I love South Milwaukee, and am as excited as ever about so many things happening in this community.
Even in these historically challenging times, our future in many ways is beyond promising, anchored in our proud past more firmly than ever.
Record amounts of public and private investment are pouring into South Milwaukee, with much more to come. Redevelopment is booming across the city. Our downtown is being reborn before our eyes. Our lakefront is next, and the Oak Creek watershed is about to get the attention it has long deserved, with a plan to finally support it.
Just a decade ago, our major employer — the company that defined us for generations, around which much of our city was built — was sold, its name ripped from buildings, and hearts. Today, we honor Bucyrus like never before, thanks to the game-changing support of its foundation.
And Da Crusher … how about that?!
We are a stronger and better government, too. We are innovating in how we work with and for you — unafraid to make sometimes long overdue changes to how we deliver the services you expect from us. We are taking real steps, and forming real partnerships, to solve problems that have plagued us for generations. We are leaders in the fight against COVID-19, slowing spread and saving lives.
Crime is down and has been for years. City services are up, driven by an incredibly strong team of functional leaders and front-line employees committed to delivering on behalf of taxpayers every day.
Indeed, our people are making this happen. It’s always about the people.
It’s been an honor to help lead them — us — through this incredible period of change.
It’s now time for someone else to step up and drive us forward.
After more than seven years in this job, more than 12 as an elected official, I am resigning as mayor of the City of South Milwaukee effective November 22. This is about 18 months ahead of the end of my term in April of 2023. Common Council President David Bartoshevich will likely become acting mayor upon me stepping aside, and a special election may be called at some point to fill out my unexpired term, but that is up to the South Milwaukee Common Council to decide.
I do not make this decision lightly. It has been on my mind for months, and now is the right time for me to do this personally, professionally, and politically.
It starts at home, and I can now refocus on my role as a husband and father in supporting my wife — who I am so thankful seeks the same positive change I do — kids — who are on that same path — and family.
Stepping aside as mayor will allow me much more time to focus on positivity and problem solving through my business, Brooks Communications. I am proud of the future-focused clients I have partnered with and projects I have supported since I launched the firm last year. I can now redouble those efforts (and maybe boost my income a bit, too).
I am also finding new ways to drive positive outcomes through youth basketball, starting with the South Shore Crush club team I formed earlier this year. We didn’t win much, but we grew as a basketball family and learned life lessons you can’t get anywhere but on a basketball court. I’m excited to see where Crush heads in year two and beyond.
My basketball journey now continues at the high school level. Just last week I accepted a position as the head varsity girls’ basketball coach at St. Anthony High School in Milwaukee, returning to my South Side roots to help build a WIAA Division 3 program and impact more young lives in a positive way through sports. Go Roman Legion!
I also leave amid an incredibly difficult time for local leaders, me included. The negativity and personal attacks have taken their toll, thinned my skin, and robbed me of a lot of the excitement, exuberance and energy I once had for this job. They continue.
The anger is so real and so close to the surface right now at all levels of politics, and I need to move beyond that.
There have always been those and will always be those who thrive on the politics of division and discord, those who delight in making this a zero-sum game of “us vs. them,” where “I must not only win, but you must lose, and I must ridicule you for it.” The voices of these people are louder than ever today, too often driven by misinformation, amplified by social media and emboldened by leaders who have their own agenda.
That doesn’t make me angry, as much as it makes me sad.
We are stronger, together. I have written that phrase countless times, and I believe it more than ever now. We are also weaker, apart, and increasingly that is where we find ourselves today.
Thankfully, there is hope. It is all around us. I see it in so many local leaders I’ve met over the years who have made it their lives’ work to make things better in their communities.
I see it across South Milwaukee, in our neighborhoods, at our churches, at our schools, at City Hall, in our parks, at our local events. I see it at the dinner table, on the basketball court.
I see it in the entrepreneurial spirit of our growing number of small, local businesses (and some that aren’t so small anymore). I see it in the caring faces of countless volunteers — and others who ask, “How can I help?” and then step up to do just that. I see it in the courageous compassion of those in public health — health care workers everywhere — who contiue to deliver day after day after day after day in the face of a terrible pandemic. I see it in the continued commitment of educators and coaches who give of themselves to make a real difference in our children’s lives.
I also see it in good people saying “enough is enough.”
We can all work to make a difference, me included. It always starts locally. That is why I am not walking away from driving positive change in my community. Far from it. I am simply finding new ways to do it.
A couple weeks ago, my stepfather (second father, really) passed away after a long and courageous battle with diabetes. He taught me a lot about perseverance, the value of hard work and the importance of helping others. He and other role models have also shown me the possibilities that exist in reinventing yourself, being unafraid to find new ways to give back to the community and make a difference in the world, even later in life.
I will seek to make that difference, as I leave the mayor’s chair.
Am I done with politics forever? I’ll never say never. I’m certainly done for now.
In walking away with my head held high, I believe the city is in a position of historic strength, one upon which I hope and pray my successor builds. Voters will ultimately decide, but I leave knowing our gains have been so significant, our momentum so sustained, our change so positive, that it would be incredibly difficult to return to the days where status quo was accepted as OK in South Milwaukee. Let’s not let that happen again.
South Milwaukee turns 125 years old next year. Let’s keep moving forward. Together.