purchased a Whitefish Bay home last year.
Demet said his involvement with state policy-makers and time in Whitefish Bay make him well suited to the role of trustee.
He views his youth as an asset.
"I represent the next generation of people in Whitefish Bay, who are going to come here and live and buy and raise families" Demet said. "It's an important voice that should be heard in village government."
Though Davis' current term isn't up until 2015, he said he has three more years to commit to public service and would rather have someone appointed to fill his seat through 2015 and secure the seat up for grabs in April.
Davis said he would advocate that the board hold listening sessions to hear from residents and encourage more dialogue between trustees and residents at regular meetings.
"A little give and take if possible," Davis said. "Others boards do it."
Serebin said she got into village politics after her home flooded three times in 2010, and has been an active attendant of board meetings. She said the village should do more to communicate with residents about projects that affect them.
"We need to make sure that what we put out is easily understood," Serebin said, "so that if people are interested they can understand what the issue is."
On keeping the budget in check, Davis said the village has been generous with salary increases and should be more in line with other municipalities in the state.
He said he would be willing to explore consolidations on services like public works, but police would be off limits.
"The different villages within the North Shore have different levels of needs and types of needs," Davis said.
Demet said the village should review all budget proposals going forward to stay within state-mandated levy limits.
"I think those limits are there for a reason," Demet said. "In Whitefish Bay, people don't want to pay any more in property taxes."
Demet added that the village "shouldn't skimp on police" and that he is opposed to a police merger.
Serebin similarly commented, "my gut reaction is that I'd do everything I could not to consolidate police, but I try to be open-minded. If that was proposed I'd obviously take a hard look at it."
She said that when it comes to big-picture budgeting she would have to prioritize the ongoing infrastructure work.
On the village's 15-year capital improvement plan, largely aimed at the stormwater and sewer systems, all three candidates said the village will have to balance the effectiveness of the projects with the cost to taxpayers.
Businesses and Silver Spring
When it comes to attracting and keeping businesses on Silver Spring, Demet said the village needs to pay attention.
"The best way to keep businesses here is to listen to businesses' concerns," Demet said. "There isn't a blanket policy, but you always have to have your ears open and be listening."
Davis said the board should work on streamlining the permitting process to be more business-friendly and could work with the Business Improvement District to broker deals on necessary building updates.
"I'm against the idea of trying to regulate and plan everything," Davis said. "Free enterprise is the way to go, as long as you get all the players to the table."
Serebin said the board needs to have an ongoing dialogue with the BID.
"We need to have kind of an open door policy," Serebin said, "and help them facilitate improvements they see out on the street."
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