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City officials take office
New clerk, treasurer, alderman take oaths.

The Charter Meeting of the Milwaukee Common Council was held on Tuesday for the purpose of inaugurating City of Milwaukee elected officials and tending to other business. This quadrennial affair always finds the Great Hall of the People fully bunted and beflowered and filled with the aromas of a free buffet to come once the officials warm it up with plenty of hot air.

It is a time for family and friends to join with the elected officials in a morning of good cheer and brand-new suits. It is also a time for newly elected officials to take their oaths along with their re-elected counterparts. The staff is on its very best behavior, with police officers opening doors for visitors and staff members punching elevator call buttons.

It is such a big deal that the council met twice, first at 9 a.m. to get some personal business underway, then again at 10 a.m. for the ceremonial fun.

The first order of business was the election of a president of the council, which was accomplished rapidly and unanimously in favor of the incumbent, Ald. Willie Hines, Jr. Next up was the selection of a replacement for the retiring City Clerk, Ron Leonhardt, who was wrapping up 30 years of service in city government. Once again the choice was unanimous, in favor of Deputy City Clerk Jim Owczarski.

The mayor was among the first to be sworn in, but as it was not his day, he found other things to do as the events proceeded. He has a governorship to run for, so little is expected from the executive department until June. His Chief of Staff, Pat Curley, also took a powder, while Department of City Development head Rocky Marcoux was seen in the lobby showing the building to some development-looking types. It’s a big part of his job to show developers around town, after all. It will be another part of his job to face the scrutiny of the aldermen if he is nominated for his position again by the mayor. But this is drama for another day.

At the 10 am meeting, the aldermen were sworn their oaths, which most could recite from experience. The only newbie in the outfit was Jose Perez, who is taking the seat held, lost, held and lost again by Jim Witkowiak.

The relative lack of newcomers is a change from the ordinary three or four new faces on the council and will probably impair upward mobility for choice committee assignments and chairmanships. But President Hines says this should pose no problem.

As is his custom, he has asked each alderman to rank their committee preferences, and then it is up to him to do as he see fits.

Behind the scenes, aldermen can fight it out for office space and parking spots since Witkowiak, who had considerable seniority, left behind choice ones.

The aldermen each had a chance to give a little speech, but at about 4 minutes each, that ate up an hour of time, while the buffet tables down the hall steamed away and stomachs growled.

Festivities also included the administration of oaths to the new Comptroller, Martin Mattson, and the new Treasurer, Spencer Coggs, who, by returning to City Hall, is going back to where he started in the 1970s.

City Attorney Grant Langley was a no-show, since he was appearing on behalf of the City arguing a case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Excused! The City Attorney’s offices remain in the Frank Zeidler Municipal Building during an interminable renovation of the department’s City Hall digs. Even so, Langley uses the City Hall address for correspondence, perhaps for old time’s sake. Which will happen first – Langley moves back to City Hall, or the scaffold comes down from around the building? Perhaps neither will happen during the term of the current mayor.

Former Deputy Comptroller Mike Daun was in the audience as well. Earlier in the day, during some routine council business that was slipped unobtrusively into the festive day’s agenda, he received Council approval for a personal services contract that will keep him around the department for a few months as the new guy learns his way around. It’s called “institutional memory,” and it’s good to have somebody who knows the ropes when the Comptroller has to negotiate bond terms on Wall Street, which is one of the things the Comptroller has to do from time to time.

Attendees included former Alderman Don Richards, en route to pay his taxes, state senators Chris Larson and Lena Taylor, who observed their colleague become the new city treasurer, Vince Bushell of Riverwest, a guest of Ald. Nik Kovac, distinguished members of the Milwaukee Youth Council, including Zach Komes, who is on his way to George Washington University, and then probably back here to Milwaukee eventually to run things, and others too numerous to mention, all of whom were musically entertained by the Ronald Reagan High School Chamber Choir.

The ample food was from Savory Caterers, which had an array of hot and cold buffet items, all-ages refreshments and tasty sweets. Floral decorations were thanks to the City greenhouses.

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