Community Update: City Takes Action on Emerald Ash Borer, Need Replacement Trees? Community Tree Sale Now Under Way, JCPenney Store Closure Is a Challenge – and a Call to Arms



City Takes Action on Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)

Last May, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed the presence of emerald ash borer (EAB) in the City of Wisconsin Rapids. At that time, the DNR placed Wood County and neighboring counties under quarantine, prohibiting the removal and transfer of ash wood products and hardwood firewood to non-quarantine areas.

Emerald Ash Borer

Fortunately, even before the the DNR confirmed the presence of EAB last year, the City had already committed to apply for a DNR matching grant that helped the City prepare a survey of City-owned ash tree stock, along with an urban forestry management plan.

Our survey reveals that Wisconsin Rapids has around 265 “public” ash trees, the vast bulk of which are located along our expressway/boulevard areas. The City has already begun the process of taking down approximately 40 trees rated as being in poor or very poor condition.

We are also evaluating treatment for trees that are still in good or very good condition. Treatment against EAB is generally effective for about two or three years, at which time another treatment can be applied.

Photo by Travis Plowman/WR City Multimedia Specialist – City crews work on cutting down the trees that are infected with Emerald Ash Borer disease along the Expressway in Wisconsin Rapids Wednesday afternoon.

The goals of our efforts include:

  • Delay devastation of current tree stock;
  • Allow time to take down infected trees; and
  • Replant more diverse species of trees.

Emerald ash borer adults lay eggs on the bark of ash trees in mid- to late summer. When the eggs hatch a week or two later, the larvae burrow under the bark for the winter and feed, destroying the tree’s ability to take in nutrients and water. Visible signs include a decline in tree canopy and what looks like bark falling off, essentially the result of woodpeckers attacking the larvae.

The City of Wisconsin Rapids website offers extensive information that enables residents to recognize the symptoms of EAB, help treat a suspected outbreak on their property, and contact agencies and professional arborists to provide assistance. You can find further information and guidance regarding options for your property and businesses by calling the Department of Public Works, at 715-421-8255.

The final report on our urban forestry inventory project will help lead to a management plan that enables us to identify best practices to defend against infestations such as EAB and the best sources to implement these practices. To that end, Public Works Director Joe Terry plans to reach out to the Urban Forestry Department at Mid-State Technical College to partner on a coordinated effort to manage our urban forest.

With City government, State and local education resources, and local citizens working together, we will successfully combat this pestilence.

Need Replacement Trees? Community Tree Sale Now Under Way

Do you need to remove and replace trees damaged by disease or storms … or simply want to spruce up your property or enhance the “look” and “feel” of your neighborhood? Now is the time: The
Mayor’s Council on Beautification has launched its Community Tree Sale.

Money from the sale helps to fund more beautification projects for the city, building upon our natural-resource assets, and improving the quality-of-life experience for residents and visitors alike.

Through April 30, you can order from among four species of six- to eight-foot bare root trees for $65 apiece, with pick-up in early May at the City Garage.

  • Red Jewel Crabapple – Upright, pyramidal shape with single white flowers, followed by bright red one-half-inch persistent fruits; grows to 15’x12’.
  • Royalty Crabapple – Crimson flower with reddish-purple fruit and high-sheen, waxy leaves; grows to 18’x15’.
  • Whitespire Birch – Displays chalk-white bark and a hardy nature; grows to 40’x20’.
  • Wisconsin Weeping Willow – Green or brown pendulous branches with narrow, dark and glossy green leaves; grows to 50’x50’

Order for yourself, or for your community. You can also order in remembrance of a special loved one – memorial plaques are available at additional cost.

For more information, or to place an order, call Sue Winch at 715-213-1747 or e-mail

JCPenney Store Closure Is a Challenge – and a Call to Arms

Last week, our City was confronted with a challenge that will test our vision to re-create our future as a destination of choice in which to live, work and play. This challenge also may jumpstart the creativity and boldness we will need to successfully forge ahead.

J. C. Penney Company announced that its Wisconsin Rapids JCPenney, an anchor of our Downtown Rapids Mall for nearly 40 years, is among 138 such stores nationwide that will be closed. The liquidation process is expected to begin in mid-April, with final resolution expected by the month of June.

