Rekindle the Spirit Celebration and Small Business Saturday

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“Rekindle the Spirit” Holiday Lighting and Parade

This evening, Wednesday November 26 from 5:30-7:30PM, the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Rekindlewill host the 22nd Annual “Rekindle the Spirit” holiday lighting ceremony and parade in downtown Wisconsin Rapids.  The celebration will begin with a lighting ceremony at Veteran’s Park, followed by a parade that begins at the Rapids Mall, travels down Grand Avenue and ends at 4th Street South.  Following the parade, the public is invited to commence at the Hotel Mead for music, hot chocolate and cookies, and a visit from Santa Claus!  With this week’s snow, we are sure to have a perfect setting for the holiday festivities.  I look forward to seeing you there!

Small Business Saturday and Shopping Local

SBSWith this Weekend marking the kickoff to holiday shopping (if not already earlier this week), and one of the busiest shopping days of the year, it also is a reminder to visit the small businesses we have throughout our City.  This Saturday, November 29, I encourage residents to celebrate “Small Business Saturday,” by heading to your favorite local shop or stop by one you haven’t and celebrating our community’s small businesses. Shopping locally benefits our community by:

  1. Improving our local economy – every time you spend a dollar, you are impacting the big picture of our City and contributing to community liveliness. Many of the small businesses in Wisconsin Rapids are owned by someone who lives in our community. That means that the money you spend locally will be recycled back into our local economy.
  2. Enriching our Community – Small businesses are the heartbeat of every thriving community. While franchises and national chain stores play a role in the national and local economy, small businesses provide an undeniable energy and unique sentiment that is the backbone of our community’s life.
  3. Experiencing a one-of-a-kind connection – Shopping with local business owners offers a sincere customer-owner connection. Small business owners are experts on the product they create and sell; merchandise is carefully selected based on the customer’s interests and needs, and owners will go the extra mile to guarantee personal attention to the customer.

To learn more about the importance of shopping locally, and the significance of shopping locally this Saturday, visit the “Small Business Saturday” webpage.  I look forward to shopping alongside residents at local retailers and helping make a big impact on our local community this Saturday.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Community Update – National League of Cities Exposition and Thanksgiving Holiday

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National League of Cities – Congress of Cities Exposition

NLC1Last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I joined local elected officials committed to economic development, shared prosperity, and efficient government approaches for the National League of Cities Congress of Cities and Exposition in Austin TX.  Founded in 1924, the National League of Cities (NLC) has been at the forefront in supporting strong local leadership and ensuring that cities have the capacity and authority to build better communities.  Last week’s sessions included discussions on the importance of data and innovation in communities, community branding and marketing, and attracting and retaining young adults and families to our community.  Details of several of the breakout sessions follow:

1) Supporting Entrepreneurship– One of a city’s most important objectives is to enable an environment that creates jobs, triggers economic growth and generates local revenue.  in today’s economy, many cities recognize the value in building entrepreneurship into the core of their platform, and are turning to entrepreneurs and high-growth start-ups to accelerate economic development. The session included a panel discussion from leaders in technology, civic investment and government entities who shared best practices for fostering entrepreneurship.  A key takeaway I had was that many entrepreneurs are looking for places that have innovative markets, a good quality of life and monetary/community incentives.  From what I learned at this session, I am proud of the progress Wisconsin Rapids is making in positioning ourselves to better meet entrepreneurial needs for incubation and acceleration.   We are finalizing development and near a public launch of our GrowRapids web portal – a solution that seeks to provide information to budding entrepreneurs on market information, community resources and incentives available.  Additionally, I will soon be working to form a Citywide Business Advocacy Team (CBAT)- a cross departmental team that will work collaboratively and serve as ‘problem solvers’ to minimize roadblocks or delays and help entrepreneurs start their businesses with less obstacles.  First announced at this year’s State of the City Address, CBAT will be a team of advocates, inside City Hall, charged with proactively reviewing ordinances and policies to minimize delay and help to create business opportunities.  In relation to quality of life, I have called for further investments into our City parks and increasing the quality of our city’s public spaces offerings, including assessing what our public aquatics offerings might look like in the near future.  The quality of our public spaces is directly tied to the attraction of young adults/families, not to mention, increasing the quality of life for all residents.  These are a great start, but there is more work that can be done. Entrepreneurs and small businesses are important to achieving greater economic prosperity; I will continue working to develop solutions to improve our current processes and better respond to their needs.

