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City of Port Washington - Mayor's Office

2017 State Of The City Address

Click here to view the Mayor's 2017 State Of The City Address.

A Message From The Mayor

January 19th, 2016

City residents, business partners, investors, visitors, staff, leadership, and fellow elected officials:

As we move into 2016, I believe our great City of Port Washington is poised for an historic year.

Before we look ahead, however, this is an opportune time for us to pause and reflect upon what the last several years have meant for “Our Home Port.” In truth, it has been a time of progress and change – progress and change that has been impactful for our city in the present, and laid the foundation for momentous times to come. Sometimes, we can be so busy that perhaps we allow ourselves to lose sight of all we’ve accomplished together. Those accomplishments include just some of the following:

  • Our Main Street Business District continues with a definite rebirth and renewal, with an expanding business mix, minimal vacancies, and sustainable and exciting success stories. Our Main Street business owners and volunteers continue to help power this local renaissance. To be sure, Duluth Trading Company has also played an enormous role in this achievement. Those who questioned the ability of our City to attract and embrace and sustain a regional retail powerhouse have been silenced by the incredible success of Duluth here in Port Washington in just a few short years’ time. And, just as our community has embraced Duluth, so too has Duluth embraced our community. The store’s leadership and team members have actively supported numerous community causes, and that local support has been matched by company executives as well, who recognize and celebrate all our City has to offer as a place for doing business. In just two years, annual store traffic has exceeded 100,000 customers, an incredible volume that is indicative of the impact Duluth has had upon our downtown, our businesses, and our city as a whole..
  • Our city business partners have worked hard not just to survive but to thrive, and as a result of that hard work, many now are in the position of growing and expanding, right here in Port. In fact, through our Economic Development Committee outreach efforts over the past several years, we’ve established stronger-than-ever relationships, especially with our manufacturing and industrial partners, one of the strongest providers of jobs and sustainers of wage growth and standard-ofliving metrics in any community. In recent years, we have celebrated when the Milwaukee Journal- Sentinel’s “Top Workplaces” list honored four City of Port Washington Businesses – Allen-Edmonds, Ansay & Associates, Molded Dimensions, and Port Washington State Bank. No other community in Ozaukee County had more than one. And more recently, we celebrated successive “Large Business of the Year” Award recipients in Ozaukee County – Ansay & Associates in 2014 and Port Washington State Bank in 2015. As part of those awards presented by Ozaukee Economic Development, Modern Equipment was also named a finalist back in 2014. Franklin Energy, Kieckhaefer Manufacturing Company, Construction Forms, Kleen Test, Voeller, Cans-to-Go and so many other businesses who call Port home are making significant investments in themselves, their employees, and our city – and their substantial and continued investment in our community is difference-making. Companies that embrace Port Washington as their corporate headquarters – and then continue to strategically grow their footprint and their impact within the community bring employment, media value, visitors, and an elevated profile for our City. Businesses of all sizes in all areas and in all sectors throughout our city are succeeding and partnering with us, and thus are playing a critical role in our city’s economic development efforts. On behalf of our city, I say THANK YOU!
  • The Historical Society’s Port Exploreum opened its doors in Spring 2015 to much well-deserved public celebration and fanfare. The Exploreum will celebrate our city’s very proud maritime past and local history while engaging visitors in its present and future. It represents a multi-million dollar investment on the part of countless individuals, corporations, foundations, and other groups – people who believe not just in the Historical Society, but the City it calls home. The Exploreum will have a profound impact on all aspects of Port – our downtown business district, our city business partners, our residents and visitors, and our educators and students! We celebrate the visionary leadership and impassioned commitment of Historical Society membership that made this a reality!
  • Our City has worked very closely with developers to preserve several significant historical buildings in our downtown. In one instance, that collaboration was in the form of a public-private partnership, employing a city investment to help repurpose a long-vacant space into an historicallysensitive and yet modern design for necessary downtown residential living. In another instance, we supported the extraordinary efforts of a very generous developer to restore an iconic commercial space, the Boerner Building, contributing to the cause with city investment in reconstructed parking lots and repurposed alleyways (into pedestrian walkways). This building became a state award-winner, as did the impressively renovated Historical Society Resource Building. And as a City, we’ve celebrated the generous investments of other private developers who have employed their own resources and significantly refurbished other downtown buildings, preserving and enhancing a historical aesthetic. Such historically-sensitive design and developer collaboration enables the preservation of our unique historical character and charm.