Rest assured, the City will do all it can to ensure that affected employees have access to local employment opportunities and family support resources.

At the same time, I and other City leaders are working with Rapids Mall ownership to map out a strategy that will enable our beautiful Downtown area, with all of its natural assets, to provide residents and visitors with unique shopping experiences. These discussions may ultimately lead to a full property redevelopment that changes the face of our Downtown district.

The closing of our local JCPenney store comes some 10 years after the Penney Company initially planned to close the Rapids Mall location. With the support of local Penney store management and civic leaders, we were able to retain this important retail fixture. Unfortunately, the company has been unable to duplicate our local success on a national basis.

This reflects a cultural and lifestyle trend that has seen consumers transition away from regional malls and department stores in favor of speciality retailers and online shopping. The marketplace is changing – and with it, so has our local community … as well as our neighbors: The Marshfield JCPenney store inside the Woodridge Shoppes also will be affected by this corporate action leaving Central Wisconsin without a retail presence following previous closures in Stevens Point and Wausau.

As a community, we have certainly weathered serious storms. But – as with the successful effort to retain the JCPenney store a decade ago – we also have demonstrated our capacity to work together for the benefit of our neighbors today, and for the future of generations to come. This unique and collaborative spirit, embodied in the signs of vitality already in evidence along and near our riverfront, will be essential to our ongoing success.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Master Plan for Mead Field Comes into Focus, City Seeks Developer for High-Potential Triangle Area Property, An important community asset, McMillan Library, offers valuable courses



Master Plan for Mead Field Recreational Resources Come into Focus

Photo by Tom Loucks/WR City Multimedia Coordinator – Mayor Zach Vruwink explains concepts of the Mead Complex Master Plan to visitors during Thursday evenings meeting at Mead School

A timeline for ground-breaking and public opening for a splash pad area adjacent to Mead Elementary Charter School, and exciting changes for the future of recreational resources at Mead Field both came into sharper focus last Thursday evening. That’s when the Mead Field Master Plan was revealed to residents who gathered at Mead Elementary School.

Photo by MSA – A concept of the splash pad in the Mead Complex. If you have ideas, please share at

We are thrilled that we will are planning to break ground on the splash pad area beginning in early May, with plans to open to the public in July.

During the gathering on Thursday, representatives from civic design consultant MSA Professional Services presented the proposed Mead Park Field splash park design. The presentation included highlights of design concepts generated by Mead School student leaders, some of whom were on hand for the event.

Photo by Tom Loucks/City of WR Multimedia Coordinator – Students gather around Mayor Zach Vruwink to show their support for the project.

We are grateful to the Legacy Foundation of Central Wisconsin, which has pledged to donate up to $500,000 to construct the splash pad at Mead Field. We deeply appreciate the Foundation’s investment in our City’s future. On a personal level, I look forward to the ongoing enthusiasm and creativity displayed by members of the Mayor’s Youth Council, who will play an important role in community fundraising efforts.

MSA staff also provided an introduction to the Mead Field Master Plan, including locations for the splash pad and ball fields, and portrayed an overall vision for future multi-use recreational capabilities that appeals to the needs of all age groups.

Photo by MSA – Mead Complex Masterplan

Mead Complex Details included:

  • Reconfiguration of the baseball fields to provide better participant access and allow for a central hub to facilitate multi-team tournament play;
  • Two new tennis courts to complement the four already available, development of a trail area.
  • Creation of spaces for visitors who simply want to enjoy a park experience;
  • Construction of an events building that would allow for year-round rentals; and
  • Open-air shelters that could be rented for special events;The presentation was followed by an open house with myself, City Council members and City staff, and MSA personnel, during which attendees could exchange comments and concerns.

On April 6, community members will have another opportunity to become aware and lend their voices to our City’s progress. At that time, MSA will present the Concept Master Plan for our other major project, the $8.5-million Witter Field aquatics center facility. We will provide more details as this significant event draws closer.

Keep in mind that what we have achieved thus far represents important “first steps”; there is much work left to do. But we can be encouraged that we are moving forward toward developing facilities that will put our City on the map as a local and regional destination for recreational fun.

