Mueller’s board exit signals end of era

Longtime town official saw host of changes during 36 years in local government

RICH MUELLER STOOD before the Fredonia Government Center last week. The center is one of the signature accomplishments of his 36 years on the Fredonia Town Board, including a 20-year tenure as town chairman. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press Staff

With Tuesday’s election over, the Town of Fredonia is entering a new era.

That’s because Rich Mueller won’t be on the Town Board anymore.

The former dairy farmer has been on the board for 36 years, including as its chairman the past 20.

Mueller, 81, recalls when he was first asked to run for public office in the early 1980s.

“Oh, I remember that quite well,” he said. “It had to do with problems at the recycling center and the landfill, which had become a hazardous waste site.”

Joining the board came at a cost, however.

“It interfered with my bowling night,” Mueller said. “I had to give up my bowling.”

There have been a lot of changes in the town and in town government since then, Mueller said.

Originally, the board had just three members, but it was expanded when there were more concerns about development, Mueller noted.

“We had more people coming in complaining about development, so we decided to go to a five-man board,” he said.

One of the biggest changes is that the town offices are now located in the Fredonia Government Center in the Village of Fredonia. 

The town office takes up about half the building, and the village occupies the other half. They share the main meeting hall.

The town used to meet in the Waubeka firehouse but eventually the Waubeka Fire Department needed the space.

“We put a committee together and looked at different sites,” Mueller said.

The town was on the verge of signing an agreement to purchase Ozaukee County land when Mueller needed to buy some Mother’s Day flowers at Don’s Greenhouse for his wife JoAnne, who was sick.

“(Village President) Don (Dohrwardt) said, ‘We need a hall and you need a hall. Why don’t we go in together?’”

The joint building went to referendum, was approved by voters and opened for business in 2008.

At the end of 20 years, in 2028, either municipality can buy out the other, Mueller said. “It’s possible if the town or village gets bigger.”

The town recycling center on Hickory and Cedar Valley roads has also undergone a number of changes and today has four balers for plastic, cardboard and aluminum.

The “biggest problem” facing the town is road maintenance, Mueller said. 

The town is set to pay off one loan for road repairs later this year, but that issue could be subsumed by another when the town borrows money to pay for a fire truck for the Waubeka Fire Department.

“And we have another (fire truck)  coming down the road,” Mueller said. “I don’t see any solutions. I’ve wondered why they don’t work with the village and create one department, but there’s so much pride” in both departments. 

When recent floods swept through downtown Waubeka, the fire department stored its vehicles at the Fredonia fire station.

“They have so much room there. Why don’t they put them together? It’s inevitable,” Mueller said.

Mueller said large industrial or residential developments are not likely in the near future.

He said the town is “more than happy” to welcome business expansion like Cedar Valley Cheese is undergoing on Highway 57. 

“That doesn’t cost the town anything, but you get the benefit of development,” he said. “But if we’re going to have to start putting in infrastructure, that’s another story.  I don’t think larger developments would fly in our town.”

Mueller said the Town Board wants to preserve farm land, but if homes are built in wooded areas or other low-tax land, “then all right. That grows your tax base where you didn’t have any before.”

Mueller has no special plans for the nights when he no longer has town meetings to attend.

“I have one daughter who lives in Texas. Maybe we’ll drive down there,” he said. “Now I can take a vacation and not have to be back by Wednesday” for a meeting.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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