Milwaukee mayor to leave office early, move south

Monday, June 23, 2003

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist will leave office four months early and move to Chicago to lead an urban development organization, the mayor's spokesman said Sunday.

Norquist will become president and chief executive officer of Congress for The New Urbanism on Jan. 1, the mayor's communications director Steve Filmanowicz said.

The nonprofit organization aims to stop sprawl, establish walkable and environmentally sustainable neighborhoods and break down social segregation, said Steven Bodzin, the organization's communications director.

Norquist is the nation's longest-serving mayor for a city of more than 500,000. He was expected to hold a press conference Sunday night after returning from the Congress's annual conference in Washington D.C.

"While serving as mayor for more than 15 years, I've seen the power that urban design has to reform neighborhoods," Norquist said in a statement.

Common Council President Marvin Pratt, a candidate to succeed the fourth-term mayor, will become acting mayor from January until the regular elections in April 2004.

Pratt acknowledged Sunday that the mayor's premature departure would give him an advantage over the four other announced candidates.

"It will give me an opportunity to demonstrate my leadership style," he said. "We can get some positive things accomplished in that time frame."

In his remaining months as mayor, Norquist said he would work with the common council on a budget for the city, which is facing a $20 million deficit.

Norquist spared the city the cost of a special election by delaying his resignation until December. No special election is called when a mayor leaves office within 120 days of the end of a term, according to the city charter.

Norquist, 53, was chosen to lead the organization because of his national stature and knowledge of new urbanism, Bodzin said.

"We needed someone who could immediately take on a national role and do outreach with those at the top level of government and industry," he said.

Norquist has served since 1994 as a board member of the congress, and signed the organization's charter as a founder 10 years ago.

Norquist authored "The Wealth of Cities" and has taught courses in urban planning and development at Marquette University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The mayor resigned his position as president of the organization's volunteer board to apply for president and was chosen Friday from a field of six finalists, Bodzin said.

The San Francisco-based organization will move to Chicago over the next year and Norquist will follow it there, Bodzin said.

Norquist announced last April that he would not seek re-election after he used his campaign fund to help pay the city $375,000 to settle a sexual harassment case brought by Marilyn Figueroa, one of his former staffers.

Norquist denied any plans to leave office early as recently as June 13.

Those who have announced they will run in the nonpartisan April 2004 mayor's race are Pratt, former U.S. Rep. Tom Barrett, Alderman Tom Nardelli, state Rep. Pedro Colon, D-Milwaukee, and businesswoman Sandy Folaron.


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