Tenth Ward’s Niziolek won’t seek Council reelection

First-term City Councilmember Dan Niziolek (10th Ward) has announced he will not seek reelection, citing competing family and job demands.

Niziolek made the announcement early — 16 months before the November 2005 election — to give political novices more lead time to organize.

"I want the community to have the best representation it can," he said. "If I wait until January [to announce], it means only those people who are politically connected get to run. By announcing now, anybody who is motivated to make a difference in this neighborhood can put together a campaign and run."

Niziolek announced his intention in an undated letter to his ward’s neighborhood boards. In an interview, he said he might organize a September event to help prospective 10th Ward Council candidates understand campaign organizing and logistics.

One candidate has already emerged. Allan Bernard, a former CARAG neighborhood board chair, said he would run, though a formal announcement would come later.

Bernard is a former aide to Niziolek’s predecessor, Lisa McDonald, and is a current aide to Councilmember Paul Zerby (2nd Ward). McDonald is backing his candidacy, he said.

Niziolek said he wrestled with his decision for six months, and decided in late June not to run.

Two weeks after he won the election in 2001, Niziolek’s wife Heidi gave birth to twins. The demands of the job and a young family were "incompatible," he said.

During his two-plus years on the Council, Niziolek has been on the losing end of many issues. He opposed Mayor R.T. Rybak’s recent appointment of Police Chief Bill McManus and has criticized the organization of the city’s new Community Planning and Economic Development department.

Niziolek said losing votes was less frustrating than being excluded from the conversation and hearing disparaging remarks, which he said are "part of the biz."

Before his term expires in January 2006, Niziolek said he would like to address Lake Street reconstruction, Lowry Hill East’s rezoning and creating a "sustainable" vision for Uptown.

He also wants to fix what he said is a frustrating lack of dialogue between city departments and citizen groups — and the time drain that creates for Councilmembers, he said.

"I am out there doing what I consider front-line staff work on a regular basis — mopping up this, mopping up that, having to represent departments all the time, rather than having them represent themselves," Niziolek said. "There should be relationships between the department and the community."

Niziolek will use the next several months to decide what new job to pursue. He used to work on city Community Crime Prevention and said he wants to stay in the public policy arena, helping improve communities.

However, a second Council term isn’t an option.

"I will burn out," he said. "I have learned how not to burn out. … I can do this for four years. Beyond four years, it is not something I can continue to do and do justice to everybody, including justice to myself."