2) Open Government and Financial Transparency – Governments around the country have NLCbeen faced with a challenge with increasing technology- how can we utilize technology trends to allow decision-makers to be more data-driven and efficient with decisions, and allow for residents to not only access information more easily, but in a form that is easily understood.  With the 2015 City Budget being adopted last week, it felt timely to attend a session on increasing financial transparency and finding ways to make information more readily available to decision-makers and residents alike.  Last week’s session explored what was referred to as the “government technology deficit” and how some communities around the country are utilizing technology offerings to make information more readily available and easy to understand.  Using the City’s Executive Budget as an example: although we publish the budget and associated correspondence online on our City’s website, I recognize that more can be done to help plan for future years, and understand the constraints we operate within.  The advent of online and cloud-based solutions can help save time, improve decision-making and information dissemination with constituents.  The session was valuable for reinforcing what we are doing right for information transparency, but also for learning what opportunities exist for us to improve.  I look forward to working in the future with our City’s Finance and IT department to explore some of the solutions that exist to continue to improve the way we make information available, both internally and externally.

3) Facilitating Meaningful Civic Engagement – In today’s society, local communities are in the midst of a major transformation in local governance that is changes the roles and expectations about how local government engages with residents to solve problems and take effective public action.  Recognizing that effective engagement requires more than one-way communication, many municipalities are working to find strategies for joining with residents to collaborate in effective public problem-solving to find ways to help improve City services and solve community problems.  Over my terms as Mayor, I’ve set a focus on improving the opportunities that residents- from youth to adults- have to become involved in community affairs.  From the Mayor’s Council on Beautification, with its focus on visual improvement projects throughout the City, to Mayor’s councils on Sustainability and Youth, both near launching, there are many opportunities for people to be involved around “interest areas” to help enhance their City.  Recently, we’ve also seen excellent resident engagement and feedback through the Pool Ad-Hoc Committee meetings, to focus on understanding the usage, and operational challenges of our current pool, and consider how to engage residents in dealing with aquatics in our community.  Even with these opportunities available and upcoming in our community, we always recognize that more can be done.  Last week’s session was a great opportunity to share of our successes, and learn from other municipalities what worked well and best practices for fostering meaningful civic engagement.  I look forward to formally announcing additional opportunities to get involved in the near future!

Events such as the NLC Congress of Cities- by bringing municipal leaders from all over the country together- better establish creative solutions to real-world problems cities like ours face on a daily basis.  It was beneficial to take part in the many conversations with Mayors on these very important topics and is encouraging to see that Wisconsin Rapids is on the right track in addressing some of the important topics facing all municipalities today..

Thanksgiving Holiday

This week, families will gather together around kitchen tables to celebrate Thanksgiving and createNeighborhood Table many new memories together.  Much of the Thanksgiving season is about giving back to the community.  As Mayor, each day I have the privilege to see firsthand the commitment, generosity and compassion of residents in our community who generously volunteer their time.  In particular, I’d like to recognize those at the Neighborhood Table, an example of our community’s outstanding local charitable organizations, who will ensure this Thanksgiving season that those in need will have a warm meal to enjoy.

To all-  a very safe, happy and memorable Thanksgiving weekend!,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Community Update – Running for Public Office, Tree Lighting Ceremony, and Vital Signs Announcement

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Learn About Running for Public Office

Making a difference in society can take many different forms. For me, there was no better place to get as involved as with the City I grew up in. To others, it can be anything from volunteering, serving on boards/commissions, or running for public office.  This Wednesday, November 19 at 6:30PM,  anyone thinking about running for public office, or interested in learning more about the process and importance of public service is encouraged to attend the “Why and How to Run for Local Elected Office” event hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Wisconsin Rapids Area.  The event will inform attendees on the process of running for public office, from filing the necessary papers and campaign finances, to getting the word out to voters.

