One on One With Corey Ladick
Corey Ladick is a local banker with a Bachelors Degree in Public Administration from UW- Lacrosse. He also earned his Master’s Degree in Business w/ specialization in finance from Nanyang Business School in Singapore.
Questions by Brandi Makuski
BM: Why are you running for this office?
CL: “The reason I’m running from comptroller- treasurer is because I want to use my finance background and business experience to help the city make good financial decisions. And certainly, I’ve watched some of the decisions that have been made and I think that there is a need at city hall for a little bit of private sector perspective at the table.”
BM: The city’s not making good financial decisions now?
CL: “One of the big ones was how Edgewater Manor was handled. I did not like the fact that it was not put out for a public bid, and that they basically tried to sell that property for half- price, and that was certainly, I thought, a poor decision, and one where there were a lot of people from the private sector who came out who said the sales price doesn’t make sense, and I thought that those people needed to be listened to. How that relates to the city treasurer’s office is, the city treasurer is the chief financial officer for the city. I think as the financial officer, you’re responsible for the business decisions the city makes, and you’re responsible for making sure the financial decisions are sound, and they’re open and transparent. And with Edgewater Manor, certainly we did not see that. The other big decision that I’ve seen that was made on the city level, was some of the things that happened on the mall project. I think even though it might be a worthy project, some of the implementation didn’t go very well. I think that for a bank-owned property for a foreclosure, I think they paid too much for that. I think when they realized that, they obviously tried to get a better price. There was a bit of legal wrangling, and it turned into a kind of ongoing mess. But that would be another case where I think my private sector experience really would have been valuable to prevent some of those things from happening.”
BM: As a comptroller-treasurer how would you have any authority over those projects?
CL: “Again, I think we need to have someone who understands business at the table and that’s part of that administration. I do understand that those projects are more out of the CDA (Community Development Authority) and the mayor’s office, however, I think that you need somebody who understands the private sector, who’s at that table who can give accurate information. And that’s the other issue- that we need somebody who can give unbiased information to the public and to the City Council, and that is part of the role of the city treasurer. Because the City Council members can’t be at City Hall forty hours a week watching everything that’s going on. So they need somebody who can provide unbiased information as far as what our options are. What are options are with the Edgewater Manor property, and what our options are with downtown redevelopment an the mall.”
BM: So you’re saying we aren’t getting unbiased information now?
CL: “I would agree. I think that when you look at what happened with the Edgewater Manor, that other buyer that came forward that expressed interest to the city before, and I think that what was communicated and what the city administration said, they really tried to make it seem like the Seramurs were the only interested buyer. So yeah, I do think there is an issue there as far as the information that is presented about certain things.”
BM: You lost the Assembly primary to Katrina Shankland; what have you learned since that campaign?
CL: “I learned the value of hard work in a campaign, the value of honesty. I think the other things I’ve learned are that running for office is partly looking for a job, but the other reason you run is because it’s a good chance to talk about issues you care about. When you’re running for office you need to accomplish both of those; you need to talk about the issues you care about. But certainly that was a good campaign.”
BM: Your public speaking skills seem to really have improved since your last campaign; I’m curious how you think that could help you if you were elected?
CL: “I think public speaking is an important part of being an elected official. As we’ve seen as council meetings, the comptroller-treasurer often needs to speak at council meetings. Not just to give the annual report but also to discuss the various financial situation of the city, to discuss the budget. Part of the role of the comptroller- treasurer is also to be able to take very complicated financial knowledge and explain it in a way that non-financial people can understand, and that’s what I do in my job now at the bank; I explain more complex financial concepts to people who maybe don’t have a background in finance. Communication skills are important. I also think that right now the city administration in general and the city comptroller kind of tell the council, “this is what we’re going to do” without really involving them quite as much in conversation. I’d like to involve the City Council and the public a little more in the decision making process, and in the overall conversation and the debate about our options rather than just giving them one option.”
BM: There was a conversation just like that not long ago between the public, the council and the city administration about the changes to the FICA plan for part-time season employees. Is that the kind of discussion you’re looking for?
CL: “I thought the communication about the FICA plan overall was sufficient. It’s a little difficult to discuss something like that because it’s so complex. But I think that with the FICA plan, we really needed to go through and look at the number and how it effects both the employees and the taxpayers. And a lot of that comes down to understanding how the Social Security program works and how benefits are calculated. That is definitely a complex topic.”
