January 20 – 26

Winter, Winter and more Winter!

If you are like me, shoveling has nearly become a part of your daily routine. From the City perspective, our snow removal crew has been plenty busy with their share of plowing, shoveling salting and sanding. Preliminary numbers show that 2013 may have been our most costly snow removal periods ever!

Many residents have shared with me recent reports highlighting innovative approaches in snow operations. Further, in an effort to consider more effective (and cost effective) melting operations, we too are studying cheese brine and beet juice solutions. I do not foresee the change in our process yet this year, but other methods will be considered in next year’s equipment budgeting.

State of the City

As a reminder, I will be delivering my 2nd and 2014 State of the City address this Wednesday, Jan. 29 at McMillan Library. Reception at 6:30 p.m. and remarks at 7 p.m. RSVP here. All are invited, and I hope to see you there.

City Council action

At last Tuesday’s city council meeting, the city council approved a second request to annex land at the corner of 8th and Whitrock. This annexation was then granted B-2 commercial zoning for development. The land formerly housed a single family home and has been vacant for years. With appropriate zoning and city annexation, it is prime for development. Miller Valentine Group has been working on an application for multi-family housing. While the development hasn’t formally been presented to the planning commission or council, the developer has been very transparent in their plans. The development will create jobs as they pledge to use local trades throughout construction. It will add tax base to the city and provide users to our water and sewer utility. I will provide more as the project develops.

The city council also approved two important positions. The first comes as a result of much feedback on the subject of effectiveness. The council approved a full-time ordinance control officer. Previously, the city had three part-time employees serving in ordinance control and recycling enforcement.  As you can imagine, turnover was very high as individuals sought greater opportunities. The positions lacked continuity and consistency. The creation of one full-time position will allow for more effectiveness in dealing with chronic blight situations. The position will also assist in the Love your Block initiative successfully launched last year in Ward 1. The individual will work to solve situations beyond simply issuing citations, where resources will be recommended in areas where individuals couldn’t remedy otherwise.

The second position will serve a significant role inside city hall and have a connection outside. The Director of Innovation and Technology will be responsible for determining the IT needs of the city. Beyond the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the systems we use, the Director will strive to make City government more innovative, engaged, efficient and responsive with technology. By working with fellow Department Heads and other stakeholders such as educators and students in the community and reporting directly to the Mayor, the Director will champion new ideas and innovations. There is much potential for collaboration between the city and our residents and tech community. Cities that have prioritized this have experienced job creation as a result. I am thrilled that we are a community who recognizes the role technology can play and will now participate with employers such as Renaissance Learning, MSTC, and UWSP to further deliver on this.

The positions will be posted soon, and I am pleased the city council saw the vision for what could be achieved through their creation.

To review previous updates, please click here.

As always, I welcome your feedback.

(Warm) Regards,




January 20th Community Update



January 13 – 19

Sand Valley

As has been reported over the past few months, the proposed world-class golf development by Mike Keiser south of Wisconsin Rapids in the Town of Rome is becoming a reality. Mike closed on the property in late December. One might wonder how this development 18 miles south may impact the Wisconsin Rapids economy. Let’s start by considering how the developer, potential investors and management company access our area. Mike has been in and out of Alexander Field a number of times and so have the likes of potential investors such as familiar names Barry Alvarez and others. Often times, we overlook the significance of our municipally owned, general aviation airport. In this case, it provides convenient access to our region via private air service. Those who have flown commercial in recent years know how challenging and frustrating it can be. It is no surprise that future visits by investors or players will continue to realize the asset we have in our airport.

Beyond ease-of-access via air, how else might the development support our local economy? Last Thursday I visited with Town of Rome representatives to learn more about the project. The project doesn’t initially call for any accommodations, therefore we conclude that visitors to the region will stay in the hotels in our city, eat in our restaurants and buy products while here. This is good news given new ownership at the full-service Hotel Mead and the many other lodging options. Entrepreneurial opportunities abound – from private shuttle service to other supply chain needs. Further, they intend to utilize local contractors as much as possible.

During my visit, Town representatives graciously showed me around the property. Let me say, I was surprised how unique the land is. While snow covered, it is easy to say this course will be one of a kind. I commend Mike Kaiser for his approach to restore the land to its natural state. Further, I thank Mike for recognizing an opportunity in the gem we have in our region.

While in the depth of winter, it might seem difficult to imagine playing a round of golf, but come spring 2016 the chance to play the newest course in our region will be a reality. I know I am looking forward to playing a round.

JS Online

Golf Week

Chicago Tribune

Ruan Transport announces plans to close Rapids terminal

In unwelcome news, last week, Ruan Transport made public their plans to close their Rapids terminal on or about March 21. This news not only negatively affects those employed but also the customers Ruan serves.

With their departure, as with most situations, there is an opportunity. From the moment I knew about their plans, I began conversations with Ruan’s largest customers. They detailed how this will impact their business operations in the Rapids area. Immediately, we began researching potential prospects to fill this void. After speaking with a number of companies, we have scheduled formal discussions  with at least one of the companies who is interested in the opportunity here.

It is in these situations where City leadership can and should act as a facilitator. I am pleased our local Chamber, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and customers have joined together with the intention of filling this void.

I am optimistic they will recognize potential here and consider setting up operations to ensure a smooth transition for all those involved.

