Category Archives: Community

South Milwaukee Leos Offer Free Community Movie Night: “Hop”

Leos movie night Mark your calendars for April 17!

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Honoring A South Milwaukee Hero

WetzelWetzel 3Wetzel 2

“I’m just a caretaker, a soldier doing his job.”

Those are the humble words of a real hero, South Milwaukee resident Gary Wetzel. Gary, a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions in the Vietnam War, was named Milwaukee County Veteran of the Year today and had a street sign and monument dedicated in his honor. I was honored to be a small part of the ceremony — and am incredibly thankful for his sacrifice and the sacrifice of all our veterans. We should all be thankful for their service, not just today but every day.

Thanks for calling South Milwaukee home, Gary


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Saturday’s SMPAC Performance Cancelled

More information from the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center … might I suggest using the tickets for the Kitzke performance or the gala event? Both very good options.

The Sunday, March 29 performance of In Thinking of America: Songs of the Civil War has been CANCELLED due to medical reasons.

South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center recently learned about a medical condition that prevents the artist, Robert Trentham, from travelling or performing at this time. We send Mr. Trentham our best wishes for a complete and quick recovery.

We are unable to reschedule the performance, so current ticket holders will be contacted by our box office to receive a refund or exchange their tickets for the April 10th performance by Jerome Kitzke, Music in Poetry, Poetry in Music, or the May 1st 2014‐15 Performing Arts Series finale, 10th Anniversary Gala featuring Tomas Kubinek.

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South Milwaukee: Here Is Our “Around The Corner” Episode

john_new_logoThe South Milwaukee episode of “Around the Corner with John McGivern” aired tonight. You can see it here.

Check it out … and share it with your friends!

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An “Around The Corner” Night To Remember

McGivern and Lois ATC stars Carlos and RossyWhat a night!

Thanks to everyone who made Monday night’s “Around the Corner with John McGivern” premiere at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center a big success!

A special shoutout goes to all the volunteers who stepped up, especially Joan Lindstrom and Bryan Lorentzen, who led in planning and executing this complex event. The hard work was worth it.

I also say thanks to Jay Benkowski and Benkowski Properties, our event sponsors. We could not have done this without his support.

If you were there, I hope you had a great time. If you weren’t (or if you want to see the episode again), tune in at 7 p.m. this Thursday on Milwaukee Public Television. The episode turned out great — I think it really captured the spirit of South Milwaukee, what makes our city uniquely our city.

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South Milwaukee Gas Station Sells Lottery Ticket Worth $159,000

Update: The winner is Damir Zoric.

Wonder who it is …

All I know is it wasn’t me or my wife, even though the ticket was sold just two blocks from my house.

Here is the press release. TMJ4 also broadcast from the BP station the other day.

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Cudahy Schools Interested In South Shore Y?

Update: The Business Journal has a few more details.

That’s according to Fox 6. From the report …

The plan was discussed at a school board meeting Monday, January 26th.

“While we are very excited about the potential for a new community center, we have to carry out due diligence to develop a plan and timeline and consider all possibilities. There is a lot of work that will need to be done prior to the end of February when the board will make a formal decision to move forward or not. First and foremost, we need to determine if the building is still available. We then need to explore all financial implications — both today and in the foreseeable future,” School District of Cudahy Superintendent Dr. Jim Heiden said.

I hope something comes of this. Either way, Saturday is shaping up to be a sad day for the South Shore.



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Driving The Debate Downtown

I’m happy to announce the formation of the Downtown Advisory Committee — the group of business and property owners and residents who will be front and center in the debate over our city center in coming years.

The goal of the committee: To advise the South Milwaukee City Council and Plan Commission on downtown issues big and small, and play a key role in the development of a downtown plan that we’ll be working on as part of our comprehensive planning update.

It’s a big job, and an important one. I know this group will deliver, bringing passion, energy, enthusiasm and experience — along with some fresh voices — to the table. I can’t wait to get started!

It is a 10-member committee. Voting members are:

  • Jay Benkowski: Owner of Benkowski Properties, which owns and manages a number of downtown and area residential properties. He is based out of the downtown South Milwaukee Depot.
  • Brett Breisemeister: Owner of Breismeister Realty & Appraisal and member of the Plan Commission.
  • Kristin Drenzek: Owner of Drenzek Chiropractic.
  • Natalie Gajewski: Owner of The Revolution Hair Studio, Natalie is serving as one of the resident members of the committee.
  • Chris Haslam: South Milwaukee resident and Caterpillar employee with education in civil and structural engineering.
  • Timothy King: South Milwaukee resident with significant experience in real estate development and community revitalization as a developer, builder, operator, consultant, advisor and executive.
  • Nicole Maxey: Owner of MKE City Sippers.
  • Donn Powers: Owner of Donn Powers Jeweler.
  • Rachel Sorce: South Milwaukee resident and executive director of the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center.

The non-voting city council liaison will be Ald. Frank Van Dusen III.

