The Oak Creek Town Board's decision to appoint J. Elliott as the town's new mayor was the right call.
We hope the community can respect the decision and leave the divisiveness of recent months in the past. Maybe then the town can move on to more pressing matters, such as its budget woes.
Elliott, the mayor pro-tem, was appointed Tuesday in a 4-1 vote. He was, in our opinion, the clear choice. The other applicants were Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman, who created the vacancy when she resigned Oct. 13; former Town Board member Bill Paxton, who resigned from the board last summer; and Bill Norris, who ran for mayor in 2004 and lost.
In the 2004 mayoral race, Norris barely netted 20 percent of the vote. Thus, the community had already decided he was not a viable alternative to Rodeman.
Paxton essentially took himself out of the running. How could the town put its faith in a mayor who just months earlier quit the Town Board because he didn't agree with some decisions the board had made?
Finally, there was the outspoken Rodeman. She can be an easy target, but it's important to remember that the people of Oak Creek chose her time and again. She won contested mayoral elections in 2002, 2004 and 2006, and she did so convincingly. And she had a string of successes in four years as mayor, from fixing the town's water treatment plant to building a new ice rink.
But Rodeman can only blame herself that her tenure has come to an end.
Rodeman quit after three town employees met with the Town Board to complain that Rodeman was overstepping her bounds and wasn't letting them do their jobs.
Rodeman wasn't present when the employees met with the Town Board and did not know the extent of the complaints. Still, she quit on Oct. 13, saying Town Board members had acted "hateful" toward her. A few weeks later, after she had listened to tapes of the employees' meeting with the board, Rodeman asked for her job back. She said the town employees' claims were lies.
How disappointing. A true leader would have worked to first understand the employees' concerns and then to resolve them, even if some of those concerns were misperceptions. Rodeman did not lead; she quit. Couple with that the questions raised about the $300,000 reversal in the town's finances during her tenure and the $2,000-a-month salary Rodeman secured for herself as the town's grant writer, and it became clear that the town needed to go in a new direction.
Elliott has served the Town Board since being elected in 2002. He is the owner of the Colorado Bar and Grill. He has worked closely with Rodeman on town issues in the past, and he was gracious to her after being appointed last week.
"There is no animosity," he said. "I think Cargo will come around. She loves Oak Creek : she is Oak Creek. I want her involved."
Such an inclusive approach has been sorely missing in Oak Creek in recent months. We hope it signals that, under Elliott's leadership, the town is ready to move beyond personality clashes and focus instead on the serious financial issues the town faces. We wish Elliott the best.