For more photos of the Thursday event click, here, or a video click, here.

City Seeks Developer for High-Potential Triangle Area Property

After years of planning, our City’s revitalization of its historic Waterfront District has already changed the face of the Wisconsin Rapids Downtown area. Combined with renewed confidence resulting in a resurgence of tens of millions of dollars in economic activity ether spent or planned, our City remains poised for growth. Recognizing that important work still remains before the ultimate fulfillment of our goals, we continue to seek partners who will help us further the progress toward rejuvenating our Downtown area.

To that end, Wisconsin Rapids recently issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to redevelop the Triangle Area, located on the block bounded by 1st Street North (west and north), East Jackson Street (south) and Market Street (east). The Triangle serves as the northeast gateway to the Downtown area, overlooking the Wisconsin River and our beautiful public park spaces. It is ideally suited for a mixed-use development, which could include residential, office, retail, restaurant, convenience store/grocery, among other uses.

City conducts housing study to assess current market and potential, here.

To jumpstart this redevelopment project, the City last year purchased the former Spath and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) buildings, along with land on the other side of the block that included the former Labor Temple/Good Time Charlie’s Sports Bar. Since then, City crews have demolished the Spath, USDA and Good Time Charlie’s buildings. After demolition of the Good Time Charlie’s building, the City hired consultant Robert E. Lee and Associates to perform an environmental assessment, which revealed minor environmental issues. They are now completing Phase 2 environmental investigations, partially funded by a $150,000 Site Assessment Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Results are expected in a matter of weeks.

With all our recent initiatives and momentum, we are excited to offer this partnership opportunity, and we welcome developers to share with us their visions of sustainable residential, commercial and retail redevelopment.

You can find the Triangle Area Request for Proposal by visiting, or by calling Adam Tegen, Director of Community Development, at 715-421-8225.

An important community asset, McMillan Library, offers valuable courses

Today’s lifelong learners come in a range of ages, and with a variety of interests. For these individuals, McMillan Memorial Library Library  provides a free learning resource designed to transform lives and foster positive changes in our community.

Gale Courses engage learners with more than 350 instructor-led online courses that focus on professional development, technology skills and personal enrichment. These six-week courses are taught by college instructors and experts in the field to ensure high-quality, high-impact educational experiences.

Gale Courses are tied to the Bureau of Labor Statistics fastest-growing occupations and include:

  • Business professional support, including business law, human resources, management, manufacturing and marketing;
  • Computers and technology, from beginner to advanced;
  • Parenting, the arts and hobbies; and
  • Health and wellness.McMillan Library has prepared a list of classes of special interest to business people, job seekers and writers.The great advantage of Gale Courses is that this learning tool is right at your fingertips – you do not need to live in Wisconsin Rapids or Wood County to gain access. To get started on your educational journey, you simply need to have a LINK/McMillan Library card and designate McMillan as your home library.To check out the complete course catalog, or to sign up for a class, go here.

Let the learning begin!

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Public Invited to Mead Field Splash Pad and Master Plan Presentation



Public Invited to Mead Field Splash Pad and Master Plan Presentation

Wisconsin Rapids area residents are encouraged to be attend the proposed Phase 1 Mead Park Field splash pad design and athletics Master Plan presentation. Representatives from civic design consultant MSA Professional Services will be on hand to share their perspectives and assistance provided throughout the design process. This event takes place on Thursday, March 9, at Mead Elementary School, 241 17th Avenue S., starting at 6 p.m. with a half-hour reception. RSVP via Facebook here.

splashpad_invite_10For me, the splash pad presentation takes on a personal aspect, as it will highlight design concepts generated by Mead School student leaders during a planning session I held with them on February 20 at City Hall. In addition, MSA staff will provide an introduction to the Mead Field Master Plan, including locations for the splash pad and ball fields, and a consideration of the future of athletics at Mead Field.

Afterward, we invite everyone to stay for an open house where we will take your feedback, questions and comments. 

