By Roger Utnehmer
Insiders versus outsiders is how eight candidates for three seats on the Sturgeon Bay city council were divided at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters Monday night.
Incumbent council members Stewart Fett and Richard Wiesner were joined by former mayor and council member Robert Starr and former council member John Lodl as experienced inside participants in local government.
Outside newcomers to local politics included four other candidates who are taking on the current politics-as-usual in city hall. Criticism of a council majority which voted to raze the west-side waterfront granary and Mayor Thad Birmingham’s scheduling of daytime rather than evening meetings were voiced by several candidates during the forum.
Challengers new to city government include David Hayes in District 2.
Hayes faces off in a February 20th primary election against former mayor Robert Starr and former council member John Lodl. Hayes says “fiscal mismanagement is the biggest issue in Sturgeon Bay.”
Kelly Avenson is running against incumbent Richard Wiesner in District 4. Avenson supports a return to evening council meetings and efforts to preserve the west-side waterfront granary. Wiesner said at the forum he wants to save the granary. He was one of the four votes creating a council majority that voted recently to raze the structure.
In District 6, incumbent Stewart Fett faces a primary contest from Lauri Fish and Seth Wiederanders. Fish said she is running because she’s seen “a desperate need for new leadership” and says how the granary issue was handled is a “disregard of the will of the people.” She also said city funds are being misused and the city mismanaged.
Starr defended the current administration saying the city’s credit rating is excellent. According to Starr, money is very well managed in Sturgeon Bay.
Two candidates, David Hayes and John Lodl, spoke out against the proposed half-percent sales tax to fund city street and sidewalk expenses that will be voted on in April.
A primary election on February 20th will narrow the field of candidates in Districts 2 and 6 to just two candidates. The general election will be held on April 3rd.
The entire LofWV forum is available for viewing on the City of Sturgeon Bay public access television service.