Former Delafield mayor, alderman announces retirement from city service

Jim Behrend, Delafield alderman and former mayor, has announced he will not seek re-election to the Common Council serving the city’s second district. Behrend was first elected to the council in 1978 and later served five years as mayor before returning to the council in 2012.

 

DELAFIELD — Second District Alderman Jim Behrend’s decision not to seek re-election in April may end — or at least put on pause — more than 30 years of service to the city.

Behrend was instrumental in developing the city’s land use plan, the evolution of the city’s economic development policy and an unsuccessful attempt to install municipal water in the downtown business and residential district.

According to former Mayor Ed McAleer, Behrend began the discussions that later led to the creation of the Lake Country Fire Department, which served the villages of Nashotah and Chenequa as well as the city before it was expanded to become Lake Country Fire & Rescue, serving seven communities in the region.

“If Jim Behrend has decided to retire, then good for him. He deserves it after all of the years he has given to the city,” added McAleer, who was mayor for 14 years and served on Common Councils with Behrend.

Behrend was first elected to the council in April of 1987. Two years later, the council appointed him mayor after incumbent Carla Kot unexpectedly resigned. Behrend was re-elected mayor twice until potential conflicts of interest with his family’s real estate business and family obligations prompted him not to seek re-election in 1994.

For the next 14 years he served as a citizen member of various city committees before McAleer persuaded him to seek election to the council again in 2012.

Because Delafield’s population is a mix of long-established rural-oriented residents and newer urban-oriented residents, there are often conflicts between those citizens who want faster and more aggressive economic development and those who want to protect the rural residential character of the city. Behrend said he often sought compromises between the two opposing views as mayor and alderman.

Behrend said he did not feel it was necessary for the city to seek out economic development. He believed developers were naturally attracted to Delafield because of its location between an interstate highway and a lake.

As mayor, Behrend presided over the economic boom in the downtown business district resulting from entrepreneur Bob Lang’s calendar and greeting card company that became a nationwide retail rage in the 1980s and 1990s.

One of the city’s major accomplishments, according to Behrend, was the 1990 land use plan which preserved the rural residential character of the city and its quaint downtown business district, while accommodating the commercial and retail development pressures at the highway interchanges of Interstate 94 and Highway 83 and Highways 16 and 83. He and Lang advocated the extension of a municipal water main from existing wells in the I-94/Highway 83 business corridor to the downtown business district.

Behrend argued the water main would help improve the drinking water quality for downtown residential and business property owners. However, he and then-Mayor McAleer were caught by surprise when former City Administrator Matt Carlson expanded the plan to include the entire city, which meant many city residents would eventually have to hook up to municipal water.

“I nearly got into a shouting match with Matt. I told him city-wide water would never be approved,” Behrend told Conley Media.

 

Lifelong Lake Country resident

Behrend was born in Oconomowoc in 1956 and raised in Hartland. A certified public accountant, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Behrend served in key economic development positions for former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson before taking over his family’s real estate business.

A staunch Republican, Behrend was treasurer for the statewide campaigns of Thompson and former U.S. Senator Robert Kasten.

He will continue working as Waukesha County Register of Deeds and is considering seeking re-election to the office in 2024.

He said several factors contributed to his decision not to seek re-election to the Common Council.

There is a potential for conflicts of interest between his continuing to serve in city government and the prospects of developing family-owned land in the city.

He is confident that Mark R. Schaefer, who has announced his candidacy, will do a good job replacing him on the council.

The second district, located on the southwest corner of the city, includes residential neighborhoods, Lake Nagawicka properties, and commercial and retail districts along I-94 and Highways 83 and 16. Behrend added he would also like to spend less time attending late-night meetings.

“The timing is right,” said Behrend. “When I was out gathering signatures for my re-election two years ago, I was thinking it would probably be the last time.”