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Youth Provide Splash Pad Design Input, Socializing With American Heroes an Honor, Unseasonable conditions force Ice-Pond closure



Students Provide Design Concepts for a new Splash Pad

Students from Mead School listen to Mayor Zach Vruwink talk about the Splash Pad their going to help design during a meeting on Monday. Photo by Jen Clark/City of WR Executive Coordinator to the Mayor's Office

Students from Mead School listen to Mayor Zach Vruwink talk about the Splash Pad their designing together during the meeting on Monday. Photos by Jen Clark/Executive Coordinator

As part of a planned $9 million investment in public aquatics, the City of Wisconsin Rapids hosted a very successful splash pad planning session with our city youth last Monday. City staff and I had the chance to host our future leaders from Mead Elementary Charter School to offer design preferences and opinions that would be used in the new splash pad design adjacent to Mead School.  Involving the very users in design of public features is not only good city planning, it is also a way to instill a permanent pride in being involved in making our city a better place.

Students from Mead School write down concepts for the new Splash Pad.

A student from Mead School draws concepts for the new Splash Pad.

Splash or spray pad design can consist of nearly limitless combinations and themes. By definition, they are an aquatic play attraction that has no standing water and serve all ages and abilities. The purpose of our planning exercise last Monday, gave students a first-hand opportunity to learn how to design something that will not only work for them and their families, but for generations to come. They learned aspects such as budget and features, and casted their vote for their favorite ideas on what they want to see in Wisconsin Rapids.

In 2016, the City agreed to pursue a regional-scale aquatic center in the eastern-half of the Witter Field complex and a splash pad at Mead. It was anticipated that a regional-scale facility with related park and facility enhancements would cost $8.5 million. The financing would consist of a mix of public, private, and philanthropic contributions.

The first donor has been secured for the project, and I am very pleased to partner with the Legacy Foundation of Central Wisconsin to restore an aquatic feature to the Mead complex this year.  Making investments in park and related features will not only be an attraction for youth and families, but also strengthen the surrounding neighborhoods.

As part of the design process the City is undertaking, future meetings will be scheduled with stakeholders and the public to provide input on the Masterplan elements at both Mead and Witter complexes.

Socializing With American Heroes Is an Honor

This past Wednesday, I had a visit to the American Heroes Café here in Wisconsin Rapids. Also accompanying the visit was State Senator Patrick Testin . During our time at the café, Sen. Testin and I were able to share information about current events and issues important to veterans and their neighbors and to listen for accounts of bravery and sacrifice from these citizen soldiers who have served our nation so admirably.

Mayor Zach Vruwink and State Senator Patrick Testin listen to Navy veteran Bill Haack of Nekoosa at the American Heroes Café in Wisconsin Rapids on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

Mayor Zach Vruwink and State Senator Patrick Testin listen to Navy veteran Bill Haack of Nekoosa at the American Heroes Café in Wisconsin Rapids on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Photo by Travis Plowman/City of WR Multimedia Specialist – Photo gallery of the event, click here.

The American heroes Café opened at the Lowell Senior Center back in September of 2015, as a haven where Central Wisconsin veterans, police officers and firefighters could enjoy coffee, donuts and conversation. It quickly became so successful that it recently moved to a larger venue – the Crossroads Church near Shopko Plaza. The café is open every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon.

Thanks go to Navy veteran Bill Haack of Nekoosa for making this concept a reality for area former military personnel and active public safety servants. I extend my personal gratitude to these men and women who, throughout generations, put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms.

By the way … we can help: Bill accepts contributions for the café. You can write checks to American Heroes Café, and send them to him at 1016 W. Fifth Street, Nekoosa WI 54457. To learn more, call him at 262-496-3198

And…. A Wisconsin Rapids television/online program showcases notable achievements of American military veterans across a span of international conflicts.

Tom Heiser, junior vice commander of local VFW Post 2534 interviews local Bill Goodness at WRCM studio.

Tom Heiser, junior vice commander of local VFW Post 2534 interviews local Bill Goodness at WRCM studio.

“Thank You for Your Service” spotlights the unique sacrifice and dedication of military veterans who reside in our area. The program is hosted and produced by Tom Heiser, junior vice commander of local VFW Post 2534 along with his group of his volunteers trained by Wisconsin Rapids Community Media (WRCM) staff to help make the program a success. Heiser records the episodes at the studio of WRCM, a division of the City of Wisconsin Rapids’ Innovation & Technology Department on a monthly basis.

