Mayoral showdown

The gloves came off as challenger Katie Rosenberg took on incumbent Wausau Mayor Robert Mielke in their first major public debate ahead of the April 7 election

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Incumbent Mayor Robert Mielke clashed with challenger Katie Rosenberg at their first major candidate forum last week.

It took about ten minutes into a debate with current Mayor Robert Mielke before challenger Katie Rosenberg took the gloves off. The topic was debt.

Rosenberg pulled out an information page that comes with a property tax bill, listing what percentage of taxes pay for categories of city services. According to the explainer, 21.75% goes to city debt. She then pointed out that former Madison mayor Paul Soglin was criticized for having a debt ratio of 17%, when best practices are around 12.5%. “We need to get that understood, and find a better way to spend money,” Rosenberg replied.

So began a more than one-hour debate Feb. 5 at the Terrace Room at UWSP-Wausau’s campus. The 50-seat room was filled to standing room capacity with people being let in and out as some left early, and with an overflow room. Some simply left for lack of room, organizers said, demonstrating interest in the mayor’s race is strong.

The crowd was a demonstration of the interest in the mayoral race. Rosenberg will take on Mielke in the spring election Tuesday, April 7. This race won’t require a runoff in the Feb. 18 primary, after a third announced candidate, Chris Norfleet, eventually chose to run for District 1 alderman instead. (This debate was scheduled months ago with a primary in mind).

Mielke use Wednesday’s forum to tout his turnaround of city hall, saying the infighting at city hall has ceased and saying the city is going in a “good, positive direction.” Mielke has pointed out several years of record or near-record new construction growth in the city.

Rosenberg pointed out at a forum for west side business leaders recently, that new growth has come at the expense of debt.

Mielke touted improved relationships with surrounding communities, but Rosenberg says she has attended numerous city council meetings and only remembers Mielke at one county meeting — and that was to ask for part of the county’s wheel tax revenue, which isn’t allowed by law.

Rosenberg and Mielke will face off in a battle for mayor Tuesday, April 7. In addition, nine of the 11 city council seats and 11 of the 38 county board seats will have contested races in April. One city council race has a primary on Feb. 18.