WisBusiness: Clingan withdraws from economic development post consideration


In a stinging loss for Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, Bill Clingan has withdrawn his name for consideration as the city’s economic and community development director.

Cieslewicz made the announcing Friday afternoon.

In a statement, Cieslewicz said he is considering starting the search process over and might divide the job into two positions.

Clingan’s appointment last month created a firestorm of protest from Madison’s business community, many of whom said Clingan was unqualified. They also said they would lobby against his selection before it came to the city council, which probably would have occurred next month.

Clingan’s appointment also prompted the resignation of Mark Bugher and Tom Still from the city’s Economic Development Commission. Bugher is head of the University Research Park and Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council.

They said the mayor should have picked Matthew Wagner, who heads the Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation, a southeast Wisconsin development group. He was the top choice of the selection committee.

Bugher was unavailable for comment, but Still said Clingan’s withdrawal was “best for all concerned. I hope now the city can move forward.”

He also said he supports splitting the economic and community development post into two positions.

“That is what we initially proposed,” he said. “It’s a good idea.”

Even though the search proces is starting over, he said hopes the mayor will consider Wagner.

“He would be an excellent choice,” Still said. “He is very qualified.”

In his statement, the mayor praised Clingan:

“During the past few weeks, Bill has conducted himself with grace and civility in the face of a very difficult situation. This is typical of how Bill has conducted himself during his whole career.

“I believe that Bill has the vision, the administrative skills and the deep knowledge of and commitment to our community to have made an excellent Economic and Community Development Director.

“It is my hope that he will find another way to use those great skills and that commitment to make progress in Madison. I am deeply disappointed that he will not be joining us in this particular role, but I know that he will continue to contribute to our community and hope to have new opportunities to work with him in the future.

“This nomination has also sparked a discussion about the structure of the agency itself, and about how we think about economic development going forward.

“In light of that discussion, I have come to the conclusion that a modification of the agency’s reorganization is justified, so I will support a budget amendment to create separate economic development and community development units within the Department of Planning and Economic and Community Development.

“I believe that this can prove to be an effective, practical organizational structure for pursuing a comprehensive vision of economic development within the auspices of a single agency.”

Clingan said he is withdrawing his name because the controversy had become a distraction for the city.

“The Mayor does have an enlightened vision of how economic and community development fit together,” he said. “After this experience, I have renewed faith in his vision for the City and personally a great respect for his character.

“Many of today’s politicians would have withdrawn their support for me at the first signs of trouble. But to his credit, his support has been steadfast. I greatly admire those characteristics in a person.

“Quite simply, I applied for a job. Through an intensive, thorough hiring process I was declared to be qualified and appointed by the Mayor – pending Council confirmation – to the position of Economic and Community Development Director.

“While I am somewhat accustomed to being in the spotlight, the last thing I want to do is to be a distraction and source of controversy and divert the community from a real conversation about its future. For that reason, I am withdrawing my name from consideration for this position.

“Madison does need to be a place where a variety of people have economic opportunity and want to live, that contains vibrant neighborhoods where families want to raise their children and yes, where businesses can prosper. I agree with the Mayor that these are not mutually exclusive goals.”