Kewaunee’s first woman mayor outlines plans for city
Sandi Christman made history last week as she was sworn in as the city of Kewaunee’s first woman mayor.
To confirm that she was the first mayor, the Kewaunee County Historical Society reviewed its list of mayors from 1883 to the present.
Unless one of the former mayors who used their initials, such as C.F. Temby and C.L. Duvall, was a woman, Christman had indeed become the city’s first woman in the top leadership position, according to Richard Dorner, a spokesperson for the center.
Christman is a lifelong resident of the city and has served as alderman for District 4 since 2013. She attended Kewaunee High School and has a degree in leadership development from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) and will complete another degree in human resources development at NWTC this year.
She has worked in the insurance industry, health-care administration, human resources, performance improvement training, and currently works as a grant writer.
The new mayor has served in a variety of community volunteer leadership positions, including past president of the Kewaunee Jaycees, past vice president and secretary of the Kewaunee Athletic Booster Club, co-chairperson of the Firecracker 5K Run/Walk, president of the Immanuel Lutheran School Association and member of the Kewaunee County Decommissioning Task Force. She is currently scholarship chairperson and Web page and Facebook administrator for the Kewaunee County Garden Club.
Her husband is David Christman who works as a maintenance mechanic at a Green Bay plant, and they have two grown sons, Jared and Craig, as well as a grandson, Blake.
“I believe that my goals for Kewaunee are the same as many other community members, which is to make Kewaunee a great place to live, work and raise a family,” she said.
The Kewaunee County Star-News recently asked Christman to provide some answers to questions regarding the future of the city under her leadership.
1. During your election campaign, you said you were urged to run for mayor by many residents in the city. What changes did they want to see in the direction the city was heading?
They were looking for change; a change in leadership, a change in communication, a change in operations. Many asked for better communication from the city to know exactly what goes on when public officials transact public business as well as using technology to enhance communication option. The latter can be accomplished by creating various avenues for communication: a city Facebook Page, posting more information on the city webpage, and including more details in our meeting minutes. In addition, creating opportunities for the community to voice their concerns and suggestions by being available to listen.
Others commented that they liked my leadership style because I will always ask the tough questions to gain a full understanding on an issue before taking any action.
People know me from my involvement in many community volunteer activities and that I will always strive for what is best for our community.
2. What is your first priority as mayor and why?
I feel we need to revisit our basic foundation of creating trust with the citizens, improving communications both internally and externally, updating our policies and procedures to create efficiencies, and collaborating with other cities within our county, organizations, institutions, and businesses in our community, as well as county, state and federal resources, to create opportunities, efficiencies, reduce costs, and for growth of the city.
Running parallel with this definitely is the completion of the seawall project and planning for growth and retention of business in the city.
3. What unique leadership skills and experience will you bring to city government?
I encourage people to bring their ideas and concerns forward. There is an old saying that I consider my mantra: “I never learned anything when I was talking.”
I encourage the citizens of Kewaunee to be the voice of government. I want them to be talking to their alderpersons and attending council meetings and/or viewing the videotaped meetings to stay informed.
I always do my homework before making decisions. You will notice about me that I ask lots of questions to gain an understanding on an issue. This trait probably stems from my being a root cause investigator.
Lastly, leaders develop other leaders. You will see this from me as we go forward with our council committees.
4. What plans do you have to revitalize the downtown area of Kewaunee to make it more attractive for residents and visitors?
Again, collaborating with other groups, I believe we can revitalize the downtown area of Kewaunee by holding regularly occurring public events that showcase our merchants, food, and entertainment. Items we can look forward to include: Harbor Park improvements, lighthouse restoration, fire department museum, farmer’s market by the grandfather clock, and finding the right developer for the old Hamachek property.
I believe we also need to look at creating a Main Street Program to preserve, revitalize and restore our downtown area.
5. What are the other big issues that the city will face in the next two years?
It is important that we keep on track with the community development block grant application to raze Marquette School as this building is a safety concern.
6. What are Kewaunee’s greatest assets?
Kewaunee’s greatest assets are the residents. Having been involved in many volunteer groups, I have worked with a lot of city residents who are willing to pitch in to create opportunities for our children and to support community programs that benefit the welfare of the residents. We are also fortunate to have a great staff at City Hall. Our location next to Lake Michigan and the Kewaunee River is also an asset. It provides many opportunities for water sports, fishing and relaxing with nature. With the seawall project, Harbor Park development and the lighthouse restoration, we will be creating more amenities that benefit our residents and draw tourists to our city.
7. What in the city needs the most improvement?
All cities face challenges no matter what their size. The challenges we are faced with are maintaining current infrastructure, such as streets, sewer, city vehicles, controlling rising health insurance costs, and operating the city within certain financial confines of State laws, given strict levy limits we are dealt with. We also need to start filling empty buildings in downtown area. Again, this is where a Main Street Program would be beneficial.
8. Under your leadership, what would the city of Kewaunee look like five years from now?
Improved communication, more applications for grant opportunities, improved operating efficiencies, and a feeling of community unity.
9. How will the city work with county government over the next five years to improve the quality of life for residents?
We cannot have blinders on that what impacts the county does not affect us. Creating efficiencies through collaboration with the county would be my first approach.
10. If you could come up with a new slogan for the city for residents and visitors, what would it be?
I would not change it. I like our current slogan: “Spirit of the Lakeshore”.
11. What significance, if any, do you place on being the first woman mayor in the city’s history?
As I always told my sons, you can be whatever you want to be if you set goals and work hard. If I had daughters, I would tell them the same. I believe the community members made themselves clear in the election that being a woman in politics is not a factor.
As for being elected the first female mayor in the city, I am honored.
Karen Ebert Yancey can be reached at [email protected], on Facebook at Kewaunee County Star News Facebook, on Twitter at @EbertYancey or by calling 920-559-1235.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Kewaunee's first woman mayor outlines plans for city