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Tosa Alderman Peter Donegan enters race for mayor's post

Dec. 5, 2011

Alderman Peter Donegan will run for mayor on the premise that the city "is in a time of change and challenge and there's a need for continuity" among administrators.

Donegan, 59, has represented the city's 1st District for six years, and had planned to continue to do so until Mayor Jill Didier resigned last week to take a job with Milwaukee County. Didier's last day is Dec. 15.

"The need to orient a newcomer to City Hall at this time could become a serious distraction," he said.

The city is working on improving its infrastructure and undertaking other projects without hurting its AAA bond rating; if someone who already is involved in those projects - such as an alderman - becomes mayor, it is more likely those efforts will stay on track, he said.

"Looking around, I think I'm the best-suited," Donegan said. "I have the time, and at six years I'm one of the people who have been on the council the longest."

He recently retired after 30 years in the business sector, having served as a corporate vice president and a small business president. This would prevent a conflict with city ordinance, which says the mayor - now a part-time post - cannot have another job that would get in the way of city duties.

As chairman of the city's Employees Relations Committee and a Budget and Finance Committee member, Donegan has been in the thick of some of this year's hot debate and weighty decisions.

He sees "challenges and opportunities" that come with "managing city employees in an entirely different way following changes to collective bargaining, improvement plans for East Tosa and the Village, and continued investment in the city's roads and sewers as top priorities.

"I see the sewer lateral issue emerging as the most difficult controversy that we will face in the next mayoral term," he said referring to the leaking laterals on private residential properties and the question of whether the city should get involved in fixing them.

In addition, Donegan said, he knows people have questioned the need for the very position he's running for, and he's willing to open a discussion on Wauwatosa's "form of government, that is, the formal role of the mayor and the appropriateness of diminishing it as well as the size of the council."

Some of those topics may come up Tuesday, when the Common Council is set to decide whether to give the next mayor a raise. After two years of debate on the topic, Donegan made the latest motion last week - to up the salary from $22,500 to $30,000 - and the council could take action. However, several aldermen have said the issue should be put on hold until after the deadline to file candidacy papers in January.

"I'm running for this regardless of what the council does with the salary issue," Donegan said. "But I haven't changed my stand on it."

Donegan is the second Tosa resident to announce candidacy. Newcomer John Pokrandt is running and will hold a campaign fundraiser later this month.

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