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Mayor plans mid-term retirement

Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen is ready to pass the torch after a half-century of high-profile, high-stress jobs. Hagen, who was just 28 when he left his job as a school district administrator to take office as mayor for the first time, said Thursday...

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Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen, center, hugs his wife, Lois, as he talks with Douglas County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert after a press conference on Thursday morning announcing his resignation of the role of mayor.

Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen is ready to pass the torch after a half-century of high-profile, high-stress jobs.

Hagen, who was just 28 when he left his job as a school district administrator to take office as mayor for the first time, said Thursday that it's time to start enjoying the things he wants to enjoy - his wife, Lois, family, friends and travel. He said it's best for all concerned - his family and the city - that he retires before completing his fifth, and what he had previously announced would be his final, term in office.

Hagen, now 70, plans to retire April 30, about midway through his term.

Time's toll

Hagen said the reasons for retiring are many.

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"One is that I've been in public- and private-sector employment at a high level and very stressful jobs for going on 50 years," Hagen said. "It's taken its toll. My health is one issue, which I'm not going to be elaborating on, but I'm not going to be coy about either."

Last year, Hagen told the Telegram he'd learned he'd had a stroke after a lapse in memory in 2014.

However, health is only one concern.

"Local government has always been my passion," the mayor said. "I don't have the drive. I don't have the energy. And with those things - a long duration of career, health, energy, drive - my passion is gone."

The decision has nothing to do with local politics, he said; however, the mayor said state and federal government devalue local government.

"I'm tired of the fishbowl," said Hagen, who has served in the public sector for most of the last 50 years - as a school administrator, as the city's mayor from 1975 to 1987, then in state government administration and as Gov. Tommy Thompson's chief of staff, before returning to Superior and serving as mayor again since 2011. "It's just not in me anymore. I'm looking so much forward to my privacy, and being able to be my own person without someone checking me out. Had I had this determination two years ago, I wouldn't have run."

Lois Hagen said the decision was something they long discussed.

Bruce Hagen on Thursday apologized to his supporters for not completing his term, but said it's best for the city that he steps aside now.

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"Work has been my life mission; therefore, I didn't play baseball; I didn't play golf. I didn't do a lot of things; there was work, which was my passion," the mayor said.

Nonetheless, Hagen said it wasn't an easy decision to make - it means not fulfilling his obligation, but he's come to the realization people leave jobs all the time.

While Hagen doesn't plan to retire until the end of April, he said he decided to announce the decision now so the Superior City Council and anyone who would hope to succeed him has the time they need to examine themselves and their vision for the city before an election is held.

"We need some young blood," Hagen said. "We need some young, professional people who have the drive, the energy, the passion, and maybe a different vision. I'm going to endorse that. The people in this community need some young people who can run faster and jump higher."

City Clerk Terri Kalan said the earliest the City Council can weigh its options for filling the vacancy when Hagen leaves is May 2, the first council meeting after the mayor's retirement.

Under Wisconsin law, the Council has several options for filling the seat. They could simply call for a special election, which would take place in early to mid-July if the Council calls for the special election at the May 2 meeting, with a primary four weeks earlier if needed. The winner would then finish Hagen's term.

The Council also could appoint someone to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the term.

Council President Dan Olson said he isn't in favor of that option because "it isn't a democratic process."

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Hagen said that process will be entirely up to the Council, and he won't have any role in it.

Hagen legacy

Hagen has left his mark on Superior. He said one of the things he is most proud of is Barker's Island, which was a bird sanctuary, largely vacant but for the SS Meteor, when he took office the first time.

During his time in office, the man-made island was transformed into a city asset that generates $450,000 to $500,000 in revenue for the city annually, and now provides jobs for people.

During his first tenure as mayor, Hagen said, the city reduced the annual tax levy nine of the 12 years he served.

Hagen said he would like to see future mayors and councils continue work to spruce up the community.

In his current tenure, Hagen said he is proud of the work done to tackle the condition of Belknap Street, which was on no one's radar for repair - and is now slated for reconstruction over the next two years.

"That will be our gateway; that will be our image builder," Hagen said.

Douglas County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert said he wasn't surprised by the mayor's decision, but he was surprised by the timing of it, and relieved that the mayor would be around for a few more months.

"I've had a good life," Hagen said. "I've been blessed. I've had opportunities that most people would die for. Maybe it's luck. Maybe it's being in the right place at the right time. But I've worked very hard my whole life to achieve the goals I wanted to personally and professionally, so life is good and it's going to get better ... It's just a good thing."

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