Watch “Thank You For Your Service” programs, here, or on Solarus HD Channel 3, Charter SD Channel 985, WRCM Livestream, Saturdays at 10am and Wednesdays at 8pm.

Unseasonable conditions force to close Ice-Pond early

Due to warm weather this past week we closed the Witter Warming House Ice Pond and Robinson Low Board Hockey Rink for the season, but there will be plenty of opportunities to stay active this spring and summer with some new and exciting class offered through our Parks and Recreation Department.  Check out a list of the programs offered, here.

Also, if you’re looking for a summer employment, we have seasonal opportunities for a Golf Instructor, Tennis Instructor, Volleyball Instructor, T-Ball, Soccer and Basketball Aides.  Application deadline is Friday, March 3, 2017 at 4pm. To find out how to apply, click, here.screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-9-23-58-am

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

Community Update: City Vehicles Enhance Efficiency, Making a “Splash” at Mead, Mayors Unite on Healthcare



 Making a “Splash” at Mead Elementary


Photo by City of Wisconsin Rapids Multimedia Coordinator Tom Loucks -while sharing a concept of a splash pad to all Mead School students on Tuesday, February 14.

Valentines Day was extra special for students and myself during an assembly at Mead School. I witnessed the smiles and heard the excitement when I presented the news, their neighborhood is going to be the first aquatics site open this summer. 

This event will be followed by several presentations the City will be making in the weeks to come.

Our next meeting on aquatics will be working with the Constitutional Convention Group from Mead Elementary Charter School at City Hall on Monday, February 20.   During this meeting, 24 student representatives from will be able to express their planning and design ideas – an opportunity that will be reflected in tangible community assets they can look upon with pride for years to come.

The City is currently proposing an over 3,000-square-feet splash pad at Mead Field, tentatively proposed to be located just south of the old Mead Pool location. We expect to have this facility constructed and in operation by this summer. Splash or spray pad design can consist of nearly limitless combinations and themes. By definition, they are an aquatic play attraction that has no standing water and serve all ages and abilities.

We also plan for splash play features in the zero-depth entry of the proposed Witter Field aquatics facility, east of the ball diamond where the existing old running track lies. A decorative fountain/splash area would be located outside the aquatics facility fence for aesthetics and possible after-hours use.

Depending upon weather-related factors, construction costs and fundraising progress, the Witter Field aquatics park facility would be completed by either mid-summer of 2018 or the spring of 2019.

City Vehicles Enhance Timely and Efficient Removal of Snow and Ice


Photo by City of Wisconsin Rapids Multimedia Specialist Travis Plowman – A panoramic view of the new fleet inside the City Garage.

Each winter (and, sometimes, late autumn and early spring!), City of Wisconsin Rapids Street Department crews face the challenge of keeping our communities safe by removing snow and ice in a timely manner. This year, our dedicated Street team members have replaced aging plow and salt-spreading trucks with new vehicles to help them do their jobs more efficiently for the benefit of drivers and pedestrians.


Photo by City of Wisconsin Rapids Multimedia Specialist Travis Plowman – A new one-ton truck used to plow snow in alleys and parking lots in the city.

Replacements in the City’s fleet of trucks include:

  • Two tandem-axle trucks to facilitate the spreading of salt and sand/salt. These trucks can hold four cubic yards more salt than the older vehicles, which enable drivers to cover more roads and stay on the job longer. In addition, by purchasing these two tandem-axle vehicles, the City was able to reduce its fleet, replacing two single-axle trucks purchased in 1996 and one tandem axle vehicle purchased in 2000, as well.
  • Two one-ton dump trucks to handle plowing in alleys and parking lots. They replace vehicles purchased in 1999 and 2001. The new trucks have stainless steel bodies, which will last longer and not need the same degree of periodic maintenance that the older trucks required.

With these new vehicles come new procedures to further enhance the quality of snow and ice removal. Beginning next fall, Street Department crews will start “pre-wetting” –spraying the de-icing salt with a solution of liquid chemical before spreading on the roadway. Wet salt clings to the road instead of bouncing off or being swept off by traffic, which saves money and minimizes potential environmental problems. Also, pre-wetting moisture dissolves the salt, thereby releasing heat and facilitating the melting process.

