Community Update – 2015 State of the City Recap and Mayor’s Council on Sustainability Kickoff



2015 State of the City Recap

Healthier WREarlier this month, I delivered my 3rd-Annual State of the City Address.  I am pleased by the excellent turnout, both in person and among viewers watching from home. I wish to thank residents for attending as well as City Staff and Alderpersons who were present to meet with the public at the reception prior. Your attendance at events such as this, and participation in civic engagement initiatives such as Mayor’s Councils, helps solidify a willingness to work together to improve our City’s quality of life. I am grateful for the opportunity to inform our citizens about our progress during 2014, and to reveal a vision for 2015. In case you missed it: watch it here.

This year’s State of the City address focused on the concept of a Healthy Community, comprising three elements:

1) Economic Health – fostering and nurturing an environment for business development and job growth;
2) Governmental/Organizational Health – making City services more accessible and responsive to our citizens; and
3) Civic Health – participation by our residents in helping to shape the culture and the future of our community.

In the area of Economic Health, I recounted projects from 2014 that hold great promise to infuse economic activity into our business districts. These initiatives include the resident-led planning and redesign of the Tribune Building as a space for entrepreneurs to start and grow; the YMCA/Aspirus partnership in a state-of-the art aquatics facility that connects directly to our area’s assets along the Wisconsin River; and building upon past investments in planning to make our city more liveable and vibrant. I specifically pinpointed housing as a cornerstone to any city development, particularly in creating demand for surrounding economic growth; as well as its connection to attracting and retaining talent, critical to the success of current and future business enterprises. We also are supporting business growth through the use of technology – like the newly launched, which offers a one-stop city hub for Business Development resources.

In addressing Organizational Health, I highlighted advancements introduced in 2014 to provide GIS Example2residents and businesspeople with enhanced access to information and services. These innovations included GIS City Viewer, which provides at-your-fingertips information about services, properties and recreational destinations (much to be added throughout 2015); Get Your Business Online, our City’s online partnership with Google to build online awareness for local businesses; and an award receiving broadband network. I also announced a few of the many new developments to come for 2015.  One, Put Your Business on the Map, is an extension of the Get Your Business Online initiative with Google. SCF Another, the recently launched SeeClickFix, is an exciting app that allows residents to report and track non-emergency neighborhood issues on the web or via an app on their smartphone.  We have already experienced wide use of the application and encourage all to download the app on their smartphone or check it out on the web. In addition, a growing number of City employees have participated in Rapid Improvement training, supporting our efforts to streamline and continuously improve how government works for our citizens.

Lastly, I spoke to Civic Health, focusing on the progress we made in 2014 as a result of active resident involvement- notably, through the launch of the first “Mayor’s Council” the Mayor’s Beautification Council.  From cleaning up neighborhoods, to planting trees and hanging flower baskets that add a breadth of color in the summer months, residents have stepped forward to really take ownership in making a wonderful impression on anyone living here or visiting our City. In line with this success, I mentioned the newly formed Mayor’s Youth Council, along with the upcoming introduction of the Mayor’s Council on Sustainability, which I describe in more detail next in this update. If you are passionate about a subject the city could be concerned about through the connection of fellow residents on a Mayor’s Council, contact me!

In short, the key to a Healthy Community is to take a holistic approach – to be invested in Economic Health, Organizational Health and Civic Health.  This same sense of connectedness is needed among us as citizens, as we work together as one to improve our community’s well-being.

For anyone who missed the State of the City Address, you can view the entire event online by visiting this link.

Launching of the Mayor’s Council on Sustainability

Tomorrow marks the formal kick-off of the Mayor’s Council on Sustainability.  This launch marksEco Tree with environment symbols another step in our journey toward helping Wisconsin Rapids become more sustainable- for the benefit of residents and visitors today, and for generations to come.  The Kick-off Meeting will take place Tuesday, February 24, at 5:00 p.m., at McMillan Memorial Library in the 2nd Floor Conference Room.  At that time, the vision and scope of the Sustainability Council will formally be introduced.  Additionally, participants will learn about current sustainability efforts in our City, and how the Council can support those efforts in moving Wisconsin Rapids forward as a model for progress in achieving sustainable growth.  To view the kickoff video announcement, please visit this link.  If you have passion on this subject, I hope to see you there!

