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Praise for leaders wasn't meant to slight others

Feb. 29, 2012

I was taken to task by a reader recently regarding my column commending the work of former Mayor Jill Didier and Meg McKenna, former executive director of the Wauwatosa Chamber of Commerce.

Didier left for a post as economic development coordinator for Milwaukee County, and McKenna left to become director of development for VISIT Milwaukee, the convention and visitors bureau that serves the metro area.

The writer said she thought that my singling out the two women and commending their work was somehow disrespectful to Meg Miller, chairwoman of the East Tosa Alliance, a group of residents, business and property owners, and Kathy Ehley, executive director of the Village of Wauwatosa Business District, because I didn't mention them in the article.

What upset the email writer most, it seems, is the fact that I viewed the professional departures of McKenna and Didier as a bit of a brain drain of pro-business professionals.

"What in the world are you talking about? Wauwatosa is in the best place it has been in 4 years as far as business advocates. … You missed other business advocates like Kathy Ehley and Meg Miller and their phenomenal work in bringing the Village and North Avenue to life, diminishing the great works they have done. North Avenue and the Village are experiencing the lowest number of vacant store fronts they have had in 20 years and that is during these tough economic times," she wrote.

No disrespect meant.

Of course, writing a small tribute to two people should not be interpreted as a slight of people like Ehley and Miller, at least in my mind. As they moved on to larger regional roles, I believe it was appropriate to recap some of the good things they had accomplished. I stand by the column and the headline.

Miller and Ehley have worked very hard and accomplished much for their respective areas in Wauwatosa and as citizens of the city; we owe them a debt of gratitude. All these women have been passionate about their work and effective in getting things done, as well.

When paying tribute to some, it isn't always appropriate to mention everyone. So it is in this column that I recognize the fact that Meg Miller and Kathy Ehley have worked tirelessly and accomplished much to attract new merchants and improve the vitality of two of the city's important commercial districts. The fact that they remain here and continue their work is one reason Wauwatosa has much to look forward to.

By the time you read this, you'll know whether Ehley advanced in the mayoral primary election and is continuing her campaign.

Please don't take this column as a slight to anyone not mentioned, including those who serve on boards, volunteer and elected officials, and business leaders.

As the email writer pointed out, the Wauwatosa Chamber is in good hands with former Mayor Theresa Estness serving as interim director. I asked her whether she was interested in the job permanently, and said she would wait to see how her time went. Stay tuned.

Robert Warde is a freelance business writer living in Wauwatosa. He has been a journalist for more than 27 years and a business journalist for the past 15 years. Reach him at robert.warde@yahoo.com.

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