BM: Do you agree with the decision ultimately made on the FICA change?
CL: “Well, here’s the thing: by the politics of it, it sounds really bad. But by the numbers it makes sense. I would have been on the side with the comptroller- treasurer on that one, even thought I really oppose the idea of privatizing Social Security. I oppose the idea of taking something from some of our lowest- paid workers. If you look at the costs and benefits, Social Security benefits are based on the highest 35 years of earnings. And most of those parks workers who work in the summer part-time, that’s not going to be among their highest 35 years. What that means is the 6.2 percent that the employee puts in and the 6.2 percent that the city puts in is basically being wasted. It’s basically a donation to the federal government. We have to look out for what’s best for the employees and the taxpayers of Stevens Point. One of the options I’d like to have seen is to take some of that money and have put it into some disability insurance. I know people had some concerns about moving that disability coverage. What we could have done is come up with a more cost- effective program while ensuring they had the same benefits.”
BM: The two people who currently occupy the comptroller- treasurer’s office- John Schlice and Carrie Freeberg, your opponent- have been in their positions for many years and built many relationships with area businesses and banks. Do you feel by coming elected, you could interrupt those relationships?
CL: “As a local banker myself I don’t see how their could be an interruption in our relationship with banks. And to open that question up a bit further, you could ask would their be an interruption in the business practices of the comptroller- treasurer’s office at all? My answer to that is no, because regardless of who gets elected John Schlice is going to be leaving, and there will be existing staff left in that office. So certainly I think some people have tried to use some scare tactics a little bit, saying if they don’t vote for my opponent, there’s going to be this massive breakdown and that’s just not the case. I would also add that in my current position as branch manager at a bank. I came into that as a new person to that institution with three employees who’d worked there for ten years. I respect the experience and what has already been established, and I know how to utilize that and make people feel valued, and I would absolutely value the experience of the existing staff. Right now Carrie and I are in a very tight campaign, and I think that does change things a bit, but we started this campaign as friends and I think we’re going to end it as friends. I look forward to working with Carrie in that office, but to try and say everything’s going to fall apart is not accurate, that’s just not true.”
BM: What is something you think most people don’t know about the comptroller- treasurer’s duties?
CL: “The overall budget process, that’s really interesting to observe. One of the things that surprised me about the office was I guess just the depth that the comptroller- treasurer’s office goes into with the council. I think that if I were in that position I’d want to take it one step further as far as information provides, really talk about the bigger issues we have with managing our finances and quite frankly, talk about every single capital spending item in the budget. I know in the previous budget presentation it was kind of whatever question a councilmember had was discussed, and whatever they didn’t have a question about wasn’t really discussed. I think it’d be a good idea to have each department head go through and show what they’re doing in each department, what they’re doing, what they’re buying and why.”
BM: To build on that, how important is it the public show up at these meetings and become informed about how their taxes are being spent?
CL: “I think that’s very important, and I would recommend more people come to the City Council meetings to really understand what’s going on.”
BM: How accessible would you be to the public if you were elected?
CL: “Oh, anytime I’d be happy to talk to them. I’d be willing to not only have that conversation but I’d also be willing to listen to them if maybe they had ideas on how to save money, I’d be all ears. I think our current administration is okay with being able to explain things, I don’t think they’re quite as good with being receptive to some suggestions, so as far as the city overall, that’s something we need to work on a little bit because we need to value that input.”
BM: Is there anything you’d like to add?
CL: “There is one other issue I’d like to discuss that I’ve talked about and have taken a little bit of heat on; I have questioned the planned capital expense of $83k for a SWAT vehicle for the police department. Certainly for me, that set off a red flag as to why we would need a SWAT van, especially when I found out the county has one. I have mentioned that before, and I had the affected department head who wasn’t happy with me, but I thought there should have been other options there, and there were: the sheriff’s department has said the city is welcome to use their SWAT van anytime, and the other thing is they got their SWAT vehicle for free through Army surplus. Certainly there are other options out there to save money, and I think that’s one example of a situation where the city is planning to spend money they don’t really need to spend. I know there are some people who were upset with me because I took that stance, but my argument is, if we can safe money here, then when you come to me for something you do really need and there is no other alternative, then we’ll have the money and can do it. It’s about setting priorities, but the attitude in city hall right now, I don’t think it’s a real cost- conscious attitude.”