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


State of the City Address – Wednesday, February 4, 2015

[2015] state of the city postcard

This Wednesday, February 4, 2015, I will be holding my third-annual State of the City address at McMillan Memorial Library. The event will begin with a pre-address reception taking place at 6:30PM, and remarks beginning at 7:00PM.  A video highlighting details can be viewed here.

I look forward to highlighting the initiatives my office has been working on and introducing a vision that provides the basis for priorities during the upcoming year.  RSVP is recommended. You can RSVP online at this link, or contacting my office directly by calling 715-421-8216.

I look forward to seeing you there!

For those who can not attend, the address will also be broadcast live on RCCA’s website, or on Solarus channel 3/Charter channel 985.

A press release from my office can be found here.

Community Update – City Action with the Tribune Building Project, Mayor’s Councils on Youth and Sustainability, and 2015 State of the City Address



Launching of Mayor’s Youth Council

Over the past few weeks, my office, with the support of individuals in our community, have been hard at work preparing for the launch of a Mayor’s Youth Council.  The Mayor’s Youth Council is a newly forming council that gives area youth an opportunity to be civically engaged and participate in efforts, including policy development, service, and recreation. The launch video can be viewed by visiting this link.

Too often, young people are inadvertently excluded from the decision-making process, even on the issues that most concern them and their future.  It is important for our community that youth have a meaningful chance to affect change. Youth Councils have proven to be an effective way to get youth more involved in solving local problems and more actively engaged in the community, outside of school time.

Now having received applications from over 30 youth in our community, acceptance letters have been sent out.  Our first meeting will be taking place this week.  I look forward to sharing the group’s progress in future Community Updates.

Commitment to Sustainability

Over the past two months, myself, members of the community and City Staff have been meeting regularly in anticipation of a forming Mayor’s Council on Sustainability.  At last Tuesday’s Council meeting, an important step occurred in ensuring continued sustainable practices for our community.  The Council, through adoption of a resolution, renewed the City’s commitment to sustainability and formally set in motion continued and improved sustainable practices for our community.

In my 2014 State of the City Address, I announced the intent to create a Mayor’s Council on Sustainability. The re-formation of a city Sustainability Committee marks a major effort and continuation in our city’s journey to greater Sustainability as it relates to consumption of resources (energy, water) and its environmental impact (recycling, emissions, etc.).

With the now adopted resolution and upcoming launch of a Sustainability Council this February, a significant opportunity exists for the city to begin examining our practices, to positively impact our City’s health and environment today, and for future generations. I look forward to measurable improvements to reduce consumption, expand reuse and recycling, improve efficiency of buildings and transportation, enhance community wellness, and preserve our living environment for all those who live here.  Watch for a formal announcement of our first Sustainability Council meeting, and if you have an interest in joining, please contact my office to be added to the contact list.

Tribune Building Action

Last Tuesday, City Council voted to approve a proposed developer’s agreement with Community Property, Inc. related to the Tribune Building Project.  One aspect of that agreement was the sale of the Market Square parking lot, to meet the city parking requirement for the development.  As such, the Market Square parking lot became a connected solution to that problem.  The parking lot sale wasn’t without commitments from the developer.  Those commitments include maintenance and reconstruction of the parking lot, guaranteed annual payments to the City to support ongoing Tax Increment Finance (TIF) developments, and a reversionary interest to ensure the space remains a parking lot going forward.

Tribune-in-Spring-w-Hopa-treeThe concept behind the Tribune project and waterfront redevelopment is not new.  From past planning and investment by residents, administrations and city councils over the past three decades, many have participated in planning through multiple downtown redevelopment plans. Now, after decades of planning, the stars are aligned for action.  It is my hope that the City continue to partner with other property owners in determining the best and highest reuse/development- not only adjacent and near the Tribune building but all across our waterfront district.  Around the City- particularly downtown along the waterfront- we have many remaining structures and buildings, some vacant, blighted or contaminated. It is my hope that the Tribune Building Project is just the beginning to putting these ‘bones’ to good use.

