People talk a lot about Tim Bruer, usually off the record. Some say the veteran Madison alderman, who just stepped down after two straight terms as Common Council president, knows how to get things done. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has called Bruer the best council president he's worked with.
Others fault Bruer's style and tendency to pontificate. And indeed, Bruer's favorite mode of communication is an endless run-on sentence that keeps changing direction.
Asked what he means when he describes the role of council president as "gatekeeper," Bruer says: "Unless you're able to work well with other members of council, command the respect of department heads and the business community...." That prompts him to give an example: "We worked well with the creation of the south campus of MATC."
From there, he's off on efforts to combat poverty, deal with the school budget crisis and build the tax base. All are plausibly related, at least to each other, but the listener may be hard-pressed to see how it all relates to being able to work well with others.
First elected in 1984, Bruer is the council's longest-serving member and was recently honored with a resolution by his colleagues. He seems to like his new nickname - the "dean" of council - which he keeps repeating.
Bruer is aware of his mixed reputation, saying, "The line is that Bruer is the biggest mortician in Madison because he knows where all the bodies are buried." Does he know where the bodies are buried? "Next question," he smirks.
Some have rapped Bruer for keeping colleagues in the dark on negotiations over the Edgewater and downtown library. Bruer says that, as president, "often your access to information or emerging problems is well in advance of the curve," and it's not always possible to share it with others. But he insists he held more work sessions than any prior president.
Regrets, he has a few: "We did not get to focus on community development, neighborhood support and neighborhood planning." But Bruer, who has no plans to retire and says he'll run again in 2011, is looking forward to going back to being a "free agent," saying, "As you step to the side you have greater latitude and ability to voice your individual perspective."