COMMUNITY UPDATE – Attend Economic Growth Assessment Event Tonight, Wood County Health Needs Assessment Survey; United Way Months are here; Help a Child Succeed by being a Reading Mentor



Regional Economic Growth Assessment Event this Evening

As part of our ongoing effort to engage our residents in the economic development of our community, I extend to you a hearty invitation to participate in the roll-out this evening of the recently completed study on behalf of the Regional Economic Growth Initiative, Inc. (REGI). This event takes place at Wisconsin Rapids Area Middle School, 1921 27th Avenue South, at 6:00 p.m. (before the Packers Game!)

Diane Lupke, owner and founder of economic development consultancy Lupke and Associates, will present a detailed assessment of our region’s competitive assets, such as education, transportation, business environment and human resource. The study provides a firm foundation upon which to build a comprehensive economic development approach for the central Wisconsin region, focusing on the twin pillars of jobs and investment. The report also offers strategies to maximize the value of our economic development investments, address critical needs and enhance our competitiveness.

Because this initiative affects the future of all our citizens, we seek your input and reaction to ensure success. I look forward to seeing you in attendance and look forward to hearing your comments and questions regarding this ambitious regional approach to economic development.  I will report on the assessment in a future update.

Wood County Health Needs Assessment Survey

During my State of the City Address in February, I emphasized the theme of a Healthy Community. One characteristic of good health we identified was the active engagement of all our citizens. Now, each one of us has the opportunity to engage in a process that may literally improve our physical health.

The Wood County Health Department is completing a Community Health Needs Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan for Wood County, to determine our community’s health priorities for the next three years.

We need your help. Please complete this short 5- to 10-minute survey by Wednesday, September 30.

Survey link: Community Health Needs Assessment 

By participating in this survey, you will help WCHD focus efforts on the best investment of resources to improve the health of residents of Wood County. Let’s work together to achieve a healthier community for all our family, friends, neighbors and coworkers!

September and October 2015 are United Way Months in Wisconsin

To recognize the launch of United Way annual campaigns throughout the state. Governor Scott Walker has officially designated September and October 2015 as United Way Months in Wisconsin. I am proud to join the Governor in recognizing the work of the United Way and encouraging Wisconsin Rapids area residents to support our United Way of Inner Wisconsin during this crucial time period.

IMG_9599Last year, United Way of Inner Wisconsin raised $619,688, providing funds to local programs that focus on the building blocks of a better life: education, income, health and safety net services. This year, United Way of Inner Wisconsin is raising funds to support 35 partner programs as well as the South Wood County Hunger Coalition, Supportive Community Health Services Roundtable, Learning for Life Reading Mentor Program and South Wood County Homelessness Coalition.

When a child succeeds in school, families are financially stable, and people have good health, we all win. So, it is truly heartening to see Wisconsin community members and businesses step up with passion, expertise, and resources to help create lasting change.

I urge all our residents to help to the extent you can, as financial contributors, volunteers or advocates. To learn more, please visit

Help a child succeed, as a Learning for Life Reading mentor volunteer

Now, more than ever, our children need the support of our community.  United Way of Inner Wisconsin’s Women’s Leadership Council is currently looking for 75-100 adults to help make a significant impact in the life of a child, as volunteers in the Learning for Life Reading mentoring program. This program helps kindergartners through third graders students in kindergarten through third grade to become great readers and succeed at life.  Volunteers can influence a life by “being there” for children students just one day per week for 45-60 minutes.

IMG_8088Participating schools for the 2015-16 school year are Mead Elementary Charter and Washington Elementary in Wisconsin Rapids, and Humke Elementary in Nekoosa.

Assist our dedicated teachers, and help make a difference.  Sign up to be Learning for Life Reading mentor at For more information, call 715-421-0390. 

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Community Update – Celebrating Safe Routes to School and Wisconsin Rapids: a Smart Rural Community

Community Update

Celebrating Safe Routes to School 

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Washington Elementary School to celebrate successful implementation of a multi-year federal grant for the Safe Routes to School program.  IMG_20150918_120919559_HDR

Officer Kasie Borchardt, who led the grant application effort more recently, along with WRPD Chief Kurt Heuer, now retired Wisconsin Bureau of Transportation official Patti Nelles, Washington School Principal Kelly Schaeffer, and I highlighted the importance of sustained community involvement to bringing a valuable safety program to our city’s school children.  Among the grant’s deliverables- sidewalks on Washington Street, a new pedestrian island and crossing lights at 8th and Grove Streets, new ladder-style pedestrian crossings, among other programmatic features.

