Janesville35.3°

Familiar faces jostle for Delavan mayor

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ANN MARIE AMES
February 13, 2010
— Two Delavan City Council members aim to put incumbent Mayor Mel Nieuwenhuis out of his seat.

Voters in Tuesday's primary election will chose between Nieuwenhuis, First District Alderman John Finley and Third District Alderman Ron Siedelmann.


Finley also seeks re-election to his council seat.


At or close to the top of the three candidates' lists of issues is Lake Lawn Resort. The historic resort is dealing with a lawsuit by an Illinois developer who says the owners backed out of a deal to sell.


On top of that, AnchorBank, Madison, has filed foreclosure on the resort.


As part of a developers agreement struck in August 2008, Lake Lawn promised by mid-2012 to build five lakefront condominium buildings called the Villas at Harbor's Edge, the Grand Delavan hotel and conference center and an indoor water park.


The city committed to making $4 million in water and sewer improvements in the tax incremental finance district that includes the resort.


Work on the projects and other upgrades Lake Lawn promised has not been done.


While all three candidates agree that Lake Lawn's future is important to the city, they disagree on what the mayor's role will be.


"At this point in time, we should not invest one more dollar until they start moving forward," Nieuwenhuis said.


However, the resort deserves the city's "moral support," he said.


"I just feel that some people just like to continue to throw daggers at Lake Lawn," Nieuwenhuis said. "They have enough problems, enough issues to deal with. They don't need bad publicity."


Siedelmann said the council should continue to consider nixing an amendment to the city's developers agreement with Lake Lawn to remove the city from obligations to the resort's success.


"That should send a more definitive message to them out there, that if they fail, it is through their own defaults," Siedelmann said.


Siedelmann said the original agreement would not be severed.


Finley prefers a more drastic approach.


"If I were the mayor, the role would be to disengage from the developers agreements so we can start over from scratch," Finley said. "I'd like to start with a clean slate with either them or the next owners."


Many have said the council mires itself in arguments that lead to long, unproductive meetings.


Nieuwenhuis said he has been criticized for letting the arguments go on. But council members have to police themselves, he said.


"Some people on the council want to say silly things. I guess that's their right to do so," Nieuwenhuis said. "I could cut them off, but then I'd be criticized for cutting them off."


Siedelmann said it's the mayor's job to stop those arguments and keep discussions on track. He can do that, he said.


"My demeanor of calmness and organization and my businesslike approach are the things that qualify me the most," Siedelmann said.


Finley said he has the leadership skills to keep the council and the city moving forward.


"I think the city of Delavan is in desperate need of original leadership," Finley said. "Doing the same things the same way with the same skills and talents is a recipe for failure."


THE CANDIDATES

Name: John K. Finley


Age: 58


Address: 201 W. Washington St., Delavan.


Job: Self employed security consultant


Education: Trade school; currently studying journalism and public relations at UW-Whitewater.


Community service: Delavan Board of Zoning Review, 2000-06.


Elected posts: Delavan alderman, 2006-present.


***


Name: Mel Nieuwenhuis, incumbent


Age: 48


Address: 720 Parish St., Delavan.


Job: Garbage hauler for Nieuwenhuis Brothers, Delavan.


Education: Graduate of Delavan-Darien High School; some college.


Community service: Co-founded Mary's Room with wife, Peggy; member of the Delavan-Darien High School Booster Club; volunteer for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. Coaches girls basketball at Delavan Christian School.


Elected posts: Alderman, 1996-98 and 2001; mayor, 2002-present.


***


Name: Ron Siedelmann


Age: 66


Job: Retired owner of former Ben Franklin store, Delavan.


Education: Attended Northern Illinois University from 1961-63; attended Elmhurst College from 1967-71 in the evenings, majored in business administration.


Community service: Member of the Walworth County Retired Senior Volunteer Advisory Council; READS mentor, Wileman School; Hospice volunteer; member of Delavan American Legion and founding member of Delavan's Optimist Club.


Elected posts: Delavan City Council from 1997-99 and 2000-06; re-elected in 2009; served three years as council president; served as finance committee chair, general operations chair and public works chair.



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