I have been impressed throughout this project and recent downtown development conversations by Tribune Building Drawingthe energy and enthusiasm of our residents.  Their energy around our City’s future is inspiring on many levels and has in many ways been absent in our community for too long.  I am pleased the Council has supported moving forward with property acquisition to support development on the east side of the river.  Council’s support of the sale of the Market Square parking lot with the aforementioned commitments is a solid way to support development on the west side of the river without the expenditure of city funds.  I very much look forward to the attraction of millions of dollars of investment into the redevelopment, and hope to one day say how proud I am that the city believed in the potential that once was.

Coffee With the Mayor

Tomorrow, Tuesday, January 27, I invite you to join me at From the Ground Up Coffeehouse, 250 West Grand Avenue, from 8:30-9:30AM for my next coffee session.   All are welcome to join me to ask questions and provide me feedback. I always enjoy the opportunity to meet and have conversation.  Spread the word to friends and neighbors!

2015 State of the City Announcement

[2015] state of the city postcardI will be holding my third-annual State of the City address on Wednesday, February 4, 2015.  This year’s State of the City will take place at McMillan Memorial Library, with a pre-address reception taking place at 6:30PM, and remarks beginning at 7:00PM.  A video highlighting details can be viewed here.

I look forward to highlighting the initiatives my office has been working on, and introducing a vision that provides the basis for priorities during the upcoming year.  RSVP is recommended.  You can RSVP online at this link, or contacting my office directly by calling 715-421-8216.  I look forward to seeing you there!  For those who can not attend, the address will also be broadcast live on RCCA’s website, or on Solarus channel 3/Charter channel 985.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


A Friendly Challenge from Bonney Lake on This Weekend’s NFC Championship Game


NFC ChampionshipThis morning, I received a friendly challenge from Mayor Neil Johnson Jr. of Bonney Lake, Washington for this weekend’s NFC Championship game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks.

If the Green Bay Packers win this weekend, Mayor Johnson offered up items from Washington including a wine basket, Starbucks coffee, Fisher scones and a berry plant voucher from Spooner Farms.  Feeling confident the green and gold are poised to claim victory this Sunday, I offered Booney Lake fresh Dairy State cheese, Craisins from the Ocean Spray facility in Wisconsin Rapids, ?????????????????Rubi Reds Cranberry Salsa (product of Mariani Packing Co.), cranberry juice, and Verso paper.

I look forward to this weekend’s game and cheering the Packers on, as they get one step closer to bringing a fifth Vince Lombardi Trophy home to “Titletown, USA!”

A press release from my office can be found here.

Community Update – Local Paper Company Transactions, Crossing Guard Appreciation, and State of the City



Completion of Verso/Catalyst Transactions

Last Thursday, two transactions involving our local paper companies came to resolution.  The Wisconsin Rapids operations, formerly owned by NewPage Corp, officially joined Verso Corporation.  Immediately prior to Verso’s acquisition of NewPage, NewPage divested its Biron papermill to Catalyst Paper Operations, to comply with Verso acquisition antitrust requirements.

VersoThe plans for Verso to purchase NewPage were originally announced almost a year ago, to the date, in January 2014.  With last week’s announcement, change, as we’ve grown more accustomed to through recent acquisitions, will continue to be apart of our future. We will again welcome new company names to our community’s manufacturing sector. What won’t change will be our support for the employees (over Catalyst1,700 of them), company leadership and optimism for a strong local future. As paper production continues to evolve for each, diversification of operations looks to be critical to their success. In many respects, the same is true for our local economy and each company will have unique strengths, as does our community.

To all directly (or indirectly) employed by one of our local paper manufacturers or supporting companies, know that the city will continue to communicate and assist in any way we can. Regardless of our professional affiliation, we must all continue to advocate to our federal representatives for fair trade practices to ensure our American production can effectively compete against international competitors.

There is no doubt papermaking, alongside much of the manufacturing sector, has endured much in the past decade and a half. Wisconsin still remains the Papermaking State; facing strong headwinds of international competition- and the substitution of digital will continue to challenge the industry. It is my hope the hard work and commitment to excellence of employees, and the forward looking management team from each company will ensure a future for our local mills.  Copies of press releases related to last week’s mergers can be found here: (Verso, Catalyst).