  • Our City continued to advance our commitment to a very accessible lakefront for our residents and visitors. After more than a year of planning, City staff led by Rob Vanden Noven, Dan Buehler, and Ross Kroeger led forward completion in 2015 of our North Beach Public Access Improvement Project, representing an approximately $500,000 investment in our lakefront. For the public, this Project produced an improved parking area; a significantly widened pedestrian walkway; new lighting; enhanced aesthetics; new landscaping; and more. As we improve functional public access, we make North Beach, one of our great lakefront assets, all the more attractive and inviting to ALL residents and visitors. With that in mind, I convey my personal commitment to doing all we can to provide handicap accessibility on a portion of North and South Beaches in the very near future, a commitment our Parks & Recreation Department, led by Charlie Imig, shares.
  • Building off the point above, our Public Works and Parks & Recreation Department staff, working collaboratively with We Energies and in conjunction with City leadership and numerous City volunteers, led forward Phase One completion of Coal Dock Park, with the official grand opening in Fall 2013. This reclamated, repurposed former coal dock storage area is now a national awardwinning 17-acre lakefront park. The site integrates green space; the Stars & Stripes Honor Flight WWII Memorial; a community pavilion; a 1,000 foot long public promenade; historical signage; a migratory bird preserve; and recreational fishing areas. Our City made a $1 million investment to match $1 million in State of Wisconsin grant funding, with additional funding for stream restoration provided by the Fund for Lake Michigan. The end result is a true destination Park asset and an inspiring testament to our City’s commitment to preserving and providing public access along and throughout our lakefront.
  • Speaking of our lakefront, in 2015, we finished our first Summer with the tall ship Denis Sullivan, the world’s only recreation of a 19th century three-masted Great Lakes schooner that offers sails to the general public. Our City’s partnership with Discovery World, bringing that amazing tall ship asset to “Our Home Port” for numerous engagements, is the first-of-its-kind for the organization, a true testament to our ability to advance such mutually-beneficial regional partnerships – and leverage them as opportunities to positively impact our City’s economy. And what an impact the partnership had! Over 900 people sailed on the Sullivan during her four engagements here in Port over the Summer months, and over 600 others enjoyed deck tours. Our City business partners reported a very noticeable impact from tourism spending. We were able to get Summer School students aboard for one sail in late June, and then used a day in early September to engage our Port Washington-Saukville School District 6th grade students. And, with great support and investment from several City business and organizational partners, including Ansay & Associates, Port Washington State Bank, Ozaukee Press, our Tourism Council, and our Business Improvement District, as well as some very favorable weather, we ended up realizing a net profit of about $25,000 from this past Summer’s engagements – money we can now use to help fund our continued partnership in the upcoming Summer of 2016. Our City was even considered once more to be a “Commercial Port” which made us eligible to rejoin the Wisconsin Commercial Ports Association as a voting member – and opened the door to additional funding for our breakwater efforts. In fact, in September of last year we learned that we had successfully secured a $425,000 Harbor Assistance Program (HAP) Award that was the direct result of our partnership with Discovery World and the Denis Sullivan’s presence in our Harbor. This HAP Award allowed us to fulfill our $1,000,000 Contributed Funds commitment to the US Army Corps of Engineers for work on sections D and D-1 (the steel-cell sections) of the north breakwater. So, onward to Summer 2016 and the advancement of a very profitable and productive partnership with the Sullivan!
  • Our Community Development Authority, led by City Planner Randy Tetzlaff and Alderman Mike Ehrlich, helped drive forward a public, transparent, and deliberate master redevelopment planning process, one that is already paying dividends – and will throughout 2016 and the years to come. In fact, we know now that from the five identified strategic redevelopment priorities in our downtown lakefront business district, as a City we are positioned to realize in excess of $20 million in valuation increment. Possible development of three of those five identified redevelopment priorities is now being considered. On the north slip parking lot, we have an opportunity to create a unique year-round regional destination in the form of The Blues Factory. The former Victor’s site has been purchased, and our City hopes to soon see plans for conceptual design of the vital necessary downtown residential for which our CDA master redevelopment vision called. And, we’ve renewed a dialogue with the owners of the long-vacant former grocery store property, with hopes of working together to advance a vision for new life in the space in the very near future, one that will truly benefit our entire community. From strategic and catalytic new retail and commercial to vital residential, varied in type and price point, we will bring more people into our beautiful downtown to live, work, play, and shop – making a lasting, profound difference for every business and taxpayer in our city.

