Former Mayor Spitzer
by CHRIS ROGERS
For a decade, St. Charles has had the same mayor. Last week, Bill Spitzer's term as mayor officially ended and John Schaber took office. Schaber is no newcomer to city government; he has served on the City Council for 14 years. Spitzer and Schaber have not always seen eye-to-eye and they admit they have different leadership styles, but both men named the development of the industrial park as one of their major accomplishments. They also agreed on the most important task facing city leaders in coming years: making sure St. Charles is poised for residential and industrial growth.
"I would say my personality is a bit different," Schaber said when asked how his leadership style compares to Spitzer's. "I think I'm more of a consensus builder. To me it's important to see both sides, to listen before I speak."
"I was more of a consensus molder," Spitzer said, when asked about Schaber's comparison. "We've all been to brainstorming sessions where people say, 'I don't have an idea. I don't know.' I'm the type of person that has an idea for everything and I'm not afraid to bring those forward." Spitzer added, "I was very proactive so that the news media knew what was going on in St. Charles, and that was very important to me. I don't know if his leadership style will be different. I'm not sure, but he definitely has his heart in the right place. He will be looking out for our community."
Schaber, a 14-year veteran of the City Council, worked with Spitzer when the city reeled from the loss of its largest private employer, Northstar Foods, to a fire in 2009; when the city spent $2 million on an industrial park in 2010; when city leaders considered the development of a frac sand rail terminal in 2012; and when the first development occurred in the industrial park last summer.
"One thing we would all like is to see some light industry or manufacturing," Schaber said. "We would definitely like to see a company in town that pays a decent wage. So we need to figure out how we can best market the city." Schaber said St. Charles has a list of benefits to tout: 24-hour police service, a pool, low taxes, and its proximity to Whitewater State Park. "I hope to work with local groups and the chamber of commerce to figure out how to market our town," he continued.
How much should St. Charles spend on marketing itself? "I would say we have to balance it," Schaber said. "Should we spend some money? Yeah. Should we spend a lot of money? I don't know."
Schaber added that the city should provide the amenities businesses looking to locate in the area might need, such as high speed internet.
"We're in that perfect marketing position to try to encourage people to live in our community," Spitzer said. "We have so many amenities here in St. Charles: good schools, good parks, low taxes, reasonable utilities, and an established downtown." He added, referring to the potential for St. Charles to grow as a result of the Rochester's Destination Medical Center (DMC) project, "We have so many amenities that we can offer I think that's going to be huge, and I encourage our City Council that they continue to support and aggressively pursue the DMC concept because I think that's really going to help grow our community."
Spitzer named the development of the Interstate 90 industrial park as one of the most important developments during his tenure as mayor, along with securing funding for downtown revitalization and for flood repairs.
"I truly believe that in the next year you're going to see some major development in that park, unless some things fall through," Spitzer said. "We've had a number of businesses that have been working over years that are very serious about expanding in the St. Charles community,
but we've had that before and it all depends on the economy."
Spitzer went 'all in' on sheriff's race
This summer Spitzer bet it all — retiring from his job as a Winona County Sheriff's Deputy and declining to seek reelection as mayor — on an his ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the position of Winona County Sheriff. "It was a sad decision I had to make this year to pick between running for sheriff and running for mayor," he said. "Second only to my decision to get married, that was probably the biggest decision in my life," he added.
"Giving up the mayor's job, which I enjoyed so much, and giving up my profession, which I had been doing for nearly 30 years, I knew that it would be a life-changer," Spitzer said. "I felt like that the only way I could do it was to commit. I felt so strongly about what I could bring to the sheriff's office that I went all in, and today I would make the same decision."
Spitzer said one of the most valuable questions a mentor asked him before he filed for office was, "Can you handle losing?"
"It took me a while to understand that," Spitzer said.
Spitzer is currently "on the job hunt" and said he sees the election loss as an opportunity to work in the private sector.
Asked if he would consider seeking public office again, Spitzer said, "I'm not going to rule out any opportunities. I've had a number of people contact me about other elected positions, and I'm keeping all doors open. After running a campaign as long and as hard as I did, the first thing you do is recover."