These investments in newer, more-efficient, lower-maintenance vehicles mean that Wisconsin Rapids residents and other travelers can be assured that municipal services are on steady footing.

Mayors Unite for National Healthcare Day of Action

Concerned about the health for all of our residents, I am proud to lend my voice to supporting the National Mayors Healthcare Day of Action, on Wednesday, February 22.

The serious impact of losing health care coverage of residents in our city and millions of U.S. citizens – including more than 200,000 Wisconsinites from the catastrophic costs of illness- would have devastating affects on our economy.

Affordable Health Care (ACA) provisions that have received bipartisan support include

  • Insuring children up to the age of 26;
  • Eliminating lifetime and annual limits;
  • Assuring eligibility for insurance coverage, even with pre-existing conditions;
  • Guaranteeing coverage for pregnancy and breast cancer screenings; and
  • Providing coverage for preventive services at no additional cost.

ACA provisions also enable increased benefits for mental health and substance use disorders.

The economic impacts of ACA repeal on the State of Wisconsin are real, and substantial. Wisconsin’s opposition to the law is projected to cost $678.6 million in tax dollars through the 2017 fiscal year. In addition, repeal of the ACA could again expose our taxpayers to the burden of essentially footing the bill for unpaid emergency room visits.

I stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow U.S. mayors in advocating that our state and national leaders take a measured and responsible approach to health care reform.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Community Update: Sand Valley Golf Resort Shares it’s future, Accomplished Businesses & Individuals Honored, National 2-1-1 Day



Sand Valley Golf Resort Highlights Heart of Wisconsin Annual Meeting

Thursday evening’s 2017 Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting & Awards provided an exciting overview and preview of developments at Sand Valley Golf Resort, in the Town of Rome.


Photo submitted by Angela Loucks – Glen Murray, Sand Valley general manager, delivers the keynote address on Thursday night.

Keynote speaker Glen Murray, Sand Valley general manager, delivered a detailed, entertaining and personal address on founder Mike Keiser’s mission to bring “golf as it was meant to be” to the United States. For Sand Valley, this means playing amidst acres of tumbling sand dunes one would expect of Scottish seaside links.

After reminding us that the resort’s first world-class golf course opens to the masses in less than three months, on May 2 , Murray thrilled the audience when he announced that a second course, Mammoth Dunes, crafted by renowned Scottish designer David Kidd is already under construction, to open in 2018. He further revealed that the Keiser organization is so optimistic about prospects for success in central Wisconsin, it has begun planning for a third, par three course at the resort, as a “gateway” venue for beginning and casual golfers. With these additional links will come an expansion of overnight accommodations at Sand Valley.

Murray repeatedly extolled the importance of heartland American hospitality and friendliness as a key to ensuring the resort’s success. He pointed out that these virtues had made an impression on the national and international visitors who already have flocked here, long before the course has opened.

In conclusion, he extended an invitation to all to attend a special Community Day on May 1, the day before the course’s opening. Community members will be treated to tours and be able to play the links.

Attractions such as the Sand Valley Golf Resort generate increased out-of-town traffic and extended-stay tourist visits. These, in turn, produce a multiplier-dollar effect for our South Wood County Airport-Alexander Field and local businesses. We look forward to welcoming the many new visitors and staff Sand Valley will host.

Heart of Wisconsin Annual Awards Spotlight Community Diversity and Innovation


From health care to recreation, from community engagement to child enrichment, honorees at Thursday evening’s 2017 Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting & Awards offered a glimpse of the innovation and diversity that drives progress in our local community.

Photo submitted by Angie Loucks – The Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting & Awards dinner Thursday night.

Heart of Wisconsin award winners for 2017

Business of the Year – Aspirus Riverview

Aspirus Riverview earned this honor because of its dedicated leadership in supporting our community, and for its $25 million dollar investment in a new cardiovascular institute, birthing rooms and emergency rooms at the Aspirus Riverview Hospital-Clinic facility.

Innovative Business – Mid-State Technical College

Mid-State Technical College continues to demonstrate its commitment to growing our economy by investing in equipment and programs that prepare their graduates to be top candidates for area businesses. Mid-state has many new programs in the works and continues to boast a 90% placement in jobs for graduates!