I believe that no matter what our age or background or walk of life, each of us has something to contribute to the life of this community.  For anyone who feels a calling toward public service, I sincerely hope you consider your options to get involved, whether it is as an elected official or otherwise, in serving your community.  If you are interested in the event but cannot attend, RCCA Media will be recording the event and a video will be available to view Saturday on their YouTube channel.

Shoe Sensation – Grand Opening

This Thursday, November 20th, Wisconsin Rapids will celebrate the grand opening of a new shoe Shoe Sensationstore, Shoe Sensation. In a previous Community Update, I drew attention to Shoe Sensation, a regional chain that focuses on growing in smaller communities, announcing their selection of our City for their 2nd Wisconsin store.

Shoe Sensation is located at the Crossroads Center, 1000E. Riverview Expressway between Copps and Shopko.  To learn more about activities and promotions planned for their grand opening event, visit this link.  Shoe Sensation aims to provide shoes to the whole family, with typical stores carrying over 10,000 pairs of shoes across a wide range of styles.  For those of us who struggle to find shoes close to home, the addition of Shoe Sensation to our community is welcomed.

Love Lights Tree Lighting Ceremony

love lightsThis Friday, November 21 at 6:30PM, Riverview Hospital Auxiliary will be holding the “Love Lights” Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Riverview Medical Center, 410 Dewey St..  The ceremony will mark the lighting of trees covered with “Love Lights” purchased to remember or honor those who had an impact on the community or lives of others.  Lights purchased help fund the UW Cancer Center – Riverview’s equipment and programs.

Friday’s event will include refreshments, music and the reading of contest submission essays by area fourth grade students.  To learn more about the “Love Lights” event, please visit this link.  For anyone who cannot attend the event, RCCA Media will be capturing the tree lighting, with the video available next week Monday on their YouTube channel.

Vital Signs Announcement

Vital SignsThis Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 4:30PM-7:00PM at the Centralia Center, the fourth issue of Vital Signs will be released.  The Vital Signs report summarizes the most recent and best available data to help focus discussions on economic opportunity in the south Wood County area.  This year’s event will have an interactive format, designed to connect the dots between what is working well, what may need more work, and what lies ahead for our region.  Participants will learn and discuss how information contained in Vital Signs can be helpful in realizing a community that works well for all our people. Attendees will also receive the 2014 Vital Signs report.

If you care deeply about our region, join Laura Dresser, Associate Director of Center on Wisconsin Strategy, and Kelly Ryan, CEO of Incourage for this special presentation. For more information about Thursday’s event, and to RSVP, visit this link.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Community Update – Celebrating Veterans Day, Candy Bar Election, and Community Photo Contest

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Celebrating Veterans Day

Tuesday, November 11, marks the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I on Veterans DayNovember 11, 1918. The following year, November 11 was made a national holiday in honor of our nation’s veterans.  To show the men and women of the United States Armed Forces appreciation for their brave service and celebrate our country’s heroes, several local Veterans Day ceremonies are scheduled to take place this Tuesday:

  • 11:00AM – Ceremony honoring all veterans – Veteran’s Park
  • 12:00PM – Post Ceremony Chili Lunch – American Legion Post 9’s Clubhouse
  • 1:00PM – Wood County Veterans Memorial Legacy Stone Ceremony – Courthouse
  • 4:00PM – Spaghetti Dinner – VFW Post No. 2534 Clubhouse, 2711 Reddin Rd.

As we recognize this Veterans Day in the company of family and friends, we pay tribute to the brave men and women in our nation’s military who are presently serving overseas and are in harm’s way. Let us remember all of those who have served in our nation’s armed forces, and let us reflect on the freedoms we enjoy in this nation that were paid for by those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Wisconsin Rapids Stand Down” Event

Last Wednesday, I joined over 100 local veterans, members of the County Veterans Service Officer’s Association and 12 local agencies, for the inaugural “Wisconsin Rapids Stand Down” event.  The event was designed to acquaint veterans with the many resources available to them, and covered opportunities including enrolling for VA benefits, employment programs, credit and financial counseling, help for substance abuse, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Flu shots were also made available to registered veterans who attended.  In all, last week’s event saw a great turnout: 107 Veterans participated, 42 Veterans received clothing assistance, 11 received flu shots, and 7 Veterans were identified as homeless and received assistance with shelter (something critically important with the cold weather returning to our area).  For a video report on last week’s Stand Down event, visit this link.

