As announced a few weeks ago, we have a race for Whitefish Bay Village Board President. Katie Pritchard is seeking her 3rd three-year term and is being challenged by Doug Weas.
While the NorthShoreNOW covered the Village Board races .. it dedicated about 3 sentences to each candidate. That’s where this blog comes in, as I will try to interview each of the five candidates running for the three spots on our Board of Trustees, and give them ample space to talk about the issues.
I sat down with Katie Pritchard and interviewed her for about an hour this Sunday. To date, I’ve interviewed three other candidates, all new-comers to the Whitefish Bay political scene. Pritchard is the first incumbent I’ve spoken to, and thus, the interview was vastly different.
We already know who Pritchard is, as she’s led the village for two terms, and has had a hand in every major decision for her 6 years in office. We remember how, in 2002, she challenged James Gormley, who held the position for a dozen years. The 2002 challenge was unusual, as Whitefish Bay had gone 55 years since an incumbent Village President had even been challenged (an amazing factoid.) Pritchard was re-elected in 2005 unopposed, but this year, a challenger, Doug Weas, has surfaced and Pritchard must defend her position.
The defense starts with commentary about the past 6 years. I asked Pritchard for her accomplishments over this period, and in all honesty, was impressed with the drumbeat of items.
She inherited a Village budget in deficit status, and has changed that to a surplus over 6 years. Pritchard has been directly involved in creating the Village’s first Community Development Authority (CDA) and Historic Preservation Commission, as well as creating a Village Financing plan, and 5-year Capital Improvement plan where none existed before. There are also new regulations about residential demolitions that were created this past term. She is also proud of her effort to fill every Village commission with new volunteers on a regular basis. (No small feat.)
While Pritchard is sensitive to Silver Spring ’s situation, she would like to point out the good changes that have occurred over 6 years. The Silver Spring business district has increased in assessed value from $36 Million to $65M. She explained that some businesses on The Drive have had their best years ever, and while there are vacancies, new businesses have entered the village in recent history, from the Balia Wellness Center, to Hounds Around Town, and Milwaukee’s Finest Guitars to name a few, and nearly every building strip on Silver Spring has taken advantage of the façade improvement program the Village funds.
We spoke briefly about the status of the most recent story about Silver Spring and its redevelopment, concerning an Aurora Clinic moving in to the current Talbot’s/Famous Footwear location. In October of last year, the Board had voted to initiate Eminent Domain unless the property owners submitted a proposal that fit the Community Development Authority's master plan for the business district. Since none was submitted, I asked Pritchard what had happened. “Eminent Domain needs 4 votes on the board. We have 3,” Pritchard explained. I also asked what the chances are that Aurora would win approval, and with a wink, she said “Well, Aurora is usually pretty successful with this kind of thing.”
Pritchard does believe the Talbot’s property is a “stronghold” and she would like to see a vibrant Silver Sprint business district, with multiple restaurants and residences for empty-nesters who could take advantage of the shopping and grocery offerings on the block. She agrees that a Business Improvement District would be great, but it has been voted down (by the business owners) in the past. "I believe that the most successful redevelopment efforts require a partnership between businesses and government," with business in the lead, not the Village Board.
Finally, we did speak about what I had written, concerning her Bay Leaves column, where I’d suggested that there is a lack of information and communication in Whitefish Bay that should be addressed. Pritchard defended her position, and listed her efforts to inform the Villagers, with quarterly Bay Leaves and monthly “Saturday Morning Coffee” with the Village President, which has been attended by as many as 45 people. Pritchard believes it is the responsibility of the citizenry to be informed, and to seek out information on their own.
I wish to thank Katie for taking the time to talk with me. I will have an interview with Doug Weas up tomorrow.