Entrepreneur/Developer – BluPlay Cafe

BluPlay Cafe  was honored for enhancing our community’s quality of life across the age spectrum. Doug King and Paula Cammarata have demonstrated creativity in developing this unique combination of café, children’s play area and community gathering place. It has been a great demonstration of community need and fun place for kids and families- always a common site at the café.

Shining Star – Aqua Skiers

The Aqua Skiers impact on our community is measured by the organization’s longtime work in providing free entertainment, conducting learn-to-ski programs and volunteering for other non-profit causes. These achievements are in addition to hosting the 2016 Wisconsin State/Regional Water Ski Show and World Water Ski Show 2016 tournaments.

Community Spirit – Heather and Tim McKellips/Jigsaw Run and Doris Laskowski/A Smile From Lacey

These awardees were recognized for the passion and leadership they have displayed in helping fellow community members. The McKellips’ organized the Jigsaw Run to raise money for autism support programs in Central Wisconsin; proceeds from the 2016 event were donated to the “All Together Children” playground, which will be our area’s only wheelchair- and walker-accessible playground. Doris Laskowski has given back to the community the love and support shown to her and her family during their daughter Lacey’s battle against leukemia by organizing and directing the annual A Smile From Lacey fundraiser.

Citizen of the Year – Maggie Muleski

The Heart of Wisconsin recognized Maggie’s contributions to promoting the community and the economic impact of those efforts, through her leadership in developing and managing the annual Wisconsin State/Regional Water Ski Show Tournament, the world’s largest such event. In 2016, Maggie elevated her efforts, by working to attract and host the 2016 World Water Ski Show Tournament.

Chamber Champion – Shannon Buss

This new award honors a person or business that goes above and beyond to support the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce. Shannon was cited for his years of leadership with the Heart of Wisconsin, and for his ongoing support and promotion of the organization.

We are grateful that these individuals, companies and organizations call our community “home.” We look to them as inspiration for the creativity and pride that make our area more vibrant and prosperous. The water ski tournaments, in particular, demonstrate the power of special events and attractions such as the soon-to-be-opened Sand Lake Golf Resort in the Town of Rome to generate increased out-of-town traffic and extended-stay tourist visits. These, in turn, produce a multiplier-dollar effect for our local businesses and often South Wood County Airport-Alexander Field is their first point of entry.

Check Wisconsin Rapids Community Media website to see the entire Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting & Awards event.

National 2-1-1 Day: A Time to Celebrate, Advocate and Volunteer

Photo submitted by Angela Loucks of UWIW – Mayor Zach Vruwink (right) presents the 2017 “2-1-1 Day Proclamation” to Amy Fluno, United Way’s 2-1-1 Program Director, on Monday, February 6, in the Common Council Chambers at City Hall.

Every day of the year, a wide range of people who need essential human services find that help is just a phone call away. By dialing 2-1-1 these individuals can speak to a resource specialist and get all the information they need to address matters such as job training, employment, food pantries, help for an aging parent, addiction prevention programs, affordable housing options and support groups. The service is free, confidential and available 24/7.

At 2-1-1 call centers across the nation this Saturday, people will celebrate this invaluable information and referral resource, during National 2-1-1 Day. Recognizing the importance of this service to our local community, I have officially proclaimed February 11 as 2-1-1 Day in Wisconsin Rapids.

In Wood County, 2-1-1 is a partnership between United Way of Inner Wisconsin and Marshfield Area United Way, and covers 14 counties from Ashland to Juneau. In 2016, the call center answered 3,866 calls. This program is especially helpful to people whose lives have been affected by emergencies such as the loss of a job or health issues.

The top five needs were:

  • Rent Payment Assistance
  • Food Pantry Information
  • Electric Service Payment Assistance
  • Low Income Housing
  • Gas Money

To learn how you can help celebrate this excellent service; advocate for a family member or friend; or, as a government or non-profit agency, have your programs listed in the 2-1-1 database and/or distribute free materials, call 2-1-1 or 877-947-2211, or visit

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Community Update: City Honored to Host Statewide Sustainability Initiative Meeting; Polling places change



City Honored to Host Statewide Sustainability Initiative Meeting

img_0050The City of Wisconsin Rapids was given the honor this past Monday of hosting a gathering of public and non-government officials from across the State, focused on a vision closely aligned with our own: nurturing a healthy community in which residents today and in future generations can thrive and prosper.

