Burlington, News

Hein prepared to serve on the Common Council

Phil Hein takes the oath of office to serve District 2 of the Burlington Common Council during an April 16 swearing-in ceremony (Jason Arndt/Southern Lakes Newspapers).

Newest alderperson sworn in at recent meeting

By Jason Arndt

Phil Hein spent several months preparing to serve the Burlington Common Council by attending meetings and taking meticulous notes.

Hein, who was officially sworn in to represent District 2 on April 16, ran unopposed in the Spring Election and succeeds former alderperson Sara Spencer.

He had an interest in serving the city shortly after retiring as a pilot coupled with learning Spencer had decided not to seek re-election to the Common Council.

“In the back of my mind, I’d always thought about serving in public office after I retired and had more time,” Hein said. “While I was flying for UPS, I would basically be gone for six months a year, week on, week off, which would have made public service pretty difficult.”

Now that he has retired, Hein said he believes he can fully commit to the city, including serving on the Common Council.

“I’m finally at a point where I have the time to contribute what I can to try to see that Burlington continues to grow and thrive, and to give back to the community that has given so much to me and my family,” he said.

While he represents District 2, the Common Council carries broader responsibilities, such as voting as a collective group on city matters.

Hein, who recognized the tasks at hand, said he has worked diligently in meeting more of his constituents in the last several weeks and plans to go door-to-door to listen to resident concerns.

“I realize that Burlington is a lot more than District 2, and that the council’s decision affects all of us, me included,” he said. “My biggest priority in the coming year is to get better educated about the issues affecting all of us, especially the downtown and Pine Street revitalization and Echo Lake plans.”

Hein, who was appointed to the Airport Committee as aldermanic representative, said he looks forward to serving on the board.

Serving the nation
Hein grew up in Cedarburg, attended the University of North Dakota and earned a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Studies.

Once he graduated, he joined the United States Marine Corps, where he became a fighter pilot before retiring from active duty in 1996.

After he retired, he remained with the Marine Corps as a reservist and took on a career as a UPS pilot in March 1996.

Hein and his wife moved to Burlington in 2003 when he returned from Kuwait.

“We had been living in Milwaukee in a condo on Water Street since we were married in June 2021, but realized that we probably didn’t want to start a family there,” Hein said. “While I was overseas, Sue looked all over southeastern Wisconsin for a nice place to live. She liked Burlington best, and when I returned home, so did I.”

Burlington served as an ideal location for his occupation because it allowed him easy access to airports in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Rockford, while remaining close to home.

Hein and his wife have since raised two children, one is currently attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the other is set to graduate high school.

Hein said he has enjoyed Burlington because of its small-town atmosphere.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to get back to my small-town Wisconsin,” Hein said of his previous worldwide travels. “Burlington has been the perfect fit for our family. There are lots of cliches about small town Wisconsin: We’re nice people, we support each other, especially during tough times, we’re always ready to help a neighbor, and we just want what’s best for everybody.

“Those cliches are all true when it comes to Burlington,” he added.

Council preparation
For months, Hein spent time attending Common Council meetings, often writing notes from discussions in preparation to serve the city.

“In my previous lives as a fighter pilot and airline pilot, the key to my success – as well as my longevity, was to always know what was going on around me, and to always know the facts about a situation before making a decision,” Hein said. “I’ve held many leadership positions in my life, but those were positions in which I was very well versed, through training, in all facets of that position.”

Hein acknowledged he is a relative newcomer to serving local government and wanted to garner knowledge before taking on the responsibility of being an alderman.

“I thought it was important to come to several Common Council meetings before I was actually on the Council, both to get a feel for the actual mechanics of the meetings, as well as to develop a better understanding of all the issues that go into making a decision as a member of the council.”

He said he has obtained a wealth of knowledge just by attending council meetings, as well as talking with other elected and city officials.

“I’m really looking forward to my upcoming alderman orientation sessions, where I’ll get an in-depth, behind the scenes briefing about the various departments and people who make the city function.”

Long-term plans
On the Common Council, the third and fourth districts have brought the most experience, with three of four members serving at least 10 years.

However, the first and second districts have seen more turnover.

Hein said he and his wife do not plan on leaving Burlington anytime soon and he will continue to serve the community as long as his constituents allow him.

“We love it here, and we both have family nearby in Kenosha, Muskego, and Oak Creek, so it’s a great place for us,” he said. “I plan on serving on the council as long as the folks in my district want me to represent them, and I plan to do everything in my power during this first term to earn their trust so that that will be the case.”

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