Former Humane Society building use

Following inquiries about potential uses for the former Humane Society building, I visited the facility to see, firsthand, what condition the building is in. While it has strong reminders of the previous use and questions remain as to how to fully remove them, the building is structurally sound. It lacks efficient heating and cooling systems and needs updating. However, I have asked staff for their opinions on the structure. I feel a conversation could be had at a future City Council meeting following a summary of staff opinions. What do you think?

2014 State of the City Address

I invite you to learn more about these initiatives at my second State of the City Address.

The State of the City Address will be held Wednesday, Jan. 29, at McMillan Memorial Library’s Fine Arts Center. The League of Women Voters of the Wisconsin Rapids Area will host a reception at 6:30 p.m. New this year, we will bring City Hall to you – department representatives will be setup to answer questions and provide information on their department. Ever have a question you haven’t been able to get answered? Now is the chance. You will be able to meet me, City Department Heads and Alderpersons. My remarks will begin at 7 p.m. Following the address, there will be a question and answer period.

I hope you choose to be part of this event. Because seating is limited, RSVP is highly encouraged. Do so by visiting wirapids.org or by calling 715-421-8216. The State of the City Address will also be streamed live by River Cities Community Access, and can be viewed on Solarus Channel 3, Charter channel 96/985 and via RCCA’s website at www.wrpeg.org.

 Director of Innovation and Technology

Finally, I introduced my vision and thoughts on the proposed Director of Innovation and Technology to the Human Resources committee. Thankfully, they passed the position and it will be moved for consideration at the full council meeting on Jan. 21. In my next Community Update, I will explain this more.



The Andersons, Inc. expands facility

The Andersons, Inc. Ribbon Cutting (Left to Right):  Pete Griffin, Jan Finch, Mayor Vruwink, John Stefanelli, Tammy Brooks, Scott Steinke, Peter Petersen, and Jeff Masephol.

The Andersons, Inc. Ribbon Cutting (Left to Right): Pete Griffin, Jan Finch, Mayor Vruwink, John Stefanelli, Tammy Brooks, Scott Steinke, Peter Petersen, and Jeff Masephol.

The Andersons, Inc., a dry fertilizer plant located in Wisconsin Rapids’ East Commerce Park, recently celebrated their expansion. The new expanded location has 29,000 tons of wholesale dry fertilizer storage. The location also has the ability to receive product efficiently via rail and truck, and the ability to ship out to agriculture dealers and co-ops via truck. The Andersons, Inc. services the north and central areas of Wisconsin. With the expansion, The Andersons have added one full-time employee with the potential to add another one-to-two employees in the next five years, according to Scott Steinke, operations manager at The Andersons, Inc.

On location at The Andersons, Inc. dry storage building.

On location at The Andersons, Inc. dry storage building.

“The working partnership The Andersons, Inc. has established with the City of Wisconsin Rapids was one of the key contributors in making the project a success,” Steinke said. “The professionalism and dedication we received from the City was second to none, and we look forward to continuing our relationship to support and grow the community.”

I am pleased The Andersons chose to grow their Wisconsin Rapids facility having recognized the opportunity that the physical location and market presents. Having started this project shortly after being elected mayor, I am excited for their future growth. Undeveloped land is available adjacent to their facility, which will make future expansions convenient. This development and other activity illustrates the important role our business parks play in building a stronger local economy.


January 13th Community Update



January 5 – 12

I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable holiday!

A new chapter for NewPage-

This past week started with a surprising phone call shortly after 8 a.m. on Monday notifying me of the announcement that Verso Paper Corporation planned to purchase NewPage Corporation’s mills. This announcement rippled through our community as did the news of the two previous acquisitions. My thoughts immediately went to those currently employed here in Wisconsin Rapids and other mills in Biron, Stevens Point and beyond. My mind turned back to the news in 2000 when Consolidated Paper who had claimed home to Wisconsin Rapids for a century was to be sold to a Finnish company. My mother and stepfather had both been employed at the Wisconsin Rapids mill. Today, my mom and 1,700 other people remain employed at one of the area mills. While we have been assured it is business as usual and Verso has no plans to close any NewPage mills, the uncertainty continues to plague the community. The one thing that is certain, however, is the economic well being of those families affected directly and indirectly will continue to be my top priority as we continue to learn more about the acquisition going forward.

There is no doubt that paper-making has endured much in the past decade and a half. Wisconsin still remains the Paper-making 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 to stay competitive will ensure a future for our local mills.

With 2013 on the books, it is now time we look forward to 2014. I am very excited for what’s in store for Wisconsin Rapids. For starters, within City Hall, we have many initiatives planned for 2014 along with completion to several started in 2013. Externally, many developments are in the planning stages creating jobs and growing our tax base.

Also on Monday, I presented a shortened version of a State of the City to the Noon Rotary Club consisting of a look back at 2013 – my priorities and what has been accomplished.

SAVE THE DATE for my full State of the City Address – Jan. 29, 2014 at 7 p.m., Fine Arts Center in McMillan Memorial Library.

At my staff meeting this week, I updated management on my plan to introduce a Director of Innovation & Technology for the Human Resources Committee as well as the progress on our city social media policy and strategy. Additionally, I updated staff on a number of economic development projects that were pending.

As the week came to a close, I participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Carlson GI Clinic which has been relocated to the first floor in the Riverview Medical Center.

On Saturday night, I was reminded of the talent of our young people when I attended the 2014 Variations recital at the PAC. We are fortunate to have a venue of that scale in our community. Click here for upcoming events at the PAC!