FOX 11 Investigates: Green Bay mayor's race expected to be crowded

DON 6889_01 FF.jpg

GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- Three. That's how many mayors Green Bay has had in the last 38 years.

It will likely be changing next year. That's because mayor Jim Schmitt has said he is not planning to run for a fifth term.

Schmitt has been mayor since 2003. A lot has happened in 15 years. Schmitt led the effort to revitalize downtown. He brought the Zippin Pippin to Bay Beach.

Schmitt also pleaded guilty in 2016 to three misdemeanor campaign finance violations.

Now, at the age of 59, Schmitt says this will be his final term leading the city he loves.

"There's always another project around the corner, always another opportunity and that's going to continue forever and you just have to internally look at this and say, look, at my age, I want to do something else. I love to work. Something else that can help people. There's another career out there for me," Schmitt told FOX 11 Investigates.

Exactly what his next career will be, Schmitt says he doesn't know.

What that means for the city is clear: For the first time since 2003, there will be an open seat for Green Bay mayor.

The requirements to run for mayor on paper are pretty simple:

You must be a U.S. citizen at least 18 years old, a resident of the city at the time of the election and you can't be a convicted felon.

But those who have held the job say it takes a lot more than that.

"Clearly, you have to have run something," said former Green Bay mayor Paul Jadin. "You have to have supervised people. You have to have some people skills both in terms of dealing with the City Council, staff and the general public. You have to have some media skills as well."

Jadin, who served as Green Bay mayor from 1995-2003, is now the president of the Madison Region Economic Partnership.

"I did promise to serve only two and kept that promise and I think that's the kind of thing politicians should do is serve and move on," Jadin said.

While he has not kept up on the day to day politics of Green Bay, he did offer FOX 11 Investigates some thoughts on what candidates should focus on.

"Right now, you need to be looking at what exactly is your vision. What are you going to do to distinguish yourself from other candidates? Start developing some of the ideas and not just the three-second soundbite. But what exactly am I going to say when Robert Hornacek says, okay. What do you mean by reducing crime? What do you mean by improving neighborhoods?" Jadin said.

When Jadin initially ran for the open mayoral seat in 1995 he was one of eight candidates in the primary. Schmitt was one of four candidates when he first ran. If the past is any indication, you can expect a crowded field this time next year.

"I'd be very surprised if there's not at least five people running," Green Bay alderman Tom Sladek told FOX 11.

Sladek, who is leaving the council this year, says one of the most important parts of being mayor is overseeing the 1,000 city employees.

"The next mayor needs to be someone who has some experience running a sizeable operation. That means they know how to hold people accountable. They know how to establish goals and objectives. They know how to get people aligned to a vision and those goals and objectives," Sladek said.

There are several names being mentioned as potential candidates,

Green Bay City Council President Tom DeWane, Brown County Supervisor Pat Evans, and State Rep. Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay) all expressed interest in running soon after Schmitt's announcement that he would not be seeking another term.

But Schmitt has not closed the door completely on another campaign.

"I think there are a lot of good people out there who can be and should be mayor but, look, if that doesn't happen and it is someone who I've got some real concerns about, you know, I'd like to think someone better could come along or I would step back into the ring. But I just think there are a lot of great people who have the skillset, that could do a good job as mayor," Schmitt said.

When asked what advice he would give the next mayor, Schmitt responded, "I think the next mayor, without the x's and o's and skillset, I think they really have to love the city of Green Bay. I think that's really important and I don't know really how to define that but it's something that you, it's like your spouse or your kid that you very much want more than anything for that to be successful and to be happy."

While potential candidates may be working on their campaign plans behind-the-scenes, the real campaign starts later this year. Candidates can start gathering signatures in December. Nomination papers are due the first week in January. The primary election for mayor is February 19th.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off