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Mayoral candidates ramping up campaigns

March 4, 2014

The campaign yard signs and websites are up, and Mayor Steve Ponto and former mayor Jeff Speaker are hitting the phones trying to secure votes for their mayoral bids before the April 1 election.

"It reminds me of my first campaign," Speaker said. "It started out a little slow, but it's gaining momentum every day. I'm talking to as many people as I can, reaching out to people, just listening and talking, and hearing what people's concerns are."

Speaker served as mayor for eight years before losing the seat to Ponto in 2010. After taking some time away from city government, which he said he spent with his family and working as a security manager at Brookfield Square Mall, Speaker hopes to take back the office.

"A lot of people are coming up to me, from areas that I would never expect sometimes," Speaker said. "Their hopes are that I return a government that listens to them."

Both candidates have gone door-to-door collecting nomination signatures and talking to residents.

Ponto said he has seen strong support from his constituents, particularly those who have been more involved with city government.

"One of the things I find most heartening is those people who are really close to city government and have served with both of us as mayor are overall very strongly supporting me," Ponto said.

Envisioning future development

With Brookfield Square being the largest tax payer in the county, both mayors are adamant about protecting its value

Plans for the Corners — a Von Maur-anchored retail center moving forward in the town of Brookfield — have long concerned Ponto, because of the potential competition it poses for Brookfield Square.

Ponto asked state lawmakers not to pass special legislation that gave the town more flexibility in helping to fund the project through tax-incremental financing.

Looking forward, Ponto said, it will be important to support Brookfield Square, owned by CBL & Associates Properties, in its plans to expand and modernize. The mall is the largest real estate taxpayer in Waukesha County, he said.

"We have worked very closely with CBL to try to help them as much as possible," Ponto said. "We are really committed to cooperating with them to make them as strong and successful as they can be because they are a huge factor in the city of Brookfield."

Speaker was more optimistic about the Corners' arrival.

"On a regional basis, the Corners development is actually probably going to help Brookfield Square and the surrounding retail area because it is going to bring in something new to the market," Speaker said. "We want competition. I don't think that's going to be a negative for the city of Brookfield."

While serving as mayor, Speaker helped establish the tax-incremental financing district Brookfield Square is part of, which will likely help finance its expansion.

"They're constantly reinvesting in their property, and I think that's a positive," Speaker said. "When I ran in 2002, there had not been anything redone up to that point. I built a relationship as a mayor with CBL, and we were able to build on that relationship, and bring in stores and restaurants and everything that would make it an attractive place to shop and eat."

Online

■ Learn more about the candidates at PontoForMayor.com and JeffSpeaker.Wix.com/votespeaker.

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