Al Foeckler doesn't how to react when people congratulate him on his appointment as Oak Creek mayor.
"I never felt comfortable with that," he said in an interview at Oak Creek City Hall last week. "I appreciate it, and I appreciate the opportunity, but I wish I wasn't in this position."
But it's a position that's reality for Foeckler, who last month was appointed to serve the remainder of Dick Bolender's term after the mayor's unexpected death Dec. 10.
Foeckler will be in office until April 16. To some degree, he's just there to keep things on course until a new mayor is sworn in.
But Foeckler's tenure comes at a particularly crucial period when some long-standing issues are nearing decision time. At the top of the agenda is what to do with the city hall and the public library.
The Common Council will soon decide whether to keep one or both of those buildings where they are - at the corner of Puetz and Howell - or move one or both to the former Delphi property at Drexel and Howell as part of the effort to redevelop the site.
Because there are six aldermen on the council, it's possible the vote could be split 3-3, in which case Foeckler would be in a position to break the tie.
It's a scenario that, while only hypothetical, has certainly entered Foeckler's mind.
"I think about it a lot, actually," he said. "If it comes to that, it would be a decision ... (of) whether I want to take the opportunity to secure Oak Creek's future. I haven't made up my mind on what I would do. But I think about it a lot because I understand both sides."
He has his own opinion about where to put the city hall and library, and it happens to be the same as Bolender's - that those buildings should move to Delphi and become part of a plan for a mixed-use "town center."
Foeckler said the benefits would be two-fold: from a community perspective, the city hall and library could help transform the Delphi site into a "downtown Oak Creek" and help create a new identity for the city.
And despite financial concerns that have continued to persist, Foeckler said the move could potentially be beneficial for taxpayers.
A city hall and library would take up about seven acres on the Delphi site, but that could mean 50 acres at Oakwood and Howell potentially opened up for private development, Foeckler said. That land is now owned by the school district and meant for a second high school. But if the city hall and library move, the school district, if it so chose, could instead expand Oak Creek High School on that land.
In other words, the city could potentially make seven acres of land at Delphi nontaxable in exchange for putting 50 acres of land on the south end of town back on the tax rolls.
"There are dominoes that would have to fall into place, but they all make tremendous sense," Foeckler said.
The two plans on the table for Delphi are for a Bayshore-like town center or a more traditional development with big box-type stores. Either is fine, but the town center plan, which would feature the city hall and library, is the one the city should strive for, Foeckler said.
"If the library and city hall stays here, the Delphi property is going to develop ... but it's going to be more of the same," he said. "It's going to be a lot of big boxes, it's going to be drive your car there, park, go there, drive to the next building. Which is OK, but if you compare that to the opportunity we have to make it something special and something different, something new to the community ... that's just an opportunity that I hope the council doesn't pass up."
That's not to say that he would definitely vote that way, however. For example, Bolender would occasionally decline to break a tie and leave it to the aldermen to figure out.
With a decision as big as this one, some are queasy about a person who wasn't elected casting the deciding vote.
As Foeckler said, any such talk is premature. Aldermen have still not made up their mind and will have at least a few more weeks. Under the current timeline, the earliest the issue could come to a vote is Feb. 7.
But the scenario serves as a reminder of the unprecedented situation Oak Creek is in, being the first time in the city's history that a vacancy occurred in the mayor's office.
It was out of a sense of civic duty that Foeckler volunteered his services after Bolender's death. He's tasked with helping keep Oak Creek government moving forward before the mayoral election April 3, and isn't necessarily out to stir up trouble.
But don't look for him to sit on his hands, either.
"It's a balance. I'm not here to rock the ship, but I also don't want the ship to just sit there in dead space," Foeckler said. "There's no reason that decisions and opportunities can't be made before April.
"I'm kind of in a unique position, in that I have no political future at stake. I'm honestly looking at things as a guy that was walking around Oak Creek, not as an elected official, who was just looking at issues saying, what's in the best interest of the community?"