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Yesterday in La Crosse

Mister Zielke becomes the mayor, 45 years ago

Brad Williams

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It was no April Fools’ joke on April 1st of 1975, when La Crosse voters replaced two-term mayor Peter Gilbertson with city council president Patrick Zielke.  The race was close, with Zielke winning by nearly 600 votes.  Zielke would go on to serve as mayor for 22 years.    Taking Zielke’s former seat on the council would be Helen Kelly, who became only the second woman to serve on the La Crosse council.  The first was Sharon Imes, and both women would eventually run for mayor against Zielke.   

Vernon County voted its female judge out of office that spring.  Olga Bennett had been on the bench for five years, but she was replaced by Walter Block, who had claimed Bennett was too lenient.   

The Mel Brooks comedy “Young Frankenstein” was playing in theaters that April.  Meanwhile, Brooks had some projects on TV in ’75.  A sitcom pilot based on “Blazing Saddles” aired in April, along with an animated version of the “2000 Year Old Man” records featuring Brooks and Carl Reiner.  In the fall, ABC broadcast “When Things Were Rotten,” a weekly comedy by Brooks based on Robin Hood, yesterday in La Crosse.     

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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