Mayor Katie Rosenberg


(First published in the April 16, 2020 issue of City Pages)

Wausau mayor-elect Katie Rosenberg’s succinct tweet about the vote went viral

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Katie Rosenberg expressed her surprise at the results of last week’s election, announced Monday afternoon. “HOLY BALLS,” she wrote on Twitter. All caps.

The tweet went viral as Rosenberg won over incumbent mayor Robert Mielke, who was seeking his second term. Actor Bradley Whitford, known for his role on the TV series West Wing, retweeted it, saying “Katie Rosenberg’s response today after being named Mayor-elect of Wausau is why I love Wisconsin.”

Rosenberg defeated Mielke in a tight race, 4,936 to 4,467. Mielke disappeared from public view after Monday’s election result came in. He did not grant an interview after the election and did not appear at Tuesday’s city council meeting, which he would ordinarily preside over. Citing Mielke’s desire to take time off, council President Lisa Rasmussen announced Tuesday that she would be acting mayor until Rosenberg is sworn in next week Tuesday, April 21.

Watch Katie Rosenberg on the Keep it Wausome podcast:

No one was able to reach Mielke for comment until Wednesday afternoon. He told City Pages he initially planned to use vacation time for his last week in office, but changed his mind and will be at City Hall to help with the transition.

“It has been an honor and privilege to have served as Wausau’s mayor,” Mielke said in an email to City Pages Wednesday afternoon. “While I am disappointed at the election results, I can say that I was always honest, treated all people decently, always gave it my best effort (and under some tough circumstances and individuals!!!) and have made and left Wausau in much better and positive position than 4 years ago.”

Rosenberg ran her campaign on a platform of creating an overarching strategy for Wausau, as well as reforms to the city’s economic development process.

Mielke, who will now finish out his only term in office after serving on the city council and its president, faced criticism over foibles with Riverlife, the city’s flagship development project, and criticism for a high debt load. But Wausau under Mielke also achieved multiple years of record new construction growth, surpassing other cities in the state. And city hall in-fighting common among the previous administration seemed to largely subside.

Watch Robert Mielke on the Keep it Wausome podcast:

The city council will also see five new faces:

•   Dist. 3: Tom Kilian defeated incumbent David Nutting

•   Dist. 5: James Wadzinkski defeated Joel Lewis

•   Dist. 8: Sarah Watson defeated former mayor and incumbent Linda Lawrence

•   Dist. 10: Lou Larson defeated Sherry Abitz

•   Dist. 11: Debra Ryan defeated Patrick Bacher

Incumbents Pat Peckham (1), Michael Martens (2), Tom Neal (4) and Lisa Rasmussen (7) held their seats.