I expect this group will first meet in February, coinciding with the hiring of a new economic development coordinator for the city. (We had strong interest in this position and are starting interviews in coming days.)

I want to thank everyone who applied to be on this committee. Interest was high, and we had some great candidates, making for some difficult choices. I see that as a really good sign for what we’re doing here.

I hope that those not chosen — and everyone reading this — joins the conversation. There will be plenty of opportunities to have your voices heard when it comes to revitalizing our downtown. Be heard.


Filed under Community, Downtown, South Milwaukee

Dinner Tonight?

MeatballJust a quick plug for the annual Meatball Supper tonight (Friday) at Trinity Lutheran Church (my church).

Always a fun event, with some great food and fellowship.

All are welcome. You won’t regret it.

Dinner is served from 4 to 7 p.m., and takeout is available.

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Play Ball! South Milwaukee Little League Registration Open

10418195_10204511463845676_6342669489377707398_nAfter Sunday’s Packers loss, it’s time to put football behind us … and think baseball!

Early registration for the 2015 South Milwaukee season is open now through Sunday, January 25. You can do so here …

If you are paying by check you would still need to register online.

Questions? Email them to

I am a big fan of our Little League program and encourage you to consider it for your children.

My 10-year-old son is entering his fifth season in the program, and it has taught him so much, not just about baseball, but life. And it’s the group of hard-working volunteers, from coaches to concession workers, who make it happen.

This program is something all of South Milwaukee should be proud of.

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“Around The Corner” Premiere Tickets Now Available!

And they’re free.

This should be a really, really fun night — a terrific opportunity to celebrate everything that makes South Milwaukee, South Milwaukee. Get your tickets early. They will go fast.

See you February 23 … and thanks ahead of time to our sponsor, Benkowski Properties, and Joan Lindstrom, Bryan Lorentzen and the team at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center for bringing this party to life.


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South Shore YMCA To Close

The Cudahy YMCA will close effective January 31, the organization announced this morning.

From the press release …

As announced in June 2014, the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee has been implementing a comprehensive restructuring plan designed to address its operating challenges, repay as much debt as possible and reposition the Milwaukee Y for the future. That plan called for the organization to establish a Milwaukee Y comprised of centers within (or very close to) the City of Milwaukee and sell off the majority of its owned real estate assets, including the South Shore Y, in order to pay down debt.

Since that time, the Milwaukee Y’s leadership diligently sought a new operator for the South Shore Y, but no buyers have come forward with an offer. While the Milwaukee Y has a deep appreciation for the passion and involvement of the South Shore Y community, it simply is not possible for the organization to continue operations and make the required investments to address the extensive deferred maintenance at the center and make the improvements needed for it to compete long-term. When the center is closed on January 31, it is anticipated that the building and related assets will be placed into a bank trust administered by BMO Harris Bank (or its designee), as agreed to in the Milwaukee Y’s plan of reorganization, which is to be considered by the Court on January 30. The bank trustee will have full authority and discretion to operate, lease, sell, assign or otherwise dispose of the South Shore facility or other trust assets.

“This was a very difficult decision, and one we didn’t come to without exploring all other options,” said Julie Tolan, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee. “We are sincerely sorry for the impact this will have on our many loyal South Shore members and employees, and we pledge to work tirelessly over the next few weeks to ensure a smooth transition for all involved.”

Current South Shore Y members have the option to transition to a different Milwaukee Y center by January 31. Employees who cannot be retained at other centers will be offered severance.

I’ll post more details later.

This is obviously disappointing news, albeit not surprising. Please post your comments below.


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Happy New Year, Indeed: Predicting A Promising 2015

What a year it’s been …

As 2015 approaches, I have been reflecting a lot on all we’ve accomplished, and it’s a lot. Consider:

  • We saw big gains downtown, as new businesses like these and these — and this on the way next week — came to South Milwaukee, and Wild Flour Bakery reopened. The farmers’ market returned for another successful season on a reconstructed (and re-landscaped) 11th Avenue. Sorce Martial Arts and Azteca Restaurant completed major renovations. We brought back outdoor movies, thanks to Guardian Credit Union. We held our first downtown trick-or-treat scavenger hunt, with the support of I Can’t Resist Kids Resale (and soon to be B’s Boutique). And we laid the foundation for the future, forming a Downtown Advisory Committee and including funding in the 2015 budget for a downtown plan. I expect to have the committee named in January, and the plan underway this spring.
  • And we didn’t stop downtown, when it comes to driving business in South Milwaukee. We also welcomed Dunkin’ Donuts and Planet Fitness in 2014 and approved plans for a new Burger King restaurant. Hickory Inn reopened. Educators’ Credit Union completed its renovation and expansion. We also funded a new economic development coordinator position. This person, once hired in early 2015, will serve as a key point contact for business recruitment and retention and marketing our city — areas where we need to step up our game.
  • We also took steps toward enhancing our city services in 2014, including investing in urban forestry and moving toward automated garbage collection. We also opened up our committee selection process, and it’s already helping bring new faces and fresh perspectives to these important bodies.
  • We improved how we communicate, adding monthly Meet the Mayor sessions at local businesses, redesigning the city website, and increasing use of Facebook as a communication tool (likes have soared past 1,100).
  • We invested in community health, joining the South Suburban Mayors’ Fitness Challenge.
  • We built Rocketober, a series of family-friendly events that made October something special in our community.
  • And we did all of this while continuing to act as responsible stewards of your money, passing a budget that ensures the city lives within its means while continuing to deliver our city services and investing for the future.

