Jill Didier's rise in public office has been meteoric. She ran for alderman of Wauwatosa's 4th District as a newcomer, won, and served only half a term before running for mayor and winning.
Now, she is moving into a four months shy of completing a single term as Tosa's mayor. She will be leaving office, probably in a matter of days, to take a job beginning Dec. 15 as coordinator in a new county Division of Economic Development.
Didier said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference that she would be stepping down as mayor, but asked when, she said only that she would need "a few days" while completing the transition of leadership in Wauwatosa.
According to City Code, Common Council President Eric Meaux will take over as acting mayor and will hold that post until a new mayor is sworn in after the April 3 election.
County Executive Chris Abele said at Tuesday's conference that he was "extremely excited when I saw that we had 32 applicants" for the job "and even more excited when I saw among them someone whose work I have admired for awhile already — someone who is going to be about as familiar with the issues that face municipalities as anyone I can think of."
Abele said that in choosing Didier for the job, he was looking for someone who could change the game in terms of economic development from reactive — waiting for opportunities to be brought to the county — to proactive — someone who would get out and beat the bushes for new initiatives.
Abele said Didier and Wauwatosa's track record, including drawing business to the Milwaukee County Research Park and UWM's Innovation Park development on the County Grounds, were key examples of what he wants to see happen throughout Milwaukee County.
"All these things matter only in so far as people know they are happening," Abele said.
Didier said it was "with great pride that I've served Wauwatosa," and that this was "a great opportunity to reach out to all the entities," including the 19 municipalities of Milwaukee County, chambers of commerce and other business organizations.
In a separate interview, Didier said that as mayor she had worked to accomplish the goals as she had campaigned on not quite four years ago.
"One of the things I'm proud of is that I accomplished — whether it was a focus on crime, if it was a focus on economic development, it was focusing on North Avenue, it was focusing on Hart Park — I feel like I've accomplished what I set out to do," she said.
Didier's job change was played close to the vest. Rumors that she was seeking other employment began to swirl around City Hall months ago, but as late as Tuesday morning one source swore she was not taking another job, and another, who is a player in the Democratic Party, said there was "no way in the world" that Didier, a Republican, would be offered a job in the Abele administration.
Abele, in an interview after the news conference, brushed that aside as nonsense.
"I think there's about 1 percent of people who insist on putting everyone into one camp or another," he said, "and 99 percent of people who care only that the job gets done.
"I wanted someone who could work well with people in the business community. I think Jill is that person."