GREENFIELD — Both the mayor and his challenger in the April 4 election agree that city government must be run like a business, but they differ on how to go forward with that.
Mayor Michael Neitzke said the city is already on a firm business footing. Even though he has learned over the years how to do more with less, Greenfield's major city departments are copied by other communities, he said. However to build on that base, he wants to explore partnering with the Whitnall and Greenfield school districts to find ways to collaborate and save money, as they all did on a new shared fiber optics network, he said.
Challenger Ben Rucka, a retired businessman, said he would build on what the city already has by instituting budget and purchasing controls that he hopes would lower operating costs. He also would establish a rewards program for employees or residents offering cost-saving suggestions, he said.
Neitzke has served as Greenfield's mayor since 2005. Before that, he was an investigator, trial attorney, administrative and legal affairs manager/general counsel at a manufacturing company. He is a Greenfield native.
Rucka founded Instant Data System LLC , a custom software solution provider to small and medium sizes businesses throughout the country. For 18 years, he was in business management at Eaton Cutler-Hammer, was plant manager at AMF Paragon of Two Rivers, Wisconsin and director of operations, Gentron Corp., Milwaukee. Rucka has lived in Greenfield for 45 years.
Development is key in their campaign messages. Neitzke said he he will continue to concentrate on development opportunities, noting having courted the massive 84South shopping, restaurant and residential development under construction on Layton Avenue. He also noted development of the Meijer Supercenter that will soon open at 60th Street and Layton Avenue.
Rucka said he would form an economic development team and would seek to improve business relationships with developers and business owners, focus on reducing the number of commercial vacancies and encourage quality development.
The mayoral candidates answered three questions:
What would your top priority be as mayor and how would you work toward achieving it?
Michael Neitzke: Continue to run the city in a business-like fashion providing the best services in the most cost effective manner. Continue to improve amenities I’ve started like the farmers’ market, amphitheater, community center, parks, and library. Forge stronger relationships with the Greenfield and Whitnall school districts. Continue concentrated economic development efforts.
Ben Rucka: With strong and direct leadership, I will implement budgetary and purchasing controls on all departments to lower city operating cost. Establish an incentivize cost-reduction and profit-increasing revenue suggestion program that rewards creative employee/residents based on value of suggestion. Savings to offset current $66+ million debt.
What background, skills, outlooks do you bring to the table?
Neitzke: Born and raised in Greenfield. Strong legal, managerial, strategic, and financial skill-set. I have demonstrated the drive, determination and passion to do one thing: Make Greenfield a Better Place. I understand strength comes from long-term investments and decision-making. I am always and everywhere a strong advocate for our hometown.
Rucka: Have a can-do attitude, vast knowledge and practical experience in business/operational management and financial/budgetary control. My life experiences and training have provided me, I believe, the ability to see a need, vision a solution, establish a plan of action, get budgetary approval containing cost, benefits and monitor implementation.
Would you like to see new approaches taken or is the city on the right track? If so, why do you feel that way?
Neitzke: Improvement never stops. I strive to do more with less, and have. Our practices at public works, IT, police, and fire are copied by others. Our farmers market and new amphitheater bring amenities to Greenfield. Committed to great long-term economic development like 84South and 60th/Layton. Continuing commitment to neighborhoods/schools.
Rucka: The city is missing high visitor traffic on 894, highway 100 and 27th Street. I would formulate a robust economic development team and improve business relationships with developers and business owners. Concentrate on reducing high the level of commercial vacancies, condemn dilapidated buildings, and encourage five-star restaurants/hotels. Enhance the city.
Michael Neitzke (inc.)
Address: 4730 W. Abbott Ave.
Political history: Mayor 2005-present; Greenfield alderperson, 1998-2005; vice-chair/secretary Intergovernmental Cooperation Council (current); Milwaukee Aerotropolis board member (current)
Phone number: 414-324-2132
Address: 5223 S. 49th St.
Political history: First try for public office; alternate on the Greenfield Community Development Authority; former officer for the 27th Street Business Association and for the Greenfield Chamber of Commerce
Phone number: 414-751-4901