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Ponto tops Speaker in a squeaker

Alderman beats incumbent mayor by just 205 votes

Steve Ponto, daughter Stephanie, and other supporters cheer as Brookfield Alderman Steve Ponto receives word that he won the Brookfield mayoral race.

Steve Ponto, daughter Stephanie, and other supporters cheer as Brookfield Alderman Steve Ponto receives word that he won the Brookfield mayoral race. Photo By C.T. Kruger

April 7, 2010

It was all smiles as Steve Ponto addressed the crowd of family members, friends, aldermen and neighbors in a Venice Club banquet room Tuesday.

He thanked everyone for their hard work during his four-month run for Brookfield's top elected office, but his speech was interrupted several times by laughter, applause and cheers of encouragement.

Then, as the speech wound down and the hugs started, the biggest smile of the night crept across Ponto's face when fellow 4th District Alderman Mark Nelson handed him a baseball cap to wear. People in the back of the room couldn't make out the hat's full design, but one word stood out:

MAYOR.

Riding a wave of support from across the city, Ponto, 62, was elected as Brookfield's fifth mayor, narrowly defeating two-term incumbent Jeff Speaker.

Down to the wire

Ponto beat Speaker, a former city police officer who was first elected in 2002, by 205 votes. Ponto, who has represented Brookfield's 4th District for 12 years, earned more votes than Speaker in four of the city's seven districts, and wound up with 51 percent of the total vote.

All results remain unofficial until the Board of Canvassers meets Wednesday, after press deadline.

"I think this was a very hard fought but very fair campaign, and that each of us had a lot of respect for one another," Ponto said. "I think that this was a model campaign for mayor."

Ponto worked as a corporate attorney for 30 years before accepting a buyout package at the end of 2009. He praised Speaker's service to the city, both as mayor and as a police officer for 17 years before that.

"I value that (service) and appreciate it," he said.

Ponto said that while his margin of victory wasn't immense, it perhaps indicates that Brookfield residents are looking for a different type of leadership this time around.

"I think honestly that after eight years there was a feeling that it was time for a change," he said.

Speaker: 'A good race'

Speaker, who received more than 60 percent of the vote in his 2006 re-election bid over former Alderwoman Cindy Kilkenny, credited Ponto for running a respectful, tough campaign.

"It was a good race," said Speaker, 51. "Both Steve and I ran a good race. I think the results show it."

Speaker first won the mayor's post in 2002 and said he is pleased with what he has done while in office.

"You know what? I've got nothing to be upset about," he said. "I'm very happy with everything I've accomplished over the last eight years. It's wonderful to (have served) the city of Brookfield as long I have been."

Speaker said he doesn't know what his next move will be, but that he would continue to work hard as mayor for the final two weeks of his term.

Takes office next month

Ponto will be sworn in April 20. After that, the city will start the process of appointing a replacement to his District 4 aldermanic seat.

City Clerk Kris Schmidt said the search for an appointee likely will take months. A special election likely will be held next spring to fill out the rest of Ponto's aldermanic term, which expires in 2012.

The mayor serves a four-year term and will make $99,149 a year through 2012, with 2 percent increases in 2013 and 2014.

Ponto said one of his first goals will be to establish ties with other mayors and municipal leaders in Waukesha County and across southeastern Wisconsin.

"I want to reach out to other mayors in the area, get to know them and begin talking about how we can cooperate to the benefit for all of Brookfield - for the benefit of this whole area, really," he said.

BROOKFIELD MAYOR

 Steve Ponto…4,458

 Jeff Speaker (inc.)…4,253

Unofficial final results

→ The numbers: Breakdown of the mayoral vote. Page 4

→ Aldermanic races: Incumbents all re-elected. Page 4

→ School Board: Allgaier, Wilson, Ziegler victorious. Page 18

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