Of course, here’s the fun part: We’re just getting started!

Our promising future – our best days — are still ahead of us.

Consider what’s on the horizon in South Milwaukee …

  • Economic development. We’re going all in on our central business district in 2015, when the work of the advisory committee and planning effort will begin to help us build for the long term on a strong foundation of best practices tailored to work for South Milwaukee. As we do this necessary heavy lifting, we’ll also continue to work on bringing new business to South Milwaukee and help our existing ones grow. We can’t, and won’t, let the momentum die.
  • Grant Park, Oak Creek and the Mill Pond. 2015 will be a big year for the green spaces that are such an important part of South Milwaukee’s proud past and promising future. Grant Park is seeing significant investment with an $800,000+ Oak Leaf Trail repaving project, construction of new rain gardens at the beach … and a couple additional exciting announcements in the works. (Stay tuned; these will be really cool.) Also, look for more soon on a path forward for improvements to the Oak Creek watershed and the Mill Pond. This is a passionate issue for many, me included. Soon, I hope to share information on a detailed watershed study effort I argue is the necessary road map for future action around this vital resource. County Supervisor Pat Jursik, I and others are making significant progress in building a coalition around this effort. More to come in January.
  • Partnerships. As with the work going on around the Oak Creek plan, we’ll continue to look for new and creative ways to partner with our neighbors and other governments in 2015. That includes bringing back the Fitness Challenge (if the other communities agree) and working with the county on shared solutions like police and fire radios and election equipment.
  • Enhanced service delivery. Automated garbage collection is just one example of our commitment to looking at new and more efficient ways to deliver our services. We’ll do the same with police and fire dispatch, leaf collection, and others. And we’ll continue to lean in to our critical urban forestry efforts, better managing our urban canopy for the long term with an increased focus on tree replanting. (How does an Arbor Day event sound in 2015?)
  • Special events. I am a steadfast believer in how events bring communities together, and build business. We’ll do even more in the year ahead. First, there will be the big “Around the Corner: South Milwaukee” premiere celebration on Feb. 23 at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center. The South Milwaukee Downtown Market — bigger and better than ever — returns in early June. Guardian Credit Union has already committed to sponsoring three more outdoor movie nights next summer, and we’re moving them to Fridays to give folks another reason (and another day) to head downtown; look for dates soon. We’re also planning to bring back the Mayor’s Picnic and bouncy houses we added to the July 4th celebration last year, and we’ll consider even more enhancements. Then it’s on to Heritage Week, Community Night Out, and eventually October, where we’ll bring back Rocketober and its family fun. And, finally, it will be Christmas. I already can’t wait! In early 2015, we’ll hold a few informal meetings to discuss how we do our Christmas celebrations across the city. The goal: Similar to what we did with Rocketober, we will jointly plan, brand and market local Christmas activities, creating a full calendar of events that will stand out as a true community celebration. We’ll also look at creating a few new events. (Like this?) Stay tuned for how you can help.

What a great time to be a South Milwaukeean! I hope you’re as excited about our promising future as I am.

My request: Join us in these efforts. Get involved. Be part of the conversation.

I close with this: a big thank you to our city workers, volunteer board and commission members and elected officials for their hard work, passion and dedication in the past year — and their efforts yet to come.

It should be a fun and rewarding journey.

Happy New Year, indeed.


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Reminder: “Around The Corner” Premiere Set For February 23

10577082_664195156994701_7456079397241422769_nThings are coming together nicely in planning for the “Around the Corner” premiere event on Monday evening, February 23, at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center.

Music by the South Milwaukee Municipal Band, appearances by John McGivern and John Gurda, the first showing of the South Milwaukee episode of the Milwaukee Public Television series, followed by a special community social … I can’t wait!

Thanks to Joan Lindstrom, Bryan Lorentzen and the folks at the SMPAC for their work in planning what should be a really fun night — and a great celebration of what makes South Milwaukee special.

Stay tuned for more details, including how to get your (free) tickets. For now, mark your calendars.

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12 Days Of South Milwaukee Christmas: Giving Back

This is actually post #15, but who’s counting?

Here’s a thought for a last-minute gift this holiday: Give to one of South Milwaukee’s terrific charities or organizations.

There are too many to list here, obviously, but I’ll give a few …

Or donate some toys that the Brooks family will take to area homeless and domestic violence shelters on Christmas Eve. (We are indeed doing this again this year; if you can donate money or new toys, please comment below or email me at

In other words, there are plenty of ways to give this holiday season. Please consider doing so.

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