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Departing Franklin aldermen have shared experiences

Dec. 11, 2012

Franklin - After serving on the Common Council for 13 years, Steve Olson and Tim Solomon have announced they will not seek re-election.

Their individual service is linked by more than similar longevity. Solomon filled the District 1 aldermanic seat when Olson moved out of the district in 200. Olson won a District 2 seat a few years later.

When the two sat down to talk this week, they said their history also included mutual service on a schools facilities committee in the late 1990s. Though that experience to help build better school facilities resulted in a failed referendum, it also led to their Common Council stints.

"We have known each other a long time," Olson said. "He has me beat on the council by about three months, but who's counting?"

Their camaraderie was evident away from the government chambers on a cold December morning over coffee. While they have agreed on many topics, they also noted that they have not always agreed.

"Steve and I have not always gotten along," Solomon said. "We don't always agree on everything."

Putting it a familial way, Olson said, "we've fought like brothers, but we leave it there (in council chambers) where some other people take things personally. Former Mayor Fred Klimetz told me never to take any of this personally unless it's intended to be personal. That's not been the case with Tim."

Pride in service record

Their proudest accomplishments include those that are interrelated as community development successes including the growth of police and fire services, finances and infrastructure supporting business and residential areas.

"I'd say I'm most proud of the finances of the city," Solomon said. "I've been chairman of the finance committee since I started. I'd say it was putting in better policies, balancing the books and not having to go to taxpayers. We also have a great staff that has improved.

"I'd also have to say the parks system because of all the improvements to the parks over the years. We developed the existing parkland so that the community can utilize it."

Olson agreed that parks are a point of pride because they have been developed by what he characterized as developer-enhanced green spaces and tot lots to more comprehensive recreation areas. He is most proud of his past work leading the Economic Development Commission.

"For me, it was helping sell out the industrial park 11 years early and being on the edges of … selling the business park eight years early," he said.

Olson added another accomplishment: the development of a citywide economic development plan between 1999 and 2002.

Disappointments, too

While economic development is a point of pride, it is also a source of disappointment, Olson said.

"My disappointment is that we have not done any planning for the next business park," he said, noting that there is little acreage left and not enough to accommodate a business with bigger needs.

Over the past year, Olson has abstained from voting on economic development matters, a practice that followed his departure from the economic development activities that generated Forward Franklin, a renewed development effort. He noted a philosophical difference in approach.

"There is a hyper-vigilance about retail, but retail is not long-term sustaining development." Olson said. "Industrial and commercial is and will bring rooftops that will bring in retail. So it's the tail wagging the dog right now."

Solomon said he wished the city had not lost the opportunity to develop a trail system that would have connected a route along 116th Street that would have linked to Muskego and eventually to Burlington.

"We got a right of way from Wisconsin Electric and an opportunity to get a grant of about $300,000," Solomon said. "We had to turn it down because the council did not support it."

Despite those disappointments, Olson and Solomon emphasized significant city's growth since they became involved. It has been a balance between green space and development, including enhanced commercial property around 76th Street and Rawson Road and an explosion of residential subdivisions.

Future visions

They also have hopes for the future.

"I hope we'll see a resurgence in commercial development and some good business development along the Ryan Road corridor," Olson said.

He and Solomon said they have confidence that the 27th Street corridor will fill in, though it will not be the high tech, international business mecca first envisioned.

Solomon also said he expects the city to develop more infrastructure that will support more growth. He said he is not worried about the balance between the city's rural past and its growth-oriented future.

"There are a lot of people who own farms who want to sell," he said. "That's their 401K. The fact is that 15 to 20 percent of our land is owned by Milwaukee County, so there is going to be green space forever in the city of Franklin."

The aldermen also said they hoped those who follow in their footsteps have a "big picture" view.

"One-issue aldermen don't last," Olson said.

Personal plans

Both have personal goals once they leave office in April.

Olson said he wants to devote more time to his wife and his sales position with Canon USA. He said he is considering going through the Police Citizens Academy to stay involved in the city.

Solomon, retired from AT&T, said he welcomes the opportunity to join his wife in connecting with his extended family, which includes six grandchildren involved in various activities in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Neither alderman expected to serve this long. Speaking for both, Solomon summed up the end of their careers by saying, "It's time for someone younger to take over the reins."

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