October 22, 2019 – West Bend, WI – A bit of a strange twist at Monday night’s West Bend Common Council meeting.
Two new police officers took the oath of office, there was some spirited discussion on the budget, a rare tie vote on the budget question for the Nov. 11 public hearing and then after the council returned from closed session Mayor Kraig Sadownikow announced his resignation, effective immediately.
Aldermen and city staffers were stunned.
“I’m shocked and a little disappointed for the city,” said District 5 alderman Rich Kasten.
Sadownikow said in a statement:
“I will be resigning as Mayor at the end of the Council meeting tonight. As you may know, I have been working hard to recruit a Marriott TownePlace and Office Building to the former Gehl HQ property.
The developers represent organizations I have worked with for more than 15 years on about a dozen hotels in multiple states along with also owning and operating office buildings together.
“I sought legal advice from the City Attorney as well as personally engaging two local law firms to give me their opinions on how to remain Mayor and have an active and personal role in the development.
None of the legal opinions are crystal clear and none of the advice sits well with me, except the option of resigning as Mayor so I am not involved with the upcoming City approval process. I am having to choose between my business life and my service life. In this case, the two scenarios cannot proceed together, and I won’t risk the good reputation of either by operating with any ambiguity.”
His career and political position were recently highlighted by WISN talk show host Mark Belling, who felt the mayor was walking a fine line with regard to the Marriott TownePlace development and his seat as mayor.
“Today I turned in a disclosure of non-candidacy to the City Clerk’s office,” said Sadownikow as he read from a prepared statement. “In general I’m a supporter of term limits in all levels of government and I believe a founding principle of our nation is that those with the ability should run for office, try to make a positive difference and then step aside and be critiqued by the next group of citizen servants.
“I’m proud to have been mayor of West Bend for three terms and I will certainly look back at the time invested serving my hometown with pride,” he said.
Several times during his presentation, Sadownikow paused to collect himself as he discussed the position of mayor, his business and family.
“Wow,” said Dist. 7 alderman Justice Madl after the Mayor completed his 7-minute speech.
Several members of the council including Dist. 1 alderman John Butchlick, thanked the mayor for his service. “It’s been six years since I’ve been under you and I want to tell you it’s been a joy and I’ve learned an awful lot. I hate to see you go but good luck in your new fate,” he said.
Staffers were equally shocked and emotional following the announcement. “He hired me four years ago,” said City Clerk Stephanie Justmann. “He’s a great leader for the city.”
Neighbors in West Bend who heard the news during the live broadcast of the council meeting and on social media were equally surprised by the news.
Former West Bend alderman Jim German wrote “What???” immediately after he heard the news.
“I’ve worked for the Mayor for three years and it’s going to be a big loss for the City of West Bend. The Mayor has done a lot for the City and I’m just pleased to know he has his heart in the right place,” said City Administrator Jay Shambeau.
“He’s a man of integrity,” said Dist. 6 alderman Steve Hoogester. “He wanted to make sure everything is crystal clear; not violating any rules, any ethical laws, any violations and he felt in his gut he had to do what he had to do and I applaud him for that.”
Hoogester said it will be up to the common council to determine how to fill the position of mayor in the short term until the April 7, 2020 election.