Steve Taylor realizes he is all the rage politically
Franklin alderman and Milwaukee County supervisor evaluates himself and his dual roles
Franklin— Ald. Steve Taylor has felt plenty of heat during his first full year taking on a second political post as Milwaukee County supervisor.
The 37-year-old president of the Franklin Common Council has rankled some fellow conservatives even while swimming against the tide on the liberal-dominated County Board.
He spoke last week to NOW about that situation, his vision for the 9th District (which includes Franklin, Hales Corners and Oak Creek), his vision for the entire county and prospects for his political future.
Challenges emerged this spring as the board came under scrutiny from various political factions, locally and throughout the state.
The cause of the scrutiny is the board's size, pay and authority.
The result is that Gov. Scott Walker is expected to sign legislation that would allow county residents to vote on dramatically downsizing the size of the board, reducing in half each supervisor's salary and eliminating the board's ability to negotiate various personnel and property contracts.
Taylor's uncomfortable position, he said, stems from a perception that, at the beginning of his tenure, he backed Martina Dimitrijevic, a liberal, for board chairwoman, a position she eventually got. That drew criticism from conservative talk show hosts, who blasted him for the move.
But Taylor said he never officially backed her.
"Somehow, my backing Marina was leaked to the media," Taylor said. "I was getting phone calls asking me why I voted for her even before the vote."
In fact, Taylor voted for fellow conservative Patricia Jursik and, most recently, he has been one of several supervisors who have lobbied to have Dimitrijevich removed as chair because she allegedly negotiated with county unions outside of the normal process.
Taylor also was criticized when he voted for a downsizing plan by Dimitrijevich that did not go as far as the state legislature's plan. Taylor said his vote, one that he would later reverse, was cast to support reform.
"Voters in Franklin and Hales Corners voted for the reform (to downsize the board) in advisory referendums, so I knew what my district wanted," Taylor said. "I do not have a vote in Madison, and it was not certain that the Senate was going to pass its reform bill, so I voted for the one the board chair presented to support the concept of reform."
Because the legislature wound up supporting a stronger downsizing, Taylor said he reversed his vote. He said his original vote was a mistake.
He admits that he may have made a tactical mistake in how he has approached his board position.
"I'm conservative, but not Tea Party conservative, not extreme far right," Taylor said. "I am fiscally conservative and I consider tax dollars very sacred. I came here with the mind-set that it's divisive in Madison and in Washington, where Republicans and Democrats are not willing to talk to each other. Here, we are supposed to be bipartisan. The problem when you do that, sometimes you come across as not harsh enough for some people. I've been criticized for not jumping on the roof of the courthouse and screaming bloody murder."
Taylor said he has learned through these experiences to be more demonstrative in his conservatism, though he said that it makes more sense to pick and choose his fight than to overtly rage against overwhelming odds on every vote that doesn't go the way he wants.
District, county vision
What Taylor is proud of so far is standing up for the issues that affect his district, namely getting funds budgeted to address infrastructure issues such as roads, parks and community pools.
"We can talk about reform, but what I have heard loud and clear from my district is that they want the infrastructure fixed," Taylor said. "Residents and leaders in those communities say they give money to the county but they don't see it coming back."
Taylor added that communities want more county transportation extended to them.
In terms of a countywide vision, Taylor said the emphasis should be on finding ways to contain costs beyond what ACT 10 provides – primarily through shared services between the county and its 19 municipalities.
"You have city plows crossing county roads and lifting their blades because it's not their roads, he said. "We have to find a way to fix that."
Making the county business friendly also is important, Taylor said. A perfect model, he noted, would be that the board sets a policy and allows the county executive and staff do their job and not micromanage.
"If you are a developer, do you want to deal with 18 county supervisors?" he said. "No."
With three years left on a four-year term, Taylor said he has a lot to think about when it comes to his own political future.
"I am sure the voters will approve the reforms," he said,
If they do, there will be fewer supervisors nd fewer staff to support them, and compensation will be cut in about half to $24,000. Currently, Taylor said he currently also receives $9,000 for his Franklin Common Council post.
Supervisors will not feel the cutbacks until 2016, an election year. If he chooses to run for another term, Taylor will have to take into consideration more than himself. In just a few days, he will be married. In addition to being a new husband, he will be an instant family man because his soon-to-be wife has a 10-year-old son.
He said he is not overly concerned about his future.
"I have three years to figure something," he said. "I have options. I can become a consultant, or go back into financial services (a career he walked from when he took on both political roles).
"The thing is," he said, "is that I love public service which is the reason I'm here. I have spent a lot of time learning the job this first year and I'm sure I won't need to spend as much time in my second, third and fourth years. I don't do anything half-assed. I give it my all. There have been little mistakes, sure, but you're only human. And it's a job I enjoy."
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