My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here it is:
Of all of the elections on the ballot next month in West Bend, perhaps the most interesting one is also the smallest. The voters in the 4th aldermanic district of the city of West Bend will make a choice that is symbolic in the recent history of the city’s Common Council.
For many years, West Bend’s city government had been an insular, lethargic, somewhat typical small city body where everyone seemed to go along to get along. Taxes crept up most years without much fuss and the size and scope of city government followed the trajectory that its own momentum created.
In 2007, things began to change. In the heat of a particularly obnoxious appointment for a mayoral replacement that reeked of the “good ole’ boy” network at play, many conservative citizens of West Bend decided that they had had enough and wanted their city to reflect their values. It began with the election in April 2008 when conservatives Tony Turner and Richard Lindbeck were elected to the council over the more centrist incumbents. That gave conservatives a majority on the Common Council that they have held ever since. That conservative majority has strengthened and now includes Mayor Kraig Sadownikow.
The results of conservative city leadership have been impressive. West Bend has not had a tax increase in this decade. The budget has been balanced. City debt has been reduced. Meanwhile, the police station was expanded, city services have been maintained and city employees are seeing a pay raise this year. Conservative leadership works.
The alderman for district 4, Randy Koehler, has been part of this conservative revival. He defeated one of the incumbent liberal aldermen — Nick Dobberstein, in 2011 — solidifying the conservative majority. Koehler voted for several of those no-tax-increase budgets, supported library board members whose values were more in line with the public, backed many of the positive reforms in city government and has generally been a solid conservative voice on the council.
Last year, Koehler began to shift his message about taxes. He voted against the last city budget because the ratio of debt service in that budget. Koehler also began saying that the council should consider tax increases as one of many options on the table. Koehler has never advocated for a tax increase, but he has said repeatedly that a tax increase should be considered while not offering any further solutions for otherwise balancing the budget.
In August, Koehler announced that he was not going to run for re-election. On that news, Chris Jenkins, whom Koehler defeated in the primary in 2011, stepped into the race. Koehler changed his mind in November and decided to run after all, setting up the contest between Jenkins and himself in April.
Jenkins is no stranger to running for office. At age 25, he already has two unsuccessful races under his belt including a run for mayor when he was 18. Jenkins is a vocal conservative of the libertarian bent with a passion for public service. He has recently shown his conservative mettle as the president of the West Bend Library Board. Jenkins has garnered an impressive array of endorsements including Rep. Bob Gannon, former alderman Tony Turner, Common Sense Citizens President Paula Becker, School Board members Randy Marquardt and Rick Parks, and many others.
Jenkins can add me to that list of supporters. Koehler has been a good conservative alderman who can be proud of his service to his constituents. His two terms have been marked by many achievements for which we can all be proud. But his recent openness to tax increases and lack of concrete initiatives for further reforms or economic development do not bode well for a third term. There might come a time when the Common Council will have to come to the taxpayers and ask them to approve a tax increase or risk vital city services, but we are not near that time yet.
In contrast, Jenkins’ firm stance against tax increases and passion for reform would bring a fresh perspective to the Common Council and continue the conservative revival of our city. Once again the voters of West Bend’s 4th district are privileged to choose between two conservative leaders. This time they should choose Chris Jenkins.