Adult School Crossing Guard Recognition Week

Crossing GuardThis week, please join me in bringing special attention and recognition to the dedicated adult crossing guards in our communities.  Crossing guards play a vital role in facilitating a safe route to and from the schools for children in our community.  As recent weeks have reminded us, the winter can often be very unforgiving with subzero temperatures- yet crossing guards in communities across Wisconsin faithfully attend their intersections to ensure the safe crossing of our community’s school children.

Please take a moment this week and tell an adult crossing guard how much you appreciate their service- even if it is just a friendly wave.

Coffee With the Mayor

On Tuesday, January 27,, I invite you to join me at From the Ground Up Coffeehouse, 250 West Grand Avenue, from 8:30-9:30AM for my next coffee session.   All are welcome to join me to ask questions and provide me feedback. I always enjoy the opportunity to meet and have conversation.  Spread the word to friends and neighbors!

2015 State of the City Address – Save the Date

I will be holding my third-annual State of the City address on Wednesday, February 4, 2015.  This year’s State of the City will take place at McMillan Memorial Library, with a pre-address reception taking place at 6:30PM, and remarks beginning at 7:00PM.  I look forward to highlighting the initiatives my office has been working on, and introducing a vision that provides the basis for priorities during the upcoming year.  More details will follow as we get closer to the event.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Happy New Year! Employee Service Milestones and 2014 lookback

happy new year 2015


Happy New Year!

As the calendar turns from 2014 to 2015, we reflect back upon this past year’s notable events and milestones. One such acknowledgement is that of our public employees who serve our community daily. In 2014, the City of Wisconsin Rapids recognized a number of significant employee service milestones. The following is a list of those employees who have worked more than 25 years with the City and celebrated 25, 30, 35 and 40 year anniversaries in 2014:

  • David Batten (25 years)
  • Donald (Jay) Bemke (30 years)
  • Sharon Borchert (35 years)
  • James Borski (30 years)
  • Tammy Florence (35 years)
  • Randall Jahns (25 years)
  • David Kerkman, Jr. (25 years)Dave Laspa Council
  • Michael Kruger (30 years)
  • Greg Luke (25 years)
  • Yvonne Mason (25 years)
  • James Neitzel (35 years)
  • Janice Oleson (40 years)
  • Bruce Schoff (25 years)
  • Duane Skibba (25 years)
  • Nancy Turba (35 years)
  • Darnell Tyjeski (30 years)

imageIn addition to recognizing the above employees for their service, we recognized outgoing City Engineer Dave Laspa as he retired after 36 years of service.  His roundabout cake was a fitting gesture. On behalf of the city- residents and co-workers- thank you for your service and best wishes Dave! 

New Years Wishes

As we look forward to the beginning of the new year, I would be remiss if I didn’t reflect, at least briefly on a few of our accomplishments of the past year. In many ways, I believe it was the year of You, our residents.

2014 in Wisconsin Rapids was a productive year as we continue to take steps forward to improve. Internally, we continue to analyze, take new and innovative approaches to how we do business to ensure the City’s ability to provide the services our residents expect into the future. Our City’s leadership took notable steps forward with initiatives to improve our operations and equally as important to improve the quality of life that is our own. Already this year, we’ve taken strides in this approach, through the development of a GIS system, the upcoming launch of our GrowRapids portal, and our operational efficiency initiative- Rapid Improvement. We’ve begun to “Open Government”- by establishing a system of public participation and collaboration, based on technology, to strengthen and promote efficiency and effectiveness in government.

In addition to improving the way we do business, 2014 also saw increased opportunities for IMG_0420involvement in government. Our city’s physical image is improving.  Last year, we formed a Mayor’s Council on Beautification, which, through efforts like the flowering basket program and various planting events, successfully transformed areas of our City into bright and colorful exhibits.  Key to this success has been, and will continue to be the involvement of our citizens and the development of the relationships we have with our local and regional partners, including surrounding municipalities and county government.  In the coming year, I look forward to expanding on our current initiatives, and introducing others, including a Mayor’s Council on Youth, Sustainability and more.  Further, opportunities to serve as a Mayoral Appointee on various boards and commissions continue. With all that our City has accomplished, I am confident that calendar year 2015 will bring even more significant success!

happy new year 2015I look forward to new beginnings and to the formation of deeper and new partnerships as we face the challenges that 2015 will most certainly bring. With effective leadership, stronger partnerships, and an involved community, the City of Wisconsin Rapids will continue down a path of greater health, in all various forms.

