Waunakee history: Celebrate, maintain, preserve

Thanks for reprinting the history of Waunakee that was in the Waunakee Tribune during our centennial celebration of the 1871 platting of Waunakee.The story about the plan of George Fish and Lewis Baker to lure the railroad to locate here by securing right of way through their adjacent farms and paying them money is an amazing one. It allowed them to plat the original 12 blocks in 1871 that would become the village of Waunakee. It could be described as Waunakee’s first successful economic development plan.

The plan had a centrally located business district located in the “down town” area along the railroad tracks which divided Waunakee’s east and west sides along the main road, which became Main Street. Homes occupied the blocks leading into the village.

As Waunakee has grown, family homes and commercial areas have been added. When development plans are discussed, Village officials and residents often refer to Waunakee’s historic district. However, no specific historic district has been designated, maintained or preserved. The value of doing this had been encouraged by the local historical society during the centennial celebration in 1971. That has caused some unique problems with zoning and development issues.

As some older homes have been sold on the east end of Waunakee, residential lots were rezoned as commercial so the houses could become business offices. Blocks became a mixture of homes and business, thus disrupting neighborhoods. That made it easier for developers of large apartment buildings with commercial space on the first floor to acquire properties and obtain village approval to be built.

T. Wall Development Company started plans to develop the whole block of the south side of 200 W. Main St. and the north side of 200 W. Second St and acquire the alley between them. They did so with the assumed apparent encouragement but not legally voted approval of village planners and offcials. This led to public meetings and hearings. The site was one of the original blocks of Waunakee which contained some of the more affordable homes in Waunakee. This 4-story urban style structure did not project the prevailing image of small town charm that is found on neighboring blocks. The development was not approved. A lawsuit was filed and won against the village.

I am happy to learn that the village is planning to add a position for an economic development coordinator. Perhaps that person could include designating and maintaining a well defined historic district and finding funds to support that in their job description. That would be helpful to homeowners and businesses alike to avoid commercial creep into older residential areas that currently have the most affordable housing available.

Consider the views and qualifications of candidates running for office in this election and vote accordingly. We need open and clear communications about decisions being made for our strong feeling of community to continue. We like to know potential plans before they reach the final approval stage so we can add input to the process. Unfortunately zoom meetings make that difficult, We as citizens have a duty to remain vigilant and participate for the good of the future Waunakee.

Mary Ellen Kearney

Willems works for the good of citizens

I am writing a Letter to the Editor to endorse Phil Willems for the Waunakee Village board. Phil has not only been a business owner but our neighbor for 45 years. In those 45 years he has always been an active and involved citizen of Waunakee. He has worked with all ages, young and old. He volunteered in the schools, been a driver with RSVP and Meals on Wheels, a member of our EMT team, and a very active member of the Rotary to name a few. He could be seen building bridges in the Conservancy, putting in piers at the Village Center Pond, working a Waunafest booth, helping with a senior citizen picnic , being Santa Claus or Uncle Sam.

Phil has been counted on to be a supporter/worker for many Waunakee organizations and projects over the years. He has always had the best interests of our community in mind. He is now running for his fifth term on the Village Board, and because of his long history of working for the good of the citizens of Waunakee, Phil Willems has my vote.

Sarah Ottosen

Herzberg an integral party of the community

Gary Herzberg has been on our village board serving the Waunakee community for 20 years. He has been dedicated towards making our community a safe, healthy and sustainable place to live. He and his colleagues have worked together to improve our public works, parks and recreation, and public/private development. Gary has helped Waunakee sustain a strong financial position while limiting tax increases and maintaining the quality of services — anywhere from our first responders to our utilities!

Gary has been very generous with his time, and he is always willing to roll up his sleeves to help others in our community. From fundraisers, to rotary, to Wauktoberfest, to a family in need, Gary is there!

He is a selfless, hard working village board member who is an integral part of our community, and he has my vote for the 2021 Village board! Please vote for Gary Herzberg, April 6!


Tarek Saleh

We can accomplish more working together

As a candidate and village trustee, I have tried to stay above the snipping and untruths that have been posted on social media and in recent attacks on the character of the current village board.

I must confess that I am the trustee that gave Mr. McPherson his purported tone deaf response to discrimination. This happened during a listening session hosted by Chris Zellner and myself. During the session, Mr. McPherson called in and referred to an anti-Semitic letter sent to Mr. Brandt about Mr. McPherson (a letter we have never seen or even knew existed). If you listen to the meeting, you will find that I offered to help combat Mr. McPherson’s concerns by introducing him at Rotary and Lions club meetings. As to spending public funds on diversity training for another and making dog-whistle remarks in a leaked closed session, I can only say that is a flat-out prefabrication of the truth. My record of service, dedication and charity speaks for itself. I have always been available to support relief efforts.

