Editorial: Whealon best choice for mayor

By: 

Leader Staff

On Tuesday, Shawano voters will head to the polls to elect their mayor for the next two years. Incumbent Jeanne Cronce, seeking a second term, faces former police chief Ed Whealon for the opportunity to lead the city through 2020.

Regardless of which candidate prevails, Shawano finds itself in an enviable position as both candidates are community-minded, dedicated and selfless individuals who have a true love for the city.

How then, should voters decide which candidate deserves their vote? Both are popular members of the community, but will this be a popularity contest, or will substantive issues facing Shawano guide voters?

The Shawano Leader’s editorial board tackled these questions long and hard as we contemplated our endorsement for mayor. We took into consideration all of the information made available during the mayoral forum and debate and in private interviews with both candidates. We weighed several factors.

• Two years is a short time for anyone to implement meaningful change. Should the incumbent be granted two more years?

• History shows the mayor’s position becomes whatever its occupant wishes it to be — either an ambassador or an interactive manager directly involved in the city’s operations. What do today’s challenging times require?

• Which candidate seemed best equipped to bring order and focus to ensuring economic development efforts that will be unified and proactive?

• As the city looks to stabilize long-term borrowing and revenue sources, which candidate has committed to managing the challenging needs of the city’s desire for growth yet limited by financial constraints on the horizon?

• The largest property tax increase this past year placed a severe burden on taxpayers who understand the need to invest in the future but perhaps at a more modest rate of increase.

After lively discussion in reviewing these issues, we believe Ed Whealon is the candidate to lead Shawano forward.

Whealon believes the role of the mayor should be more direct and interactive with the city’s operations while Cronce’s tenure has been characterized by deferring responsibilities to city staff.

While the mayor’s position has its limitations, due to statutes, previous occupants have been hands-on managers, providing accountability and direction to city staff.

We also have concerns regarding transparency, or lack thereof, during Cronce’s first term, particularly the number of closed-session budget discussions, and the limited time given to the public to digest a proposed wheel tax and even the budget itself.

Also, the city failed to follow Wisconsin’s Open Meetings law by properly promoting the public hearing involving the euthanization of wild Canada Geese at Hucklebery Harbor and Smalley Park. While that could be blamed on the Park and Recreation Department, the mayor sets the tone for all departments.

The largest property tax increase in Shawano’s history is troubling since the city’s finances will continue to experience expense pressures, requiring continual increases in revenue streams to address growing operational costs for employee benefits, wages and other day-to-day expenses.

Whealon has explained the city must prioritize wants versus needs and live within the constraints of the revenue available. Cronce hasn’t disagreed but believes in order to grow, the city needs to invest.

We believe Whealon understands the need to weigh short-term financial management with long-term planning to facilitate growth in Shawano. The city cannot slash its way to prosperity, but instead needs to balance and plan its investments to reap dividends in the future.

We believe Ed Whealon’s approach to leading city government takes Shawano down the pathway to prosperity, accountability and success.

Be sure to cast your ballot. Every vote counts.