Mayor Bruce Hagen, Superior, Wisconsin

Q&A With Candidate Bruce Hagen


Bruce Hagen’s Complete Explore Superior Questionnaire

Why are you the best candidate for Mayor of Superior?

Mayor Bruce Hagen, Superior, Wisconsin

Mayor Bruce Hagen

Experience counts!  Successful experience counts even more.  My career experiences span decades in the private and public arenas all at very senior leadership positions.  In that, my passion has always centered around local government.

To offer some examples of leadership as your current Mayor, consider the following.

When I took office in 2011 the unemployment rate was hovering around 10%.  Today it is below 4%.  This is the lowest in over seventy years.  The tax rate is 2% lower than when I took office with a general fund budget that has not fluctuated.  The last time the tax rate was reduced was during my previous terms as your Mayor with the last nine of twelve years tax rate frozen or reduced.

Economic development is JOBS.   Good paying JOBS.  We have witnessed more growth in the past four years than during the past fifteen or more years.  Manufacturing jobs, technical jobs, construction jobs, retail and commercial jobs.  All family wage earning jobs.  Much of my background is in economic development.  I know what it takes to bring and retain jobs in a community.

Not to be minimized, my experiences in local, state and federal government have offered insight and knowledge as to how all of them function, operate and the relationship building of trust and partnerships that benefit our community.  No other candidate has, or can point to, or provide the depth, experience or results of local government leadership success.

What are the three biggest economic issues facing the City today?

Lack of housing– As we have said, you can create all the jobs in a community.  And we have in working with the private sector.  But if a community is not providing the right amount and type of housing, you lose not only the tax base, but the circulation of the household incomes within the community.  This has been the case in our community for more than just decades.  To counter and turn this matter around we have developed a four-tier plan that is now in the implementation stage.

  • First, provide housing for seniors that chose to downsize.  We are now constructing a fifty unit senior community that will be filled with upgrades, community areas, business office, gathering room, patios, etc.  To show the need, over 250 senior applications have been filed.  Most being seniors that want to stay in our community but also wish to downsize.
  • Second, the generations held households which seniors downsize from are being purchased by families starting out with many neighborhoods evolving with young families.  So many are now being remodeled, upgraded and growing the respective neighborhoods.  To assist, we are improving parks, playgrounds and the public areas such as streets.
  • Third, is that of new single family sub-divisions.  One of these will be open for new construction this spring with 30+ single family home sites; some already called for.
  • Fourth, we need to develop larger home sites for those that want to build larger homes in Superior where such locations are available.  This is a proven need.
  • Combined with all of the above is that of young professional housing.  Many young professionals prefer to rent but want to rent upscale urban location housing.  To that end we are working on just that in the Tower Avenue Business District.

The State of Wisconsin– Continued reductions in Payment for Municipal Services (PMS), Shared Revenue, state fees (landfill), etc.  The state legislature, administration and governor fail to provide, or continue to share the revenue that was designed to partner with communities for over the past seventy years.  Reductions, further regulations and unfunded mandates must cease.  In the past four years the legislature passed and the governor signed sixty four (64) bills into law that negatively affected all units of local government, K-12 and UWS.  Without a reverse of these draconian policies and legislation, choices become very restrictive at the local level.  Quality and high level education has always been The Hallmark of Wisconsin.  We need to keep that in front of us.  As for local units of government, I always state it this way – “As go the cities of Wisconsin, so goes Wisconsin”!  In order for Wisconsin to grow, Madison needs to stop penalizing the 70% of the people live in the cities and the 80% that are employed in our cities.

Infrastructure – The three major components of any community, other than a quality school system (which we have), is that of “image”, “infrastructure” and “economic development” – Jobs.  We concentrate on our image more than ever before.  And it shows.  For so many years we did not prioritize the need for streets, parks, sewers and the esthetics that make a community – our home.  There is very little if any funding outside of what we can provide locally.  But as your Mayor I have made the components of the city infrastructure THE priority.  To that end, we have completed approximately 24 miles of new streets and sidewalks, restored and improved a number of our parks and playgrounds, baseball fields, Barker’s Island and the public entrances to our city.  The next four years will be equally aggressive with even more infrastructure upgrades, the reconstruction of the entire length of Belknap Street to resemble that of North Tower Avenue and the construction of a new Fire Department Headquarters.  I haven’t raised taxes in doing all of what we accomplished, and as your Mayor, I don’t intend to start now.

How will you encourage continued economic development in Superior?

In regard to continued economic development, I will focus on:

  1. In March, the city and county will be initiating a housing assessment which will provide the building block that will further address the four-tier housing plan that I mentioned above.
  2. Retail development for growth, repurposing existing buildings and attract complementary new business growth.
  3. Retaining and growing a strong industrial base.  We continue to support all of our industrial partners with assistance whether it be a regulatory issue, workforce requirements or expansion incentives.