As the oldest and longest current tenured member of the board, I can only say Mr. McPherson is totally uninformed on activities and business in Waunakee. We are moving forward as a village and do not miss out on opportunities. We value public comment, but sometimes it is after the fact and only offered to stir up controversy and mistrust. We are a growing at a good pace. We are addressing the issues that people like Mr. McPherson and Mr. Brandt stir up. But, we can accomplish more working together than as warring factions as has been their case.

By the way, I now question the authorship of the mysterious letter.

Phillip Willems

Commitment to the community

I’d just like to write in to the Tribune to recommend Phil Willems for Village Board of Waunakee. I’ve known Phil when I was 9 years old (I’m 48 now) and he had opened Ben Franklins in the Village Mall when it first opened up. Phil was my soccer coach when I was in 3rd grade and for as long as I’ve known him (now almost 40 years), Phil has continuously shown concern for the community. I’m lucky to have him as a neighbor now and we talk on a regular basis where he volunteers his time at Christmas time to help Santa the children of the community get in contact with Santa.

Phil has a drive like no others has continuously shown his commitment to help the community and help it grow with his efforts. I therefore would like to submit my recommendation for Phil Willems for Village Board of Waunakee.

Joseph Tremain

An amazing leader

We support Chris Zellner and the Waunakee Village Board members currently running for re-election. They believe in Waunakee and support business and residents equally. Chris has done an amazing job of leading the village. Take the opportunity to vote on April 6th for someone with integrity, a sense of community, and someone who represents us all. That person is Chris Zellner! We are also supporting Gary Herzberg, and Phil Willems.

Thank you,

Billy Van Wie

Board members deeply committed

I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the community for their support during my term as an interim Village of Waunakee trustee.

In my professional life as a community economic development specialist, I’ve worked with dozens of municipalities across the state; thus, I can say with a degree of experience that Waunakee has a talented and well-run Village Board. If you live in this village, then you have been represented by friends and neighbors who are deeply committed to helping us realize the best in ourselves as a community.

I would like to extend a particular thank you to President Chris Zellner and Village Administrator Todd Schmidt for making my 20-month term extraordinarily productive as the board and its committees have worked to address housing affordability, diversity/equity and inclusion, and the effects of a pandemic, alongside the day-to-day needs of a growing village in a dynamic region. These are among the biggest issues facing all municipalities across the state. As we exit the pandemic and a time of social unrest across the country, we are leaving it as a fiscally sound municipality that is in an enviable financial position, and with a clear vision of our charge to make our village, our state, and our schools more equitable and inclusive places.

When residents go to the polls on April 6, please consider re-electing Chris Zellner as village president. His experience, tireless work ethic, relentless optimism and never-ending quest for common ground on which all Waunakee residents can stand together make Chris an excellent choice to lead our village.

Please also consider supporting Joe Zitzelberger, Phil Willems, Gary Herzberg, and Angie Ramos as village trustees. In my work on the board with Joe, Phil and Gary, I have found each to be thoughtful, measured, and independent in their thinking. Angie’s professional and volunteer work across the community make her a good choice for trustee.

Again, thank you to my fellow community members for your support during my interim term as a trustee.

Best of luck to all the candidates on April 6.

Kristin Runge

Why I am running for village president

We need to have more clear and timely announcements of public hearings and agendas. This would allow residents to see what is coming up, and have a voice. I would also advocate for public hearing announcements and agendas to be published at least a week in advance. Now they come out the Thursday or Friday before Monday meetings. This would allow residents and trustees the time to read and be ready to partake in our village government.

I would work to implement a Tax Incremental District (TID) review process that will allow citizens to see an estimate of how much will go to a developer over the life of the TID. A TID is a special tax district created to promote development that wouldn’t occur “but for” the special district. During the life of the TID, the developer gets the extra tax money from the increased tax base instead of it going to the school district, county, and MATC. Since these districts last for over 20 years, there should be a process in place before someone proposes new TIDs, since it impacts all residents.

Waunakee is a wonderful place to live. We have fantastic parks, a great school system, and people want to live here. Yet so many of our hardworking people in the manufacturing and service industry can’t afford to. This is a problem in all of Dane County, but it is time for Waunakee to lead in finding solutions. I was struck by all the welcome mats at people’s doors as I campaigned. I want Waunakee to be a place that welcomes everyone.

I started out taking accounting classes at MATC, but transferred to Herzing University and achieved a Bachelor’s Degree in technology management. I worked in IT Support at the UW and retired in 2017. I continue with my love of computers as I own a small computer business. I help figure out computer issues and provide IT support.

I have watched almost every village board meeting in the last 3 years. I read the agenda packets before meetings and am very aware of the variety of issues that come before the board. Everyone is new at their job at some point. I have done my homework and can hit the ground running when elected. I humbly ask for your vote on April 6.

Mary Heimbecker

Kaufmann knows Waunakee

I’m voting for Sam Kaufmann because he knows Waunakee. He has a great knowledge of Waunakee’s history. Yet he has an eye on Waunakee’s future. He is a good listener and will listen to concerns from long-time residents as well as new ones. He is detail oriented and has the youth and drive to work for the betterment of all Waunakee residents.

Respectfully, Peggy Currier

Research before you vote

April 6 is 2 weeks away and there is still time to become an informed voter.

In order for democracy to thrive, it is imperative to elect individuals who are informed/knowledgeable, exhibit integrity/honesty, as well as those who are open to feedback from equally informed citizens.

What a candidate has verbalized as their platform and their background (education/experience) is essential to evaluate before marking a ballot.

Detailed information has been provided by the Waunakee Tribune, the Wisconsin State Journal, and a publication distributed by the League of Women Voters to area households. If readers missed any of this valuable publicity about candidates, one can find it on line (www.lwvdanecounty.org) or by calling (608) 232-9447.

Democracy at any level depends on the responsibility of voters to attain comprehensive details about candidates who will represent them and it is the responsibility of candidates to be forthright about how they intend to serve if elected.

Know your candidates before marking that ballot on April 6!

Vicky Daubert

I know Mary

“Dedicated and hardworking,” is how Mary Heimbecker was first described to me. She’s running for Waunakee Village President April 6. “I know Mary! We go way back,” another neighbor said.

Mary has been a resident since 1979, but has lived in the Waunakee area her entire life. She graduated from Waunakee high school in 1977, and her first job was waitressing at the O’Malley Farm Cafe. She was there on opening day! After talking with Mary, I know she’ll represent those who have been here “forever” and those who have just moved to town more recently, like me. She wants a more open and inclusive Waunakee and more transparency in the development process. She advocates for residents to have the opportunity to voice their concerns before things are a done deal. Part of her plan is improving how public hearings are communicated to give residents a better chance to participate.

What are your concerns? Mary is accessible and openly available for questions. Email maryh4waunakee@gmail.com or message her at https://www.facebook.com/maryh4waunakee. She’s grounded in traditional principles, yet current and on top of the issues our community faces. She loves Waunakee. Mary listens and follows up after discussions. She takes action and puts the interests of others first. As an elected official she will be of service to you. Vote for Mary Heimbecker on or before April 6. An absentee ballot drop off box is available just outside Village Hall.

Andrea Brandt

Frey for Waunakee school board

In regards to the upcoming Waunakee school board election, I can’t say enough about my neighbor Ted Frey. I’ve lived next door to Ted and his wife Rebecca for 24 years and watched his family grow and develop through those years.

Ted has all the qualities I feel that a school board member should have. I can see those qualities not only in Ted, but also through his children and wife. Ted is respectful, polite, open minded, well spoken and creative in his problem solving. Ted is not one to take on a challenge lightly. He does his research, analyzes various aspects, and presents a credible solution as quickly as he can be informed of the issue. He’s also not one to shy away from a particularly complex challenge. He is always able to stay calm and find a rational solution even in the most trying of situations. Whether that challenge is a severe storm throwing the neighborhood into a power outage, or the hardship of an illness that pushes the family physically apart. I’ve never seen him or his family lose faith. He and his wife have built a wonderful household. I feel this can be translated to our school community where everyone cares about and for everyone else. Ted Frey would be an excellent school soard member, and I would be very excited to see what levels Ted might be able to elevate Waunakee up to. I’ll be voting for Ted Frey April 6.

Thomas Gillitzer

A vote for Heimbecker, Kaufmann

I highly recommend voting for Mary Heimbecker for village president and Sam Kaufmann for village trustee. I first met Mary as she served donut holes as part of the welcoming committee for church. Her smile and warmth were perfect for new members to feel welcome. The goal was bringing current and new parishioners together in an informal setting to share friendship.

