Near west side Ald. Chris Schmidt is stepping down from the Madison City Council at the end of January to focus on his day job, he announced Thursday.
The District 11 alder was first elected in 2009 and represents the Hill Farms, Sunset Village and Westmorland neighborhoods. He was elected pro tem in 2012 and served as City Council president from 2013 to April 2015.
"I need to put my full attention to my livelihood, my career in satellite meteorology," said Schmidt, who works at the Space Science Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
At his day job, Schmidt said, a new generation of satellites is going up, and he is responsible for fire detection for them.
"Having a career and a job as alder, it’s a lot, and I’m not surprised," said Council President Denise DeMarb.
"The past two years have been particularly difficult for him," she said, citing his longer-than-usual term as council president after Ald. Scott Resnick decided to run for mayor instead of taking on the role.
Schmidt is not the first council member to step down because of concerns juggling a full-time job and the hefty commitment of City Council. District 13 Ald. Sue Ellingson also resigned in 2014, citing family reasons, and DeMarb said she'd be curious to know how many alders don't run for re-election because "it's just simply too much."
There are discussions about whether council members should hire more staff support and whether it should continue to be a part-time body. DeMarb said she thinks the council will start looking at those questions more earnestly.
"I feel it’s become a full-time job and it needs to be treated as such," Schmidt said.
He said a smaller, full-time body may be the direction the city needs to go, noting that redistricting following the 2020 census would be a logical time to make any major changes.
"The way the city is now working, as antithetical as it is for some people having 'professional politicians,' our constituents want professional-level service and we’ve got to figure out how to provide that," Schmidt said.
Schmidt said his favorite part of his almost seven-year tenure has been working with his colleagues to get things done, in particular the snow removal working group during his first years on the council, rewriting the city’s tax increment financing policy and rewriting the landmarks ordinance.
“There’s things I wish I could finish, some other projects I wish I could have taken on,” Schmidt said, citing more work on the landmarks ordinance, the completion of the Judge Doyle Square project and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Hill Farms project.
“He does it like it should be done, he doesn’t come at it halfway,” DeMarb said of Schmidt’s time as alder. “I am sad. I will certainly miss him."
To replace him, DeMarb will oversee the process to solicit applicants. The City Council organizational committee will review applications and recommend an applicant to the City Council, which will make the final selection. DeMarb said she thinks they will have someone selected in four to six weeks.