RACINE — Mayor John Dickert plans to resign as mayor to pursue an executive directorship at a water advocacy group, he announced Monday morning at a press conference.
Dickert, who has been Racine’s mayor since 2009, currently serves on the board of directors for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, as well as two other water advocacy groups.
Dickert said that on March 20, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative board voted to offer him its executive director vacancy, which was created by the impending retirement of David Ullrich, the current executive director. Dickert publicly announced his decision at a 10 a.m. news conference at City Hall.
“This is an issue that is bigger than all of us,” Dickert said of the national and international water crisis. “If I’m really going to do a great job of protecting Racine and water and my kids and their future, I need to step up.”
In a Monday press release from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, Ullrich stated, “Mayor Dickert has been a strong force in our organization for years, and I am confident the positive presence of the Cities Initiative will continue under his leadership.”
Busy time for the city
Dickert announced his resignation during a busy time at City Hall. City staff are working to push through two major developments, Machinery Row and the proposed event center, and the other top leader for the city, City Administrator Tom Friedel, is retiring in April.
“The timing is what the timing is because of the way that this opportunity was presented,” Dickert said. “If I could have said to the Great Lakes (and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative), ‘I’d like to wait until the end of the year or the end of my tenure,’ I would have loved to be able to do that. But I don’t have that option.”
Dickert added that he’s confident in the strength of the leadership team the city has in place, including incoming City Administrator Jim Palenick and City Development Director Amy Connolly.
“There’s a reason I’ve put the team that’s there in place,” Dickert said. “Every department head has been hired so that the mayor can step aside and that fluid team runs a great organization. I have hired the best of the best.”
It’s not clear exactly when Dickert will step down, as arrangements for a special election, which can only take place once Dickert steps down, have to be made by the City Council. Dickert said he hopes to stay on into the summer.
“I’m not leaving right away,” he said. “By the time that we do transition out, we will know exactly where Machinery Row is going. We will know exactly where the development for the hotel-convention center is going.”
The council will vote for a new president in April, following an election where five seats are being contested, and that chosen alderman could very well serve a stint as interim mayor.
“That election will be very meaningful, and the council will know that going into that election,” Dickert said.
Dickert added that he’s content with the groundwork laid by his leadership team during his time as mayor, citing decreased crime and an improved financial situation.
“We have built one heck of a foundation for whoever is coming in,” he said. “When you look at what we started with in 2009, no one I knew thought we would succeed.”
On a personal level, Dickert said he’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife Teresa, his son Riley, 17, and his daughter Eleanor, 13.
“I get my weeknights and my weekends,” Dickert said. “I don’t have to worry, when I come home at night, that I’m going to have to run out to some other event and not be able to play a board game with my daughter and my son.”