City of Madison

Former City of Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz

Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's Blog

Curtain Call

April 15, 2011 10:23 AM

Curtain Call

"I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don't believe I deserved my friends."
Walt Whitman

The mayor's office is a high pressure, high reward environment. As a result, the people who work here get pretty close. So, for one of my last blogs, I want to mention the people who worked directly with me on the fourth floor.

My original staff in 2003 included Chief of Staff Janet Piraino and Mario Mendoza, both of whom remained with me for the complete eight years. Janet was my friend of twenty years before she became my chief of staff. Her specialty was fixing messy problems, and no one did it with more calm professionalism and pure intelligence. Mario not only handled economic development issues, but he is both a lawyer and an accomplished musician, and he may return to one or both in the months ahead.

My first communications director was Melanie Conklin, who was a reporter for Isthmus and had the instant respect of the press corps. Mel went on to other things including a popular column in the State Journal, and she currently works for Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca. Jeanne Hoffman served as state director of the Bike Fed before joining my staff where she handled environmental issues. She's now the city's first Sustainability Manager.

Annette Miller worked with me for two years and then went on to her current role in community outreach for MGE. Annette was replaced by Enis Ragland who now works for State Senator Spencer Coggs, one of the famous Fab 14. And Enis, in turn was replaced by Ray Harmon who remains with me as we end our run. He has an arid sense of humor, which is why I hired him.

George Twigg came from the John Kerry campaign and worked as my second communications director until leaving to follow his wife back home to New England, where he now works for an environmental group. Rachel Strauch-Nelson, who worked for George on the Kerry campaign and later worked for Fair Wisconsin and the Democratic Party, became my last communications director. I call her Wunderkind and for good reason.

Joel Plant joined our staff as the city's first Alcohol Policy Coordinator and then moved over to the regular staff to replace Jeanne. He quickly became a star with his firm but polite and knowledgeable manner. He and Mario helped turn around Halloween on State Street. Joel is now chief of staff for the Milwaukee Police Department. Katherine Plominski followed Joel in the alcohol policy position and was followed by Mark Woulf, who currently holds that job, perhaps the youngest person ever to work in the mayor's office, edging out Rachel.

Chris Klein followed Joel. His specialty was transportation issues having served as Executive Assistant at the State DOT. A quick study with a keen political sense, Chris will do well in whatever comes next for him.

Andrew Statz has a fitting name as he became the city's first (and maybe only) Fiscal Efficiency Auditor. His talent was recognized by the school district which recruited him for a similar position with more responsibility. He also makes a mean gumbo.

The support staff included Pam Williamson, and Laila D'Costa, who handled my appointments to committees, Lisa Olmsted, and of course, the woman who really runs the city, Wanda Fullmore. No one knows more people in city government than Wanda. We were also lucky to get some help from Denise Nettum and Debbie Fields along the way. Linda Lewis was my first executive assistant and she was followed by Connie Phair. Connie shares my sense of humor, but that's her problem.

It was one big family. We laughed a lot. We had great fun and worked long, hard hours. We shared weddings, divorces, births, sicknesses, victories and now a defeat. We'll now go off to other things, but the days we had together doing this work were special. I'll think of them often, once in awhile I'll check in on their lives, and I'll never forget them or the work we shared.


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