As the newest member of the Green Tier Legacy Communities Charter, it meant a lot for Wisconsin Rapids to be the site for this quarterly meeting.

The Charter brings together Wisconsin communities, nonprofit organizations and State of Wisconsin agencies in a partnership that provides participating communities technical assistance for developing and implementing sustainability measures, and acts as a single point of contact for communities to share success stories and best practices. By collaborating, participants are able to move further and faster toward their sustainability goals. Other nongovernmental partners also provide technical assistance.

img_0057Wisconsin Rapids Community Development Director Adam Tegen and I shared how our Downtown Revitalization and Riverfront Redevelopment initiatives contribute to wellness as we plan to enhance and create trails for walking, running and other activities. Our partners from the Healthy People Wood County Initiative and forming Healthy Living Hub, a regional collaborative focused one health outcome- childhood obesity, shared how our community is coming together in new ways to improve health and sustainability.

After an overview of health issues in the State of Wisconsin, attendees then considered the concept of “Health in All Policies” (HIAP) – discovering the practical ways some local governments have incorporated community health into the way they create and execute policies; determining what HIAP could mean for establishing local priorities; and envisioning how we can apply the HIAP framework to our current projects.

By emphasizing achievable benchmarks and raising public awareness, the Green Tier Legacy Communities program parallels our City’s efforts to advance the concept of sustainability. This undertaking goes beyond the traditional focus on environmental issues, important as these certainly are. Sustainability also encompasses who we are and what we represent as a community that is devoted to the well being of all those who may live, work and visit here.

Beyond the aforementioned partnerships and development initiatives, our local results are evidenced in a number of ways:

  • New recreational trails and bike lanes that inspire fitness and exercise; and
  • Adoption of single-stream recycling collection that promotes safe and efficient disposal of recyclable materials, diverting more product from landfills.

The Green Tier Legacy Communities program offers us an exciting opportunity to continue pursuing sustainable quality-of-life outcomes both locally and in collaboration with other communities, and help accelerate our transformation into a preferred destination for prospective employers, workers and tourists.

Take Note of Voting Changes as You Exercise Your Precious Right 

The month of February is fast approaching – and with it, another opportunity to exercise your precious right to help select your City’s leadership.

screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-11-18-11-amOn Tuesday, February 21, the position for State Superintendent of Public Instruction will be the only item on the primary ballot. The general election on April 4 will consist of local alderperson seats in odd-numbered districts in Wisconsin Rapids. Alderpersons Joe Zurfluh (District 1), Scott Kellogg (District 3) and Steve Koth (District 5) will run unopposed. Candidates Darren Brinegar and Thaddeus Kubisiak will compete for the District 7 seat being vacated by Jim Stack.

This year will usher in a few changes in voting locations. Due to security concerns, polling places will no longer be located at public school sites. Updated locations are as follows:


  • Wards 1-10, 22 and 23 vote at the Centralia Center, 220 3rd Avenue South, Wisconsin Rapids.
  • Wards 11-21 and 24 vote at Woodlands/Crossview Church, 1000 East Riverview Expressway, Suite 120, Wisconsin Rapids.

Polling places will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. To locate your ward, contact the City Clerk’s office at 715-421-8200, or visit and click the “Find My Polling Place” tab.

Watch a video explaining the new voting locations, here.

Remember: You must be registered to vote. Residents may register at the City Clerk’s office at 444 W. Grand Avenue, any time, or at the polls on Election Day. Eligibility requirements for voter registration and additional voter information available, here.

Voters who are confined to home by illness or age, or who cannot get to the polls on Election Day may obtain absentee ballots at the City Clerk’s office. Absentee ballots must be applied for in writing, and can be cast only at the clerk’s office.

Play your part in the electoral process … cast your ballot this February and in the general election this spring.

Mark your calendars for March 15, for the League of Women Voters Candidate Forum held at Wisconsin Rapids Community Media for candidates running in District 7. 


Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink