The Integrity of a Passionate Endorsement

When I say that as a fiscal conservative and a hard-working woman of integrity, I am proud to support Patti Logsdon for Milwaukee County Supervisor, I mean it.  When I say that she would represent a massive improvement for her constituents, that warrants some explaining.  Please read on for a true inside view at what goes on at the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.

Navigating being an elected official under constant scrutiny is a lot like navigating being a professional woman faced with comparative stereotypes.  For example, when a man is admired for his “ambition”, a woman is criticized as “aggressive.” When a man is called “assertive,” a woman doing the exact same thing is called “pushy.”  When a man takes the helm, he is called a “leader,” but a woman is just seen as “bossy.”

This type of double-standard for people in professional settings exists in politics to an alarming degree and is used to tell ambitious, assertive, female leaders like me to “sit down and shut up.”

I’ll never forget radio show host Earl Ingram asking me early in my political career if I would be a “politician” once elected.  Many scenarios flooded through my mind as I drew in a breath to answer the fair-but-baited question confidently, knowing that it could only end well if I figured out the puzzle quickly.

The answer was, of course, “No,” and while it took a moment to process, I was telling Earl the truth.  The reason is that while the word “politician” should describe someone who is skilled in policy making and navigating politics, the American people read the word with a negative connotation; something they and I both want to avoid.  I told Earl, and internalized further into my mantra of striving for servant leadership, that I would not be a “politician;” rather, I would strive to be a “policymaker” and a “statesman” and focus on marching to the beat of a different drum.   This was an easy decision because I am almost entirely driven in life by my desire to help fix injustices that I see in this world.

 

As Olivia Pope—the main character in a popular TV show about Washington D.C. politics –might put it, “you’ve got to be a gladiator to wear the white hat.”

Balancing being a strong-willed maverick, with striving for vanilla statesmanship, does not yield comfortable results.  In fact, it invites the type of criticism that twists facts and pivots on feelings – it leaves me constantly on the defense.  It is much like the stereotypes about women I mentioned earlier.  I have worked hard to stand up for the people I represent and always have them at the forefront of my mind; rather than what kind of deals I could cut with others in my field as we in public office scratch each other’s backs.  This does not mean I am not a team player; but rather, that I have learned to discern when and how to play for the team, and more importantly whose team I am on.

It is for this reason, that despite my desire to always be seen in a positive light by peers and those I look up to in this world of policymaking; I am stepping far out onto a limb and taking a forceful public stand against a colleague.

As Stephen Carter explains in his book, Integrity; a person of integrity, morally reflective and willing to act, should be able to recognize those who do harm and must choose to either do something about it or to learn to live with it.  The choice is not as easy as it may seem. Even the person of integrity has limited resources of time and energy. Priorities must be set. I have tolerated non-sense and unabashed bullying from my colleague long enough.  This will not be comfortable, but it is the truth.

This County Board colleague has demonstrated through both his words and his actions, time and time again in the six years I have known him, that his word cannot be trusted, his character is that of someone who goes out of their way to retaliate and hurt others, he will sell out any principals you might have thought him to stand on –  for even the smallest of accolades, and he treats other people, including those on his own “team” like the dirt beneath his feet.  Changes he makes are only temporary, like a chameleon seeking to blend in.  He clearly does not want to change long term, and I have no doubt that this exposure will bring about only his accusations and condemnation.  I will brace myself for the lashings.

In a seeming era of #MeToo stories, I cannot be concerned with how I will be perceived by telling the truth.  I am not a politician, and I will not pave this politician’s way forward and upward just to be spared his wrath.  In standing up for Milwaukee, I expose the following because it is the right thing to do, and anyone hoping for all that I hope for in this world, must have the intestinal fortitude to make that sacrifice.

As they say in “politics”, the word itself originates from “poly,” meaning “many,” and “ticks,” meaning “blood-sucking parasites.”  And if you want to run for public office, you have to be in the mood to give blood.  Here’s another pint of mine:

When I first met Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor, I found him to be clean-cut, inviting, and reasonably likable.  We have posed in photos together over the years and have often voted the same way on county issues.  But I have learned that voting together does not equate to mutual respect, I have learned that nothing I do will ever win his respect, and the positive impressions I once had of him faded with familiarity.  Steve Taylor has been a covert but stark embarrassment to the citizens he represents and the good people of Milwaukee County.

In mid-2014, Supervisor Taylor and I were amongst a group of several elected officials invited to the lush, modern offices of a very important Milwaukee businessman (whom I will call Mr. B, out of respect for his privacy).  We were invited so that we could partake in the unveiling of an architectural design prior to public announcements to the media.  The meeting was scheduled well in advance and we were each made aware of the importance of the meeting.  I knew that the businessman was strategically courting us for our buy-in and support of the project, as anyone building in a big city likely feels they have to do with elected officials.  I was honored to have been invited. I prepared much like one might equip themselves for a job interview. I chose professional attire, high heels, and a matching handbag. I researched everything I could find about the businessman and the proposed development so that I could respond to the ideas and requests presented in a logical and intelligent manner, hoping to represent my constituents well.

It was a beautiful sunny day in downtown Milwaukee when I parked my car the day of the meeting.  As I paid my parking meter, I saw Supervisor Steve Taylor in the distance parking his own car across the street.  Relieved to see that I had arrived at the right place, I smiled and waved, only to be met with hollering.  Supervisor Taylor had begun yelling angrily at me from across the street.  “What are you doing here? This is my meeting!” he screamed, clearly upset by my presence.  I was so embarrassed that I clip-clopped my high heels across the street toward him as fast as I could, hoping that my closing of the distance between us might cause him to lower his volume.  It did nothing of the sort.

“Steve,” I said, “I think there’s been a misunderstanding.  Mr. B invited several of us here today.  This is a small group meeting—we are both supposed to be here.”

I knew he had a volatile personality, but the volcanic explosion that came next couldn’t have been foretold had the national weather service briefed me directly.

“This is bull-s***,” Supervisor Taylor said, “I don’t share my meetings with others and this f***ing a**hole thinks he can call me down here!  I’m the elected official here! If he thinks I am ever approving anything for him, he’d better learn. And I am NOT sharing MY meetings with someone like you!”

While anyone might be forgiven for using colorful language when it is in private personal conversation; this particular language was unacceptably carried out publicly and purposefully without regard to my discomfort or pleas for him to stop.  He is an arrogant bully and has treated me like this often over the years.

Steve continued to talk loud and fast, complaining about every aspect of the arrangement, as we walked into the building.  He swore at me and about me, kicking up a fuss further with each step we took, as we entered a lobby filled with people and crossed to the elevators. My face must have been flushed as red as a beet because there was no “shushing” him.  He continued to verbally assault me for what seemed like forever as the elevator passed each floor.

As the elevator door opened, he finally silenced himself.  “Thank God.” I thought, hoping the man-child I was stuck escorting would have enough sense to self-soothe and hide his discontentment.

No such thing would happen.

We greeted the receptionist and entered the beautiful office.  We wore smiles as we shook hands with the other men awaiting our arrival, and each confirmed the necessary introductions.  In all, there were eight people in the room that day: Mr. B and his associate, two Milwaukee Aldermen, and four County Supervisors.

Mr. B unveiled the architectural design and asked to go around the room one at a time and hear each person’s initial thoughts.  He started with Steve Taylor.

Like the fox who has just been asked to help the hens ready for dinner, a sly smile crept across Taylor’s face.  Putting his hands behind his head, Supervisor Taylor leaned back in his chair and propped up his legs in such a manner comfortable to only himself, that one might have thought his feet were actually on the conference table between us.

“Sure,” he started.  “I’ll tell you what I think.  I’ll tell you exactly what I think, and it’s going to start with the set-up of this meeting.  You think you can just set up a fancy little meeting and get us all to vote for something, just like that? Give us a little food and drink and it will be all good? I can’t believe you called us all down here!”

My face went from flushed to pale as the blood drained out.  I thought I was going to pass out.  He was doing it again.  Steve Taylor was going to tank the entire project.

Mr. B began apologizing, clearly grasping for an understanding of what was happening, trying to figure quickly how his important meeting had started unraveling.

“What don’t you understand?” Supervisor Taylor continued.  “I’m the f***ing elected official here.  You don’t summon me to your office!  If you want something from me, if you want MY approval on something, you make an appointment with me at MY office.  I have a receptionist and you can come get in line just like everyone else that wants something done.  And further, I don’t even get along with half these people, so I’m sure not going to share my meetings with them. You made a huge mistake today!”

The other elected officials, clearly at a loss for what to say, blinked at each other in disbelief as they tried to process how they themselves had just been embarrassed and treated. They were witnessing politics at its worst.

Knowing that I had to do something to help fix the situation, I remembered that Steve had complained that he didn’t want me to be there.  I resolved my strength and calmly gave aid to Mr. B.  I apologized to Mr. B for Supervisor Taylor’s behavior and for the sake of the project, volunteered to excuse myself, asking the Supervisor, “This is an important meeting, would you be willing to calm down and continue listening to Mr. B if I were to leave the room.” I certainly didn’t want to leave, but it was not the time to fight.  To me, the potential success of such a project was more important. The fox’s sly smile reappeared as he leaned in, folding his hands.  “Yes,” Steve said.

“Mr. B,” I said, “I have just cleared my schedule for the rest of the day and will be glad to come back at whatever time is most convenient for you if you would have me then.”  Sheepishly, in a way that is much to his credit because Mr. B had been treated so poorly by Steve in front of everyone, Mr. B agreed and asked me to return when the men finished their meeting.

After retreating to the ground floor and nursing my battered but sustained composure with a cup of coffee, I realized I was numb from the sting of what had just happened. I had utter disdain for the way that I had seen a fellow elected official treating innocents caught in his sights. Being outside the room where the men were left making important decisions, and being the only woman at the meeting, essentially kicked out as a sacrifice to Steve’s ego, I still knew I had made the right choice. Power is not always concentrated in the closed boardrooms.  It is often found in those who are weakest and speak up to make a change.  Even if I wouldn’t have a say over the project that day, I knew that its chances of success may have been entirely derailed, if I had not taken the hit, “for the team,” so to speak.

After some time, the men began to emerge from the meeting.  First the Aldermen, who renewed their expressions of disbelief.  “Regrettably,” I told them, “this is how Supervisor Taylor always acts behind closed doors at the courthouse.  I’m sorry that you had to see that.” The Aldermen admitted that they often disagree with each other and vote differently, but that it would never be an excuse to do to a colleague what they had just witnessed from Steve Taylor.

Next came a pair of County Supervisors, shaking their heads at me and apologizing for our colleague. They knew. This was a familiar behavior with Steve.  Nonetheless, we still commiserated together over the vulgar and embarrassing negativity Supervisor Taylor had brought into the meeting.

Finally, after everyone else had left, Steve Taylor appeared.  Smiling the grin of victory, he shook his head at me with false pity.  Giving me the signal that he had finished meeting with Mr. B, he boasted with a gross sexual reference in front of everyone there in the lobby, “There, you can have him now; sloppy seconds.”

The infantile behavior I saw from Supervisor Taylor that day forever changed my view of him.  He has never discussed the events of that day with me, much less apologized.  He has hurt me and others and I am tired of it.  There is no reason to continue tolerating this behavior.  We can set a higher standard.

Watching Steve Taylor hold additional positions of power, such as concurrently holding a second elected position as Alderman, trying a run for Mayor of Franklin, and even being assigned a committee chairmanship overseeing economic development in Milwaukee County, has sickened me to my core because I know how toxic his attitude really is.

While one could write a book on Steve Taylor’s slimy interpersonal transgressions, the story I’ve told and the summary herein, I hope, shall suffice.

  • When Jessie Rodriguez first declared candidacy for her position of State Representative representing Oak Creek and South Milwaukee, Steve Taylor complained in the halls of the County Courthouse saying, “there’s no way Oak Creek is going to elect her, she’s the wrong color,” perpetuating unacceptable racism and stereotypes that I wouldn’t want to hear from anyone, much less an elected official.  When I pushed back, he attacked with baseless accusations.  He claimed that Jessie was only being propped up for political reasons and he continued to attack her for being a person of color and for being a woman at all.  In his eyes, she was unfit to represent Oak Creek.

 

  • On their days of departure from working in our department at the County Board, several staff members have come to me over the years and complained in confidence of the hostile treatment they endured from Supervisors in our office, with Steve Taylor being a primary offender.

  • Steve Taylor has cussed out Milwaukee County department heads for the simple reason that he thinks he has a right to speak to people that way. I am aware of no fewer than five Milwaukee County department leaders that have endured his hostile attacks over the years. One has even called me at home seeking consolation and support.  His methods of dealing with people who report to him are entirely unacceptable.

 

  • Steve Taylor has yelled at me in the County Board offices, multiple times over the years, bringing me to tears in the early days. He chastises his peers, even those who vote with him on the issues, for not wheeling and dealing in political negotiations the way that he supposedly can.  He tells us that he has been in politics his whole life and we could never learn to navigate the way he does.

 

  • Steve Taylor has sternly warned me and others critical of his ways, saying “You’d better watch out. I’m going to be Governor someday and you’ll regret not supporting me.”  I know of several elected officials in his district covering Franklin, Hales Corners, and Oak Creek who have confided in me that they do not support his reelection but don’t dare speak out publicly against him because of the way he allegedly threatens them. Based on my experience, I have no doubt that their concerns are legitimate.  I hope that my sharing of these experiences will give others the courage to come forward with their own stories.

With all that said, I thank my lucky stars that I don’t navigate the way the pompous and entitled Steve Taylor does.  He is a two-faced politician, in the worst sense of the term.

I am sure I will pay a deep political price for speaking out so clearly to disavow this colleague’s ways, but recall, if you want to work in politics, you have to be in the mood to give blood.

I now, therefore, fully and passionately, endorse Patti Logsdon for the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.  She has read our budgets and she has attended County Board meetings regularly to be a watchdog for the people of her district.  She not only a fiscal conservative but also a person of integrity, grit, and respect.  I know her well and have confidence that she will do work the people will be proud of, without ever becoming a “politician.”  The people of Milwaukee County deserve exponentially better than what they have received in their current representation with Steve Taylor.