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Dem Assembly candidate a no-show

Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 22, 2020

By M.D. Kittle 

MADISON — The Democrat running for Southeast Wisconsin’s 13th Assembly District has urged “smart development” for her community, but she hasn’t attended a single meeting of the Town of Brookfield development committee she was named to more than two years ago. 

Sara Rodriguez hasn’t even spent the seconds it would take to be sworn in as a member of the Community Development and Redevelopment Authority, according to records obtained by Empower Wisconsin. 

Rodriguez, who is running against incumbent Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) for the Assembly seat, was appointed in the spring of 2018 by development authority Chairman Keith Henderson, according to town documents. 

On Jan. 11, 2019, Municipal Clerk Elisa Cappozzo sent Rodriquez an email reminding her of her appointment. 

“You should have gotten a letter around the end of May notifying you of the appointment,” Cappozzo wrote. “If you think Keith appointed you in error or you are no longer interested, just let me know and we can fill the spot.” 

Minutes from the Town Board’s May 15, 2018 meeting show the board approved Rodriguez’s appointment. 

Rodriquez claimed in an email response to Cappozzo’s Jan. 11, 2019 email that she hadn’t received Henderson’s letter, but that she was “happy to do it!” 

Perhaps “happy” was an overstatement. The clerk informed Rodriquez that she could swear her in before the Jan. 15 meeting. “We are pretty flexible around here, so let me know what you think.” 

Rodriquez didn’t show up to the meeting, or any of the meetings thereafter, according to the documents obtained in the open records request. 

Brookfield Town Administrator Tom Hagie confirmed that Rodriquez has yet to attend a Community Development Authority meeting. 

“To the best of my knowledge, she has never been sworn into that position and she has not attended any of the meetings,” Hagie told Empower Wisconsin. 

The Community Development and Redevelopment Authority meets as needed. It can go several months without getting together. Still, the authority has met at least a half dozen times since 2019, according to the documents. Ensuring quorums appears to have been a concern in the email correspondences.  

It’s curious. Hagie said after Rodriquez ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Town Board in spring 2018, she told local government officials that she would be interested in being a part of a committee. There was an opening on the development authority at the time. 

It seemed like a good fit. In a candidate profile published in February 2018 in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Rodriguez said the town “needs to balance the needs of the residents with smart development.” 

“I’d like to see the development taking the community that lives here in mind by offering safe, walkable options to the numerous businesses that we are attracting to our town,” she said. 

Rodriquez could have played a role in said “smart development” on a city committee that played a significant role in the development of the Corners of Brookfield town center, more than 750,000 square feet of retail, residential, entertainment and restaurants.

Rodriquez could have taken part in the discussions that have helped guide the spinoff development — commercial and residential — from the massive Corners. But meeting minutes show she never showed up. 

Why? Were there extenuating circumstances that kept her away from the development committee? Perhaps she’s been too busy over the last year running for a more high profile political seat. 

Rodriquez’ Assembly campaign did not return Empower Wisconsin’s request for comment. 

The liberal candidate has campaigned, it seems, almost exclusively on her medical credentials in the COVID era — that she’s a registered nurse, a health care executive and has served in public health positions. She has said little about development. 

Reached for comment, state Rep. Rob Hutton’s campaign said, “It’s difficult to imagine someone who was appointed to a local government board but didn’t show up to a single meeting being an effective legislator.” 

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