And now, with a new school year in progress, I invite you join me in volunteering for our local Safe Routes to School program. This is a proven way to help guide our young students through a successful year of safe travel to school.

A vital feature of Safe Routes to School is the Walking School Bus, where adult volunteers pick up small groups of students in front of their homes. The boys and girls hold onto a rope, walking along a designed route to school. Some days the students are surprised to see “guest” volunteers, such as members of the National Guard … or even myself, their Mayor!

If kids follow the routine of safely crossing streets and getting to school, I believe they will be more apt to practice safety outside the school day, in the summer and throughout the year.

Safe Routes to School goes into December, weather permitting, then starts up again with the arrival of warmer spring weather. To register your child, or to apply to be an adult volunteer, contact program coordinator Bev Ghiloni at 715-459-5599 or

Ribbon cutting video:

Wisconsin Rapids creates opportunity with smart technology

During my State of the City address back in February, I was pleased to talk in detail about high-technology initiatives such as City Viewer, Get Your Business Online and SeeClickFix. As I pointed out then, such innovations would not be possible without a solid infrastructure in place for accessing and delivering them.

With broadband high-speed Internet now an expectation in cities, our local provider Solarus has invested in laying new fiber to homes and businesses across our city. As a result, our local provider offers gigabit Internet service to our community – a service that just two short years ago was available in less than 20 cities in all of the United States that offered residential gigabit service.Smart Rural Community

These resources enable Wisconsin Rapids to promote itself to established companies and budding entrepreneurs as being on the leading edge in hosting business parks and open spaces served by broadband gigabit Internet. Our area possesses the infrastructure and capabilities for ultra-high-seed digital connectivity that can help businesses compete globally by unlocking access to new services, while enabling our residents to enrich their quality of life through access to significantly improved broadband services. Having a world-class broadband network in Wisconsin Rapids fosters job and economic growth, dramatically improves access to educational opportunities, impacts health care delivery and improves our quality of life, bolstering our city’s overall competitiveness.

Our local efforts have received national attention, including our area’s recognition as a Smart Rural Community by The Rural Broadband Association. In presenting Solarus with a Showcase Award, the Association cited the company’s advanced communications services and collaboration with local leaders. We are proud to acknowledge this honor with signs posted at all highway entrances to Wisconsin Rapids.  Solarus Tour2Just last week, Congressman Ron Kind and State Senator Julie Lassa stopped by for a tour of Solarus. These individuals understand the importance of broadband fiber infrastructure and connectivity to be competitive as a community and region. I am grateful they took the time to visit the city and learn more about this asset!

Earlier this year, I committed to working with our local providers to identify businesses or residences that do not have a broadband connection and challenged the providers to fulfill any unmet needs. Broadband is a vital way to ensure our residents and businesses have the tools to improve their economic success.

smart rural sign

From left to right: Kelly Wadsworth, Dawn Zellner, Deb Tellekson, Zach Vruwink, Lisa Stannis and Jennifer Weber.

And, I continue to invite the private sector and residents to weigh in with their own thoughts on how to better make our broadband competitive edge known to the world. Together, we can leverage our broadband advantage, improve connection rates and expand access to our great public spaces.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

Community Update Footer

Supermass to present near-final preliminary riverfront designs at City Hall on Tuesday



Supermass to present near-final preliminary design at City Hall on Tuesday

1_Page_51The Wisconsin Rapids Riverfront design initiative reaches another exciting stage this week.  Our design consultant, Supermass Studio, will make its near-final preliminary design presentation to the Wisconsin Rapids Common Council on Tuesday, September 15, at 6:00 p.m. This phase of the design process comes at a timely juncture, as federal, state, community and foundation interests, along with individual citizens, have all taken an active role in advancing the present-day concept of Downtown riverfront redevelopment:

On August 19, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin proposed the Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act to support local efforts to revive waterfronts by funding grants and extending preferred status in other federal grants and loans;   

Veterans Event Terrace & River DeckOn August 31, Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and representatives of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation joined me, other local officials and representatives from Incourage Community Foundation to announce the awarding of a $472,000 grant to the City of Wisconsin Rapids to help fund the renovation of the Tribune building site. 

In keeping with the note of urgency area I struck in my State of the City Address regarding the fostering of a vibrant Downtown area, our strategic plan of action has been marked by the review and implementation of new and previously proposed development concepts; a groundswell of private investments; and City property sales transactions.

All in all, these initiatives and proposals reinforce our shared vision of a Downtown waterfront district that shines as a commercial-residential-recreation destination.  I personally invite you to attend Tuesday evening’s Common Council meeting to view the latest development in achieving this vision.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink