I remember the conversation well.
It was in 2009, and I had barely announced I was running for alderman, when this guy I hardly knew came up to me at an event.
“Hey — do you want to start a farmers’ market?” he asked.
And that was my introduction to Jim Shelenske.
Of course, with Jim’s leadership and other committed volunteers, that idea came to life in the summer of 2009, and the rest is history (still being written in the market’s 11th season this year).
We say farewell to Jim on Friday, as he retires as city clerk and comptroller, a role he has had since 2010, after serving five years as a Third District alderman and 12 years on the Plan Commission.
He leaves an incredibly strong legacy of hard work, dedication, passion, creativity, innovation and commitment to community. His love for South Milwaukee in unmatched, and shows in all he does.
Jim wants to make this city a better place, and he acts on that in countless ways. From his official roles with the city to his work with the South Milwaukee Lions to just being a great man and selfless person, I have never seen a more involved community servant.
As an alderman, he took his responsibility as a representative seriously and was devoted to serving his constituents, and the city.
As clerk and comptroller, he has taken that role to new places, driving varied initiatives ranging from building new and improved communication platforms to leading the charge on a best-practice LED lighting rollout to improving how we vote to presenting a more user-friendly budget to expanding our Earth Day Cleanup — and countless other ways, big and small, in which he made the job uniquely his own. We are all better for it, and he will be missed.
But Jim is not going far. In many ways, he’s not going anywhere at all.
Knowing him as a colleague and friend, Jim will not rest (much) in his work to make South Milwaukee a better place. It’s not in his DNA.
In 2009, it was a farmers’ market. In 2010, it was Fresh Water Days, a crazy idea of his to turn the bursting of a water main and a citywide emergency into a way to help out local restaurants — an idea that worked.
There have been countless other examples since then.
But that’s Jim — someone always willing to try something new to improve the lives of South Milwaukeeans.
Good luck, Jim. Enjoy your retirement. Our city government, our city, is better for having you be a part of it. Today, we celebrate your contributions — and can’t wait to see what’s next.