The State of Wisconsin has a long history of providing supporting benefits, programs and services to returning veterans, but many individuals aren’t aware of the help they are eligible for.  Wednesday’s Stand Down event was an excellent opportunity for our local agencies to provide supporting ways to help Veterans who have served selflessly in this nation’s military.  For more information about the Wisconsin Rapids Stand Down event, please contact Rock Larson, Wood County CVSO or visit the County Veterans Service Officer’s Association website.

Woodside Candy Bar Election

FullSizeRender_1 (2)Last week, in conjunction with Election day and to educate 3rd and 4th grade students at Woodside Elementary School on topics related to the electoral system, I had the opportunity to participate in Woodside’s annual Candy Bar Election event.  The goal of last week’s event was to expose students to the election process by providing an engaging classroom experience around elections and the jobs of elected leaders.

The event’s activities included students giving speeches
“campaigning” for their favorite candy bar, accompanied by created campaign signs to raise awareness forFullSizeRender_1 their assigned candidate.  After, students then cast their vote for their favorite.  After two consecutive years of Kit Kat winning, the 2014 Candy Bar Election winner was Twix!  After voting, I spoke with students on the importance of voting and getting involved early in making our city a better place.  I also spoke about my job duties as Mayor and the different opportunities for getting involved in the Wisconsin Rapids area.  As always, the students were full of excellent questions!  I appreciate invitations like these to ensure all people have direct access to their Mayor.

Capture the Community Photo Contest

If you were a visitor to the Wisconsin Rapids area, what events, recreational activities, landmarks or Photo Contestattractions would you attend?  The Wisconsin Rapids Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is sponsoring a photo contest to help answer this question- what do community members believe visitor’s should know about or see in the Wisconsin Rapids area.  From now until December 1, 2014, you can enter your photos in the Community Photo Contest, for a chance to be used in various Visit Wisconsin Rapids publications and on its website, to promote the Wisconsin Rapids Area as a destination.

The “Capture the Community” photo contest is an excellent opportunity for our many talented local photographers to showcase their photos.  For complete contest information and rules, please visit this link.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings Host the Illiana Blackbirds This Weekend

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riverkings- LogoThis weekend, Wisconsin Rapids’ newly launched junior hockey team- The Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings, will play their second home game stretch of the 2014/2015 season, by hosting the Illiana Blackbirds at the South Wood County Recreation Center.  Game Time will be at 7:30PM tonight (Friday,11/7/2014) where I have the honor of dropping the ceremonial puck to start the game. The Riverkings take the ice again at 7:30PM tomorrow (11/8/2014); and the Riverkings will close out their home stretch with a game at 12:00PM on Sunday (11/9/2014). Tickets are available at the door for only $5 for adults and $2 for anyone under 18.

The Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings are a Junior Hockey Team within the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.Riverkings- Team  The Riverkings are in their inaugural season, with “home ice” being the South Wood County Recreation Center.  As we begin our inaugural season in the Junior Hockey Organization, we have much to be proud of with our team and to look forward to this season and beyond.

For more information on the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings, visit their team website.  RCCA Media will be capturing video of game, to be aired next week, or on demand by following this link.

Mayor Zach Vruwink

 

Community Update – Healthcare Alignment, Heavy Metal Bus Tour and Stand Down Event

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Healthcare Provider Alignment

Last Friday, it was announced that Riverview Hospital Association and Aspirus Inc. would be pursuing an affiliation that would result in Aspirus acquiring ownership of Riverview Hospital, integrating both hospital systems- with a goal of a more efficient and comprehensive coordination of health care services. The new affiliation will also result in the endowment of a $100 million foundation to be used to invest in the health and wellness needs of Wisconsin Rapids for generations to come.

