Ehley takes mayoral win

Peter Zuzga
City of Wauwatosa Mayoral Candidate Kathy Ehley reacts with supporters as voting results are posted during her election night party in the Radison Hotel Tuesday, April 3, 2012, in Wauwatosa, Wis.
Published on: 4/4/2012

Kathy Ehley is the next mayor of Wauwatosa, having won 58 percent of the vote.

She defeated opponent Peter Donegan in Tuesday's election.

"It feels surreal, but I have a real calm about it," she said. "It feels like the natural next step."

She will serve a four-year term and earn an annual salary of $30,000, thanks to a raise passed by the Common Council before the race started.

The vote total, according to unofficial results Tuesday:

Kathy Ehley 7,241

Peter Donegan 5,177

Election results remain unofficial until they are certified by the board of canvassers, which met Wednesday, after press deadline.

More than 42 percent of Wauwatosa voters turned out to cast a ballot in Tuesday's election.

New BID director needed

Ehley has spent the past five years leading the Village Business Improvement District as executive director. She will continue to hold that post for a few months until a replacement can be found and become acclimated.

"It's important to keep things going," she said.

During her time as BID director, the Village has become a destination for shopping, dining and recreation not only for residents but also drawing dollars from outside the community.

BID Board Chairman Chris Leffler called Ehley "a bridge of communication for our district with City Hall" and has mixed feelings about her new position.

"It's bittersweet," he said. "It's a great thing for the city but she's really had a tremendous impact here. Hopefully she can carry on and take that success to the entire city."

Meanwhile, the BID board is seeking applicants for the next executive director. The position, due to Ehley's tenacity, has changed from one of event planning and marketing to one of strategic leadership. The next director will lead the way in implementing the Village master plan and seeing the district through the road construction projects that will occur over the next eight to 10 years, Leffler said.

Setting priorities

Ehley is contemplating her first priorities as she make the move to the mayoral office. First up, she'll sit down and talk with outgoing Mayor Eric Meaux - who has served since Jill Didier's December departure - to ensure a smooth transition.

Ehley also will need to connect with the aldermen to learn about their interests and areas of expertise so she can make numerous committee appointments.

Moving toward reducing the council size - as was advised in a referendum vote Tuesday - will also have her looking at the existing number of boards, commissions and committees and whether some restructuring is in order.

"We need an assessment of our entire operation and what we see working as we go forward," Ehley said.

Other short-term goals include getting a sustainability plan off the ground and building up more communication between City Hall and Tosa residents.

Donegan to remain alderman

Donegan congratulated Ehley and offered her his assistance as she takes office. He will retain his seat representing the 1st District as alderman for the next two years.

"I am deeply honored by the support my campaign received and pledge that as an alderman for the next two years I will work for everything I stood for on the mayoral campaign," he said. "That campaign is over and the new mayor and council now face many challenges and you can count on me to be a constructive and collegial participant."

Ehley thanked her supporters and shared her joy over the win Tuesday during her campaign celebration at Jimmy's Island Grill and Iguana Bar within the Radisson Hotel.

"This was a huge team effort, so many people came forth to help," she said.

As the race neared its end, she battled bronchitis and found nearly 80 volunteers stepping up to help on deliver campaign literature to 14,000 homes.