RACINE — Mayor John Dickert made it official Monday, announcing that he will resign from office on Sunday, July 16.
The announcement, made via a news release sent out early in the afternoon, comes more than three months after Dickert, on March 27, held a news conference announcing his plans to step down as the city’s top elected official to become the next executive director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.
Dickert currently serves on the board of directors for the GLSCI, as well as two other water advocacy groups.
At the March press conference, Dickert said that he planned continue to serve as mayor through the summer, but declined to say exactly when his last day would be. With an official resignation date now in hand, the City Council can begin preparing for a leadership transition, which includes the work of setting a date for a special election.
That date was still in question as of last Thursday, when city Finance Director Dave Brown and City Attorney Scott Letteney told aldermen that they were eyeing Nov. 7 as a potential date for the special election, with a primary, if necessary, taking place on Oct. 10.
No timeline was formally set, however, because law dictates that a special election can only be set once the mayor has officially resigned.
Although it could cost the city an extra $200,000, a Nov. 7 special election would work out well logistically because it’s the first Tuesday in November, which is a typical election day in years with a general election. Additionally, the Village of Waterford is holding an election on that day, which means the county would need to add another election day to its schedule.
With Dickert’s resignation date now known, Letteney said Monday that the soonest a general election could be held is late September. The latest it could take place is during April 4 spring election, he said.
“I think the earliest they could possibly do it would be Sept. 1, but that would require an awful lot of hustle,” Letteney said.
While Letteney is not sure when the City Council will gather to select the special election date, he said they should be meeting soon to appoint a mayor to lead the city in the interim.
By ordinance, aldermen must select either City Council President Dennis Wiser — who will automatically become “acting mayor” once Dickert resigns — or one of the chairmen of the city’s three standing committees. If Wiser were to somehow decline the post, the next person in the line of succession would be longtime Finance and Personnel Committee Chairman Q.A. Shakoor II, the alderman of the 8th District.
On Monday, Wiser reiterated his plans accept the temporary appointment.
“I am more than happy to serve between Dickert’s resignation and the election of a new mayor,” Wiser said. “My personal goal is to have an elected mayor in the office as soon as possible.”
State Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, former Racine Unified School Board President Melvin Hargrove and former School Board member Wally Rendon have all announced plans to run for mayor in the upcoming special election. Sixth District Alderman Sandy Weidner and Justin Wheeler, who runs a marketing firm, also have filed to raise money for a future mayoral election.
The question of who will serve as City Council president while Wiser serves as acting mayor is entirely up to the council, Letteney said.
With his resignation, Dickert leaves a city in flux. Proposed projects such as the Machinery Row riverfront redevelopment and the Downtown event center remain in state of limbo, while to the west there are murmurings that Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn is targeting Racine County for a huge plant that could end up relying on city water.
Asked Moniday for comment on Dickert’s announcement, Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave said he wished Dickert good luck in his new role with the GLSCI and that he looks forward to working with the city’s next mayor.
“In terms of the future, there are going to need to be some big decisions that need to be made in terms of water and sewer and economic development, and for those things to be successful collaboration has to be the main priority,” Delagrave said.
Attempts to reach Dickert by phone on Monday were unsuccessful, but in his press release he said he looked upon his years as mayor with “with fondness and accomplishment,” noting reductions in crime and unemployment that occurred during his time in office, as well as work done to clean up the former Jacato Drive (now Anthony Lane), and to help address homelessness.
“This level of change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. So many people and organizations worked together to make things happen,” Dickert is quoted in the release. “I am proud of these and all the other accomplishments we’ve made together in recent years.”