Second ward alderman steps down, community reacts

By Ali Combs

On April 9, three new members will be elected to City Council. Second ward alderman Tom Teresinski is one of the aldermen vacating his position at the end of this term.

Teresinski was appointed to his position in 2008 following the death of Mayor Frank Van Buer. Then-second ward alderman Kris Povlsen was voted into the mayoral position by the council and Teresinski was appointed by Povlsen.

“First of all, I remember Tom as a member of the school board who was very progressive…. We would consult frequently,” Povlsen said. “When I was appointed mayor, that left a vacancy in my aldermanic seat, so I appointed Mr. Teresinski to the aldermanic seat, because I was impressed with his work on the school board.”

Teresinski was on the city’s Financial Advisory Commission when he was appointed to second ward alderman.

“I knew there would be an opening based on the prior mayor passing away and Povlsen being voted in by council,” Teresinski said. “That left an opening in the second ward, and I was in the second ward and had worked with the council previously. I was on the Financial Advisory Commission at the time and had worked on the school board.”

Teresinski’s understanding of finances sets him apart from others, Povlsen said.

“I think he relates well with the community,” Povlsen said. “Not everybody has the ability to address financial issues in a way people understand. He’s very matter of fact…. Not everybody can understand finances, but he tells it in a way that makes sense and can move people forward.”

First ward alderman David Jacobson agrees with Povlsen in this aspect.

“Tom has the ability to see through numbers and understand them better than anyone I know,” Jacobson said. “He has a very strong financial mind. He’s very well spoken and able to put things into understandable terms and to conceptualize things that are generally very difficult for people to understand.”

Povlsen said Teresinski’s financial experience contributed to his appointment. Teresinski worked 35 years in business management prior to being an alderman. He was a controller for large manufacturing companies.

“Tom has a very strong financial background and really brings to the table a strong analysis of decision making as it relates to finances,” Povlsen said. “He’s a progressive thinker…which is important, but he’s progressive in a fiscally responsible way.”

Teresinski said the largest task he faced as an alderman was aiding in the city’s recovery from recession.

“I think the biggest thing was dealing with the aftermath of a very difficult recession–keeping the ship afloat and effecting some positive changes by improving fund balances and managing the city in a tight fiscal manner and heading back to key strategic issues like public safety and police,” Teresinski said. “The outcome of good management is the ability to fund other high priority issues without raising taxes.”

Povlsen and city manager Mark Biernacki said Teresinski played a key role in the city’s recovery from financial crisis.

“Alderman Teresinski was one of the key leaders on the City Council,” Biernacki said in an email. “He was instrumental in setting the policy and direction that allowed the city to emerge from the fiscal crisis of 2008/2009 into the healthy financial position we are in today.”

In reference to his work with the city’s financial situation, Teresinski said the city still needs work but has a good start and is much more stable than it was before.

“We’re still not out of the woods,” Teresinski said. “But the city is substantially stronger than it was.”

Povlsen said Teresinski’s input was crucial in restructuring the city in times of need.

“I think he was a real driving factor in providing input to turn our budget crisis around,” Povlsen said. “His input was important as we restructured the staff, as we negotiated with bargaining units for benefits and salaries. He presented a very real and accurate overview of assuring that we could have financial stability in the community.”

At the March 25 City Council meeting, fourth ward alderman Brendon Gallagher used his last remarks at the meeting to send Teresinski off with a farewell. He said Teresinski would be missed by the council and the city.

Some of the most rewarding moments during Teresinski’s time as alderman were the passages of several key votes.

“I think the biggest moments are the votes–some of the key votes in the passage of the library, being able to find a way to move forward on the library after two years of debate, and moving forward with the police station after eight or nine years of trying find ways to fund that,” Teresinski said.

Jacobson, who has sat to Teresinski’s right at City Council meetings for the last two years, and Povlsen said his absence will be noticed.

“He’s going to be greatly missed,” Povlsen said. “He’s served the community well, and I think his expertise and common sense will be greatly missed. He leaves behind a very sound financial legacy as he played a very important part on Council.”

Teresinski said he currently does project work for a corporate accounting company and is looking forward to retirement and spending time with family.

“I’m getting that magic 62 and retirement and all of those related things,” Teresinski said. “I’ll hopefully visit with my grandchildren and see them more.”

The retiring second ward alderman said he may stay involved with the city by way of volunteer commissions like the one he was on when he was appointed to his aldermanic seat.