We have a small but very detailed and aggressive Economic Development Team. Our approach has and continues to be seeking out a blend of job growth opportunities, job retention and growth of our existing businesses and industries. It works! Just in the past year we welcomed over twenty (20) new and expanded businesses to Superior. The job of economic development isn’t a training ground or a casual practice. One needs to fully understand the components, requirements and business goals of the client long before you can be of any assistance, or worse; take them on a path that ultimately does not work for anyone. This requires first an education in economic development, experience and understanding the client. We have that. That is what it requires to stay competitive and successful.

The other component is focusing on the types of businesses and industries that belong, are compatible in the community and do not compete with long-established businesses but rather complement them. We are a port community. We are an intricately detailed manufacturing community. We are Wisconsin’s Energy Capital with any number of oil based industries, the only refinery in the state and the terminal for Enbridge providing fifteen percent of all imported oil to the United States of America. Superior has always produced products, raw and finished to America and the world. Always have and always will. Some disagree, but this growth also supports other existing industries and businesses resulting in the lowest unemployment rate since WWII. Our Economic Development Team, in working with business and labor will continue to balance growth in Superior.

Do you believe that Superior has a crime problem, and if so what will you do to confront it?

Every city has a crime problem.  The difference in combating it is the relativity of services, prevention activities and in some cases being very openly diligent and in the face of crime; especially that against children and women.  The Superior/Douglas County, Duluth/St. Louis County Task Force against crime has and continues to be very successful behind the scenes with the results being all of the arrests that we witness from child pornography, to abuse of women and drug trafficking.  We are tough on crime and need to be more so.  I support and will support further tools that will curtail these and other illegal practices and stronger prosecution.  Police Chief Alexander and I have discussed these very matters and necessary resources to bring these criminal activities to a halt.  The first new step will be a citizen/professional task force that will provide several more alternatives for addressing this plague of crimes.

The task force will examine patterns of various criminal activity, the ‘people factor’, especially in the drug scene, education for neighborhood watch and greater targeted activity with the Superior Police Department and other law enforcement agencies.  Let’s be frank here!!  We all know and perfectly understand that a considerable amount of criminal activity in Superior is not home grown.  We have elements coming out of Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and other larger cities praying on our young and infirm.  We know it but we also need to be in their face every day and night.  That will take resources and I will fully support what is needed in addition to what is currently available.  Our police force and sheriff’s department are excellent, dedicated and positive results oriented with major successes to prove it.  We, as citizens, must be more than casually supportive.

What is your view of labor relations between the City and its employees?

Glad you asked this question.

I don’t like to use the word “I” but it must be said. The City of Superior employees have not been more appreciated by any administration that “I” am aware of. In these very tough times, communities across Wisconsin and the nation are laying off employees, eliminating services and cutting wages and benefits. Not in this community. And not under my watch. Why? Because over the years, staffing was allowed to be reduced. We are at a minimum and what our employees provide in service is amazing with what has to be done.

Let’s talk about services in compared to other communities. Here is a sample of what we provide that most don’t.

Brush pick-up, leave pick-up, street sweeping, garbage removal, toxic removal, spring household refuse removal, more parks on average than most communities, same for skating rinks and playgrounds and ZERO assessments for infrastructure improvements. As for this, Superior is the only municipality in all of Wisconsin that does not have special assessments.

Back to employee relationships. In 2014 “I” reclassified 29 represented classifications with substantial adjustments so as to be market competitive. Every employee received a 2% wage increase on top of adjustments. And it must be said that the former unions (they did not recertify) were outraged that “I” also gave salary adjustments to several professional positions in an effort to also make them comparable to the market.  This was what “I” developed as Phase I of bringing all employees to the fair market level.

For all employees, we provide the best equipment, technology and working conditions of any employer.

Moving to 2015, this will shock those that may have not seen solid movement in their own respective wages.  And I believe this is why this question is being asked.

We have some, but very few, city employees that are angered by “My” proposal for Phase II in bringing city employees into market range for pay and benefits because “it isn’t fair”. And at least two of my opponents in the race for Mayor, who pass themselves off as pro-labor and progressive, are also proclaiming that this wage/benefit plan is not “labor fair”. Here goes. You tell me if it is fair.

The following is budgeted, without a tax increase and is sustainable. We are losing valued employees in all ranks and “I” believe we must promote and support our employees. The following recommendations are currently before the Common Council.

  • 2% wage increase for all employees
  • Implementation of a new wage scale moving employees to the new wage scale ‘next step’ after the inclusion of the 2% raise for 2015
  • New and enhanced Longevity increases
  • City providing one-half of employee deductable for their respective Heath Savings Account (HSA)

Proposed wage increases for labor/management employees including the across the board 2%

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As I stated, this is being termed as “unfair” by some formerly represented AFSCME employees. You be the judge.

What is the one major accomplishment that you hope to achieve if you are elected Mayor?

As I stated, this is being termed as “unfair” by some formerly represented AFSCME employees. You be the judge.

My experience and vision has not changed since being your Mayor from 1975-87 as to what makes a community successful and welcoming.

Simply put, I will continue to focus on the “image” of Superior by improving and keeping the public areas clean and crisp.  Continue to invest in our “infrastructure” to make the streets, parks and underground systems safe, presentable and more functional.  What I do best is – diversified “economic development”.  That is the backbone of all communities and its success.

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