Here’s wishing you and all of your families a health, prosperous and enjoyable New Year! Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – December’s Council Meeting, Social Hosting Ordinance, and Holiday Greetings



Social Hosting Ordinance Signing

At November’s City Council meeting, Council held a second reading and formally adopted a Social Hosting Ordinance in the City of Wisconsin Rapids.  In doing this, Wisconsin Rapids joined various Central Wisconsin communities including Marshfield, Nekoosa, and Wausau, to penalize those who knowingly host parties where underage drinking occurs.  Just as important, the ordinance opens the door for those conversations around underage drinking and how to deter it -creating a community that prioritizes safety of our area’s young people.

The Social Hosting Ordinance was brought about by the suggestion of area youth, in collaboration with WRPD and the Wood County Health Department.  Students pushed for the law to help deter underage drinking in our community.  Last Friday, I invited students involved with generating the SocialHost Ordinanceordinance to come to City Hall and participate in the formal signing of the ordinance.  I am proud of the youth in our community and hope that this is just the first example of engagement with our local government.  It is my goal to help give our area’s youth these opportunities through the formation of a Mayor’s Youth Council in the near future.  I look forward to sharing details on the upcoming Youth Council in the near future!

Notable Action from December’s City Council Meeting

December’s City Council meeting brought several notable actions that will set the stage for future discussions around City Staffing and ensuring services are delivered in a more efficient and effective way- at the same time aligned with resident expectations.

Dave Laspa CouncilAlong with the Council recognizing our outgoing City Engineer for 36 years of service to the City of Wisconsin Rapids and acting on my appointment of our interim City Engineer, Council also took action on an expected vacancy in the City Treasurer position. The decision is a result of a previous discussion by the Council of how the Finance and Treasurer departments might be restructured to promote greater efficiencies to better serve residents.  Recognizing that the transition of City Treasurer would present an opportunity to potentially restructure both departments, Council unanimously voted to approve a charter ordinance removing the Treasurer as an elected officer and naming the Finance Director to perform those duties otherwise performed by the Treasurer.  Revised position descriptions for the Finance department will be brought forward to Council in the upcoming months.

In addition to discussing reorganization in city operations, Council also took action in the area of our service offerings- public aquatics- with an update and recommendation by the Aquatics Ad-Hoc Committee.  The Aquatics Ad-Hoc Committee has met over the last couple months to discuss resident’s desires in public aquatics and to produce a summary of its findings with a recommendation for full City Council consideration.  Meetings included discussions around how access or usage could be defined with a facility that could have multiple access options (YMCA Membership, public citizens, swim teams, etc.).  Ultimately, the Aquatics Ad-Hoc Committee made a unanimous recommendation to City Council that the Mayor and City Staff continue to pursue a partnership with the SWC YMCA to offer public access to the aquatics facility.  Council unanimously voted to follow the Ad-Hoc Committee’s recommendation with the added point that public access and financing would need to further be explored, with updates brought back for consideration once determined.  I look forward to continued discussions with SWC YMCA, City Staff, and residents about what access (and financing) might look like for a shared aquatics facility, and the potential of Wisconsin Rapids having a exemplary facility that helps improve the health and well-being of our community!  To view the Aquatics Ad-Hoc Committee recommendation, and Council’s subsequent aquatics discussion and vote, please visit this link.

Holiday Message

Happy-holidaysAs the 2014 year draws to a close, I thank you for your hard work and caring commitment to the betterment of our community throughout this busy and progressive year.  Teamwork is a key ingredient behind our success; whether it’s taking care of your own property, helping a neighbor take care of his or her yard, reaching out to help a stranger in need, or donating your time and energy with one of the many opportunities for community improvement, YOUR involvement is what makes Wisconsin Rapids so great!

I am very appreciative of the countless hours of volunteer time so many of you have contributed to our various efforts. Through your suggestions, questions and voiced concerns, we work to improve our City every day. Your input is crucial to our work, and I look forward to working with you again next year as we move forward to make our beloved community an even more wonderful place to live, work and play.

On behalf of the City of Wisconsin Rapids, please accept my best wishes to you and your families for a very Merry Christmas and a safe start to a brand new year. May God bless you and your loved ones in 2015.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink