Mayoral candidates sound off on where the city is headed

March 19, 2014

With the mayoral election April 1, candidates Mayor Steve Ponto and former Mayor Jeff Speaker answered some basic questions.

Ponto, of 19755 Kilkee Court, Brookfield, is 66. He has a bachelor's degree in economics from Lawrence University, a master's degree in public affairs from Princeton University, and a juris doctor degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is married to Mary Ponto, and has two adult daughter, Stephanie and Elizabeth Ponto. He will appear on the ballot as Steven V. Ponto.

Speaker, of 18520 Milwaukee Ave., Brookfield, is 55. He spent three years studying business and criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, UW-Washington County, and Mount Scenario College. He is married and has four children, three of them adults. He will appear on the ballot as Jeff Speaker.

Ponto, a 24-year resident of Brookfield, is a full-time mayor, and, in a 31-year career as a corporate attorney, worked for Foley & Lardner, Quad Graphics, Prudential, and Metavante. He can be contacted through the web site

Speaker, who has lived in Brookfield for 16 years, but has worked in city for 29 years, is security director for Brookfield Square mall, and formerly worked as a police officer, a police supervisor, and mayor. He is available at,, or (262) 894-2500.

They answered these questions:

What do you see as the primary responsibilities of the mayor?

Ponto: The mayor is the chief executive officer of the city. We have 10 department heads, including the police chief and the fire chief, who report directly to the mayor. It is the mayor's responsibility to assure that the work of the city gets done on a timely, high-quality and cost-effective basis.

The mayor is also the political leader of the community. I work closely with the city's 14 aldermen on the policy issues. I have an "open door" policy for all Brookfield residents and also promote the interests of the city to other governmental entities.

Speaker: I see the primary responsibilities of the mayor as protecting the city's interests, and the rights of the citizens.

As a largely built-out community, what opportunities does Brookfield have to keep it a dynamic, thriving community?

Ponto: There are some key properties in Brookfield which remain to be developed. Most notably, the Ruby Farms/WTMJ property southwest of the Calhoun/Bluemound Road intersection. It is imperative that the development of this property and other undeveloped lands be of the highest quality.

Second, the City is focused on spurring re-development of some older parts of Brookfield. A prime example is the replacement of an abandoned printing plant on the east end of Bluemound Road with the new Underwood Crossing Shopping Center, which is anchored by a beautiful new Target and includes Wisconsin's third Trader Joe's.

Speaker: I believe we have to look at redevelopment as a way of bringing new and innovative projects into the city, and to give us what we need for the future. I also believe we have to look at the wants and the needs of a changing populace, and bring in those items that our citizens and businesses want and need.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Ponto: I believe I am a collaborative leader who consults with others and tries to fashion a solution which takes all reasonable concerns into account. I recognize that in a democracy, intelligent compromise is key to achieving broad-based consensus. It is important that the decision-making process be open and that everyone has an opportunity for input. My proudest moments as mayor have been when I have worked with the Common Council on difficult issues and achieved an outcome which is broadly — and sometimes — unanimously supported.

Speaker: I am a strong leader that looks to build a consensus on where the city should go.

When preparing the annual budget, what will be your overriding goals and priorities?

Ponto: I am very pleased that during my term as mayor we have held the line on taxes and still maintained Brookfield's high level of services and quality of life amenities such as our library and parks. The increase in the real estate tax levy during my four years as mayor has been the lowest in at least the last 20 years. I will continue to push to reduce costs through shared service arrangements with other government entities. I will also pursue using technology to provide better service at reduced cost. My first concern is providing for the safety and well-being of our residents.

Speaker: To try and maintain the highest level of service that we can, and to look at having the lowest increase possible, if not a zero percent increase in the property taxes.

What letter grade (A, B, C, D or F) would you assign the current council, and why?

Ponto: I would give the current council an A-minus, only because there is always some room for improvement. I believe all of our aldermen are very conscientious and work hard to do the best job they can for their districts and the city. Each one pays attention to the concerns of his or her residents and tries to help those residents resolve any issues they may have with the city government. Issues are thoroughly vetted in our committees and before the Common Council. Each alderman really tries to do what he or she believes is in the long run best interest of the city.

Speaker: I don't think you can assign the council as a whole a letter grade, because everybody votes differently on different items, and I think we need to be respectful of that. I'm sure they're working to their best capabilities and they want to represent their constituents as well as they can.


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