Chronicle: Wausau’s poor performance should not be accepted as routine

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By Keene Winters

We are in mid-July and the town hall finds itself in the middle of yet another controversy. One developer, T. Wall Enterprises, has staked its rights to sue Wausau for failed waterfront development. And, again, no word from our mayor on what’s next.

Keene Winters is a Wausau financial advisor who served two terms on the Wausau City Council from April 2012 to April 2016. (Photo Credit: Life Touch)

Several weeks ago, I wrote a letter asking Mayor Katie Rosenberg to share her plan to make City Hall a better place in an editorial. We are still waiting, despite many possibilities for an answer. In particular, the Mayor and Council held a strategic planning retreat at the end of June. One would have hoped that this would have triggered the drafting of some sort of plan that the mayor could tell us about.

However, it seems that the meeting has gone astray. Topics like the I-39 billboard or the hiring of a city administrator were never discussed. On the contrary, the main recommendation likely to come out of the meeting is that the city should hire a director of communications for 40 hours a week. Presumably, this would take away all the “bad press”, and you would be fine.

Ironically, the last thing you would expect our mayor to need help with is communications. Rosenberg holds a master’s degree in strategic public relations from Georgetown University. Communication should be his forte. On the other hand, his curriculum vitae shows little experience in managing and coaching people. It’s the oversight of work products and the professional development of her direct reports that she seems to struggle with. Obviously, a city administrator would be a much better choice to complement his administration.

As uncomfortable as it may be, it is always the weaknesses that require our attention. In the 1990s, I had the privilege of serving as a state and national officer in the Jaycees. In addition to the specific ministerial duties required by the positions, considerable time was spent visiting local chapters and serving as a sounding board and coach for local club presidents. One of my observations at the time was that a person could become Chapter President based on a single strength. He or she might be a good person. He or she could be a very well organized person. That would be enough to be elected.

Then, once in office, it would be the personal weaknesses of the president that would cause conflicts in his organization. The people people needed to become better planners. The organizers needed to hone their people skills. In other words, being a good leader always meant becoming more complete. Good leaders often have to take steps to shore up their weaknesses.

Wake up Wausau is a good rallying cry. The town hall is a toxic and devouring environment. I have been there. It’s easy to get caught up in daily squabbles and lose perspective on reality. Misbehavior and performance lapses are accepted as routine. The city can continue to go into debt without limit. Until citizens start pressuring their elected officials to bring in an outside administrator to right the ship, we will continue to sink into this dysfunctional quagmire with truly disastrous consequences for this wonderful community.

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