Friday’s announced intended affiliation will serve as a way to accomplish enhanced access to specialty care and unify the organizations’ goal of delivering an innovative approach to healthcare.  The announced collaboration is one that is a positive step for healthcare delivery in Wisconsin Rapids that will thrive in our area.  I commend Riverview and Aspirus for uniting to combine the best of what each entity has to offer while keeping the community’s health care needs a top priority. As was stated in the joint announcement, both organizations have much to be proud of in the support and commitment shown to the Wisconsin Rapids community. News article here.

In September, Aspirus received Council approval to annex property near their existing clinic, to achieve their announced expansion plans. During the approval process, questions were raised presenting an opportunity for the community to understand the role of city government. Is it city government’s role to decide whether market conditions exist to substantiate development? In this particular case, the items to be acted on were annexation, rezoning and a conditional use permit. Whether in the case of healthcare or any other opportunity that will come before the City, at the core, the decision is quasi judicial. Consistency in how business opportunities are considered by our City is critical. What conditions must be placed to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public? What zoning standards exist?  Our City stands ready and willing to entertain every opportunity that comes before us.

Heavy Metal Bus Tour

Last Wednesday, to provide a capstone to the Governor’s proclaimed “Manufacturing Month” in Wisconsin,Heavy Metal Bus Tour Sophomore High School students from Nekoosa, Port Edwards, Assumption and Lincoln took part in the Heavy Metal Bus Tour, to get an inside look at our local manufacturing facilities and highlight the challenging and rewarding careers that manufacturing offers.  The day’s activities included tours of NewPage, Tweet/Garot, Fey Printing, and ECC Corrosion Inc. and learning more about the training opportunities for careers in manufacturing at Mid-State Technical College. This was a great opportunity for area employers and Mid-State Technical College to come together to benefit students by giving them exposure and awareness to careers in manufacturing.

Heavy Metal 2Offering a competitive annual salary, and having vacant positions that need to be filled through the retirement of baby boomers, the field of manufacturing is more vibrant and appealing than ever before.  In our area, manufacturing job vacancies exist that can provide engaging work and a rewarding career.  Seeing firsthand what jobs in manufacturing entail helps provide students with the opportunity to explore and learn more about the compelling jobs the manufacturing industry can offer them.

Rapids Mall Grand Re-Opening

rapids mall grand reopeningLast Monday, I joined Mall management and members of the community to celebrate the Grand Re-Opening of the Rapids Mall.  Over the past couple months, you’ve probably observed various improvements to both the exterior and interior of the Mall.  Now under new management, new paint has been applied to the interior and exterior and a new website has launched.  Additionally, a new store has been announced and efforts for filling vacant locations is underway.  After working with management and ownership, these are just the first of many steps in improving and determining the future of the Rapids Mall.  Be sure to visit in the months ahead to see what is new!  A Business After Hours event taking place at the Rapids Mall is planned for next Tuesday, November 11, from 4:30-6:30PM.

“Wisconsin Rapids Stand Down” Event

This Wednesday, November 5 from 9:00AM-3:00PM, the Tomah VA Medical Center, Wisconsin Rapids VAStand Down Outpatient Clinic and the Wood County Veteran Service Office will be hosting the “Wisconsin Rapids Stand Down” event at the Rapids Mall.

The Stand Down event, designed to acquaint veterans with the many resources available to them, will cover opportunities including enrolling for VA benefits, employment programs, credit and financial counseling, help for substance abuse, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Flu shots will also be available to registered veterans who attend.

The State of Wisconsin has a long history of providing supporting benefits, programs and services to returning veterans, but many individuals aren’t aware of the help they are eligible for.  Wednesday’s Stand Down event will provide an excellent opportunity for all veterans to increase awareness about state or federal military benefits they may be eligible for.  For more information about the Wisconsin Rapids Stand Down event, please contact Rock Larson, Wood County CVSO, or visit the County Veterans Service Officer’s Association website.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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