'Humbled' Mlada Earns Victory in Port Washington Mayoral Race
The Port Washington mayoral race wasn't the only close one in Tuesday's election, which also saw a higher level of participation than usual, as well as an extra dose of partisan thinking.
Turnout was solid and races were competitive throughout Port Washington and Saukville on Tuesday as voters chose a new mayor, two aldermen and school board members, on top of voting in the presidential primaries.
"I'm beyond excited and obviously very humbled and honored; I’m very energized," Mlada said after learning of his victory. "My commitment is to Port Washington … to its residents, to business leaders, to property owners, to council at the city staff — and that’s everybody, whether you voted for me or not."
While Vollmar was obviously disappointed that he won’t be taking the reins as the next city leader, he still had a positive outlook on its future.
"I'm disappointed and I remain an alderman and I’m sure I can work with (Tom)," Vollmar said. "He said during his campaign he could move the city forward, and I’m going to hold him to his word."
Mlada said he thinks working with the entire council, including Vollmar, will lead to a lot of great things for the city.
"The brighter days that are even forthcoming are because of the work that the (council and city staff) collectively have done — I’ve been very fortunate in the sense that I’ve been able to partner with, already, and create effective relationships with (all council members) and I look forward to working with all of them," Mlada said. "Jim’s a part of that, I certainly look forward to working closely with him … I’ve certainly tried really hard to make sure he knows I am grateful for his service and in that regard I’m hopeful it will be a great partnership."
Port aldermanic seats see little change
There were two contested aldermanic races for the Port Washington Common Council, and incumbents will fill both spots.
Incumbent David Larson faced newcomer Tim Schwister in the race for the 6th District alderman. Larson, who has been on the council for four years, won with a 197-91 margin, 67 percent of the vote.
"I think people appreciate the things I've done to represent them and they've given me the opportunity to continue to do that, and I'm very grateful and humbled,” Larson said. "I'm proud of my voting record and I'll continue along that same path and continue to work hard to build the downtown and expand upon what we've done. I want to work on developing the coal dock and making Port even more of a destination than it is now."
Incumbents Paul Neumyer and Burt Babcock faced each other in the race for the 2nd District alderman spot, after being pitted against each other because of redistricting last year. Babcock had served in what was formerly the 4th District. Neumyer won by a 220-175 margin.
"I didn't like being pitted against another incumbent,” Neumyer said after results came in on Tuesday. “Burt Babcock is a really nice man who has been very dedicated to the city, so I take no enjoyment in beating him. … Now I'm going to have to convince the other residents who voted for Burt that I can represent them. The most important part is being responsive to constituents' concerns when they have them and mediating problems they might have."
Babcock shared the sense of regret that the situation even existed in the first place.
“I just want to wish Paul all the best, and … he certainly was complimentary with what he had to say about the work that I had done and things that he had done for me,” Babcock said. “If something is available I would certainly like to continue to work on something with city.”
Douglas Biggs was the only person to run in the vacated 4th District, and takes the seat with 145 votes. There was one write-in vote in his race.
School Board welcomes two new members
The Port Washington-Saukville School Board race was a big one, with six candidates vying for three positions and a lot of controversial debates surrounding teacher contracts and other fiscal issues.
In the end, Michelle Mueller and Brenda Fristch came out on top for the two seats representing the city of Port. Mueller had 2,028 votes and Fristch had 1,700. Losing candidates Ross Larsson and Earl Kelley had 1,632 votes and 1,587 votes, respectively.
"I just want to stress my thanks to all those that supported me not only at the polls but also with signs and everything throughout the campaign," Fristch said. "Right now, I’m excited to serve Port Washington and the students … and I really look forward to continuing the great education that is established here in Port."
Mueller did not return a call seeking comment on Tuesday night, but Fritsch said she knows Mueller personally and looks forward to serving with her.
"I think she’s a wonderful person and it will be good to serve with someone that I do have a lot of respect for," Fritsch said.
For the Saukville seat, incumbent Carey Gremminger walked away with the win with 2,127 votes over newcomer John Soper’s 1,466.
"I'm really happy to be able to continue to serve the community the way I've always done,” Gremming said. "We have a lot of positive things to celebrate and we stuck to the positive parts of the campaign, sharing the wonderful things that we've done fiscally and for our district. … We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we're in the middle of a lot of projects, so it's back to business as usual."
Nonpartisan races get political
Port Washington City Adminstrator Mark Grams said the city typically sees about one-third of its voting population hit the polls.
“The State GAB estimated the turnout at 35 percent and I think we’ll hit that and may even go to 40 percent,” Grams said on Tuesday afternoon. “I think the presidential primary and local elections are causing the higher than expected turnout.”
There are about 7,000 eligible voters in Port Washington, according to Deputy Clerk Susan Westerbecke; there were 2,936 total votes in the city on Tuesday.
And the presidential primary as well as the political turmoil that has been rippling through Wisconsin for more than a year now, likely influenced voters at the polls to come with partisan thoughts this election season — despite the fact that mayoral and school board races are nonpartisan.
“I basically went full Republican,” said John Love, a Saukville resident.
Volunteering for conservative candidates outside Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Craig Simmons was talking to voters about candidates’ party affiliations, and passing out flyers advocating for Larsson, Kelley and Soper.
"A lot of people say, 'Thank you, I did not know who to vote for,'" Simmons said.
Wearing a baseball cap with a graphic of the Republican elephant, Simmons said several voters came to him with questions.
"It's especially refreshing when people make a beeline for me when they see the cap and say, 'Oh, you're a Republican; who are you supporting?'" Simmons said. "Party affiliation is everything."
In order to discern a candidate’s political leanings, at least one voter, Saukville resident Dave Kempin, said he used verifytherecall.com to find who not to vote for.
Politics even played a strong role in the School Board race for some voters. Port Washington resident Erik Halling said he voted for Larsson because he thought he was the most fiscally conservative.