Sturgeon Bay residents should feel relieved that so many people who care about the community want to serve on the common council.
Six of the eight people running for seats on the city’s common council took part in the Feb. 27 candidate forum held by the League of Women Voters of Door County.
Former alderman Dan Wiegand, who hopes to regain the 1st District seat that he had for a decade but lost 136-88 to challenger Kelly Catarozoli in 2015, was unable to attend the forum, but was allowed to have a statement read, in which he accused Catarozoli of not supporting the growth of Bay Ship, a charge she refuted in her summary statement.
District 5 write-in candidate Barbara Allmann also did not appear at the forum, but that was due to organizational by-laws, explained Barb Graul of LWV of Door County.
The candidates in attendance included 1st District incumbent Catarozoli; District 3 incumbent David Ward and challenger Martha Scully-Beller; newcomer Brian Peterson, running for the 5th District seat which is being vacated by Jerry Stults; and Laurel Hauser and Joe McMahon, running for the 7th District seat being vacated by Will Gregory.
LWV candidate forums begin with each candidate giving a two-minute introduction, followed by each of them answering the same series of written questions from the audience, and ending with a five-minute summation from each person.
Questions ranged from the inevitable (What is your vision for the westside waterfront property?) to speculative (How do you plan to maintain economic stability and quality of life when projections for growth and development are marginal?) to both speculative and a waste of time (Where would you build affordable workforce housing?).
Rather than repeat every answer, we chose some highlights from each candidate. You can view the entire forum on Sturgeon Bay Public Access, sbtv.viebit.com.
Kelly Catarozoli: She opened by saying she ran in 2015 because “I wanted to see a more welcome atmosphere for the public and I wasn’t seeing that.” If re-elected, she said her first priority would be to resolve some of the issues in her district, which includes Bay Ship. She mentioned that her opponent has said that she opposes the growth of Bay Ship, but she said she has just been voicing the concerns of her constituents when she mentions that Bay Ship parking lots need to be paved to stop neighborhood dust storms. She mentioned that as a business owner (she owns a B&B) she hears both the good and bad about the city. She said she would like to see a more welcoming atmosphere for people who come to council meetings. She also suggested the city should look into becoming a Premier Resort Area, which would allow the imposition of an extra 0.5 percent sales tax, which could only be used for infrastructure improvements. She also pointed out that while the city and county make a big deal about attracting and retaining young people to Door County, she and her friends are the very same people everyone says they want here, yet it seems no one is listening to them. “You say you want to bring them,” she said, “then you’ve got to listen to what they say. If you’re not prepared to do that, don’t pretend you want them to come.”
Martha Scully-Beller: A 32-year resident of Sturgeon Bay and a business owner, she said she wants to see more open communication between the city and public. She said the city should operate more like a service provider. She said it would be hard to find another community of this size with so much going on. Her response to the question about the westside waterfront development was that perhaps a bigger vision is needed. “This is our chance to shine,” she said. The city also needs to market itself better to a broader range of people, she said.
David Ward: Ward won a 4-2 vote in the common council last July to serve out the term of 3rd District Alderman Ed Ireland, who left the council due to health reasons. Ward spent most of his life in academics, first as a professor of finance at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Oshkosh, and then in various administrative posts until his retirement in 2000, at which time he founded NorthStar Economics. He has lived in Sturgeon Bay for more than 15 years, and is a past board member and chair of the Door County Economic Development Corp. Ward said there are three main issues he would like to focus on: the city and county’s shrinking population, poor road conditions, and economic development. He also wants to see a greater focus on maintaining the manufacturing base, which is the strongest sector of the county’s economy, followed by agriculture and then tourism. He suggested more marketing aimed not at vacationing here but coming here to work and build a home and fill the schools.
Brian Peterson: Peterson described himself as a Sturgeon Bay native who has spent his career in finance and accounting. “Waterfront development is what inspired me to look at this position and help Sturgeon Bay,” he said, later adding that he is “a big believer in the waterfront development” and a backer of the hotel proposal. “I really do believe in the hotel. I do,” he said. “I think that’s the right thing that should be there.”
Laurel Hauser: Hauser, editor of the Washington Island Observer, and, as a matter of full disclosure, a sometimes contributor to the Peninsula Pulse and Door County Living, had the most thoughtful and meaningful answers to questions. Her experience also includes serving as general manager of The White Gull Inn, 15 years with the Door County Land Trust, co-chair of the group that raised half a million dollars for the Sturgeon Bay skate park, and former member of the Sturgeon Bay Plan Commission. When asked to name her priorities, she mentioned embracing a culture of transparency, paying more attention to the rich history of the area, addressing the need for affordable housing, seeing to the needs of the disadvantaged in the community and having city government be more welcoming to young professionals in Sturgeon Bay. On the question of westside waterfront development, she said she is not opposed to development there, but it must follow the law. “Saving the best of what you have is not in opposition to economic development,” she said. “They go together.”
Joe McMahon: McMahon spent his career in education, first as a teacher, principal and then district administrator of the Sevastopol School District for 14 years. Upon retirement from public education, he spent 11 years as manager of the Bayshore Inn, and retired from that full-time position in December. He also spent more than 20 years on the board of the Door County Medical Center. “I would be tolerant and respectful, but I would expect the same in return,” he said. He is all for settling the lawsuit on the westside development and moving on. McMahon said people have asked him why he would pursue such a thankless job as city alderman. “I disagree,” he said. “I want to work to make the city better.”