Later I got to know Mary as she became interested in village politics. She was part of a neighborhood group that opposed a proposed nearby large apartment complex that would have taken out affordable housing. Her common sense, tech skills, and willingness to work hard to get the desired outcome was impressive. Even after the issue that led her to get involved was resolved, Mary saw a need for more resident input in village government and continued to attend village meetings and ask questions.

I also recommend Sam Kaufmann. His ability to listen to neighbors with very different views and bring them together is rare in these times of polarized politics. Sam also is welcoming to all. His volunteer work with clearing the creek, preserving Waunakee history, and helping elderly residents is commendable. Both Sam and Mary will work hard to represent you and bring a common sense perspective to the board.

Sharyn Gardill

Kaufmann will represent you

I am writing this letter on the behalf of Sam Kaufmann, a candidate for trustee on the Waunakee Village Board.

I have known Sam since the day he was born. As a Waunakee native, Sam has always been a leader and wanted to make his community a better place. One of my favorite memories of Sam, when he was very young. I used to ask him how to get to different places and landmarks around the village. He would instantly become a mini GPS, noting every road, side street, and county highway. Moreover, you could always find Sam participating in school clubs, Waunafest and 5K’s.

I believe that this love for his community at a young age makes him a wonderful candidate for trustee. He is invested and understands the values of this community.

Sam’s positive energy, compassion and ability to listen to others will allow him to get things done and represent you.

Vote for Sam Kaufmann on April 6!

Kendra Shillinglaw

The best possible candidate

I am Jonah Braun, a close friend of Sam Kaufmann.

I endorse him for the Village Board of Waunakee. He is an exceptional leader and gets a lot of things done. I am an Eagle Scout and he has spent countless hours working on my service project. He is a very helpful young man. I also want to extend my thanks and support to Village President candidate Mary Heimbecker for lending her truck out several times for use on the project.

Sam is on top of everything and follows schedules very well. He takes pictures of graves and documents them, and he is a history wiz. He knows everyone in Waunakee and is a generous, kind person. He will do an excellent job serving on the Village Board of Waunakee. For those reasons, I think he is the best possible candidate for the Village Board.


Jonah Braun

Vote Heimbecker

Mary Heimbecker has been a good friend for years, and we are supporting Mary for Village President. Her involvement in village politics took off a few years ago when she started attending village meetings. She saw opportunities to have government more accessible to citizens. She wants better public hearing notices. Those notices alert the public of opportunities to weigh in on development. Also she is an advocate for open government. Too many meetings citizens are shut out of even hearing the conversation that goes into making decisions because the village board goes into closed session. The public is not allowed to attend that portion of a meeting. Mary thinks government should be accountable to citizens and would really limit those closed sessions.

Following government was a new endeavor for Mary, but like anything she does, she approaches it with optimism, energy, and hard work. I encourage people to go to her FB page and see where she stands on the issues. https://www.facebook.com/maryh4waunakee.

Then vote!

Lori and Dan Hetzel

Vote Heimbecker, Kaufmann

I believe that Mary Heimbecker will be a great Waunakee Village President. Mary takes the time to listen to all sides and advocates for everyone, to make sure that everyone can live together fairly. Mary also has been working to make sure that the public has equal and fair access to the Village Board meetings, posting times and locations and sharing links to participate virtually. She believes that we should discuss issues in a fair way, and that everyone should be heard.

I agree that the community should have more access to the village board meetings, and Mary will make sure that is accomplished. Mary will do that through a few ways. The first would be that Mary will work to limit the amount of closed sessions. The second would be better informing the village community of the meeting dates and times.

I support the idea of providing more housing options for all income brackets. Mary will work to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to find adequate and affordable housing opportunities. As of now, Waunakee has very few housing options for minimum and medium wage workers, subsidized housing, and for people with disabilities.

Another candidate for village board whom I believe will be a great board member is Sam Kaufmann. Sam also advocates for those in Waunakee to have equal opportunity for housing, advocates for Waunakee to become more diverse and for everyone to be included, no matter their background.

Sam conducts numerous volunteer projects, from cleaning out the creek and wetlands of Waunakee, to photographing local grave sites for online grave records. Sam goes out of his way to help the people in the community with anything he can. For example, Sam helped me get to my college classes for a semester, when I could not get a ride in. Please vote for both of them as they will represent all Waunakee citizens.

Austin Steele

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