The above, of course, are only a few specific examples of the way in which community members have worked together to advance progress and embrace change. And, I have every confidence that we will continue to advance our progress and embrace necessary change in 2016.

In fact, together we look forward to what could be one of the most exciting years in Port Washington’s storied history. Here are just a few of the many things we will celebrate in the months to come:

  • As we all know, the Harbor Lights Condominiums Project is under construction! This Project, representing a public/private partnership as part of our Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) district, is the vision of city resident and developer Gertjan van den Broek, and the culmination of significant investment of financial and intellectual capital. It is an exciting and important success for all of us as we strive to bring more necessary residential into our downtown! In short, more people living in our downtown means more year-round support for our downtown business partners - and that is a good thing for all of us!
  • During Spring of 2016, we look forward to the onset of construction of the proposed Cedar Vineyard Development, another substantial development project. Envisioned for the former VK Land along Highway V, this development will be unique in the residential atmosphere it will offer and tourism interest it will attract. It is the outcome of collaboration among several key partners, namely our City, the County, the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, and of course, the developer at the forefront. This has the potential to be a very important investment in Port that will ensure public access to the beach via the land, conservation of the most environmentally sensitive areas, enhanced bluff stability, and more.
  • Throughout the Summer, we will continue our partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers to complete more significant repair of the north Breakwater, involving necessary surface work and structural reinforcements, as well as a new ADA compliant and family friendly gateway entrance. The work in 2014 on the north Breakwater, primarily entailing critical armor stone placement, represented about $1 million in investment; the work in 2016, largely encompassing work on the steel-cell sections and an entirely new gateway section for our community to access the structure, will represent another $1.5 million investment. There is more work to come in 2017 – and once more, we will fund much of it work through state and federal resources we have procured!
  • Speaking of the north Breakwater, we recently submitted our Application for Conveyance of the north breakwater Lighthouse. The completion of the application represents hundreds upon hundreds of hours of work of about 30-40 city resident volunteers who accepted my personal invitation to serve. Their gifts of time and talent on behalf of our great City and our entire community have been very impactful – and they are illustrated in our very robust application. Please join me in thanking and celebrating them for their service! To be clear, our City of Port Washington is seeking ownership of the Breakwater Lighthouse in perpetuity to ensure proper maintenance and care; advance greater public access and use; and more actively highlight its architectural significance and beauty as part of our harbor landscape. And, our North Breakwater Lighthouse Team, comprised of those 30-40 impassioned community volunteers and stakeholders, has already begun planning for this privilege. We have initial concepts in place for very slight exterior modifications to allow for public access – modifications that can be made without impacting the National Register of Historic Places nomination we intend to complete. We have had conversations with our partners at the Port Washington Historical Society and the Port Exploreum to incorporate public access to and programming about the Breakwater Lighthouse into the experience they offer their members. We have reached out to our partners at Port Washington- Saukville School District, Ozaukee County, and Concordia University Wisconsin to express our interest in integrating into their educational offerings an instructional connection to the asset and our area’s proud maritime heritage. And with it being one of only two like it architecturally in all of the Great Lakes, we intend to continue to leverage its significant tourism and economic impact for our community. In fact, our Port Washington Main Street Program already has begun to move forward with plans for lighting of the asset. So, while much work remains in 2016 and beyond, I am confident that if presented an opportunity for conveyance of this extraordinary historical asset, our community will respond and embrace the opportunity to truly showcase, celebrate, and leverage it.
  • Finally, we will continue our journey to a National Marine Sanctuary off our shores. We’ve already come so very far, not only in advancing our Sanctuary Nomination but in establishing a very promising and productive collaborative regional partnership with Sheboygan, Manitowoc, and Two Rivers to the north of us. Additionally, we’ve successfully built relationships with NOAA leadership, as well as with staff from other state agencies and partner organizations, relationships that are meaningful in a multitude of ways and I am confident reflect their genuine view of “Our Home Port” as being a very special place. Should we eventually be successful in securing the National Marine Sanctuary designation, with final word hopefully coming sometime in late 2017 or early 2018, it will mean incredible things for our great City of Port Washington, our Sanctuary “Region,” and our entire State of Wisconsin!

In short, then, our City is changing and progressing.

And over the course of the past several years, 2015 included, I’ve heard from many of you – our residents, our business partners, our investors, our volunteers – that you feel similarly, that you believe as I do that the best and brightest days for our City of Port Washington are yet to come, that we will realize them together.

And so, to all of the “You” out there, all those who have made our great city their “Own Home Port” – tonight I join with our Council in extending to you our gratitude. To all who have played a role in our city’s numerous accomplishments these past several years, who have helped position us for success in 2016 and beyond, from our city’s educators, to our police and fire service providers, to business and property owners and private investors, to committee and nonprofit volunteers, to city leadership and staff and to the members of our Common Council and so many, many more – we say THANK YOU!

Ultimately, you are the driving force behind what makes Port Washington so great.

In fact, of all our collective accomplishments over the past several years, I consider among our greatest to be our engagement and mobilization of “people capital” – that is, the critical mass of volunteer resources we’ve involved in the work we are doing on behalf of the community we all love. By my count, there are nearly 200 of you serving on our various committees, boards, teams, and commissions, working on Marketing, Environmental, Economic Development, Community Development, Parks & Rec, Waterfront Safety, and so many other vital initiatives. Your commitment of time and sharing of talents to enhance life for others within our community represents a meaningful endorsement and powerful advocacy for it as “Your Home Port.” You are true partners with our City leadership and staff and our partner organizations, essentially functioning to supplement the good work already being done and make even greater accomplishments possible. Because of you, our waterfront is safer; our outreach to city businesses is more effective; our city’s master planning efforts have taken new root; our breakwaters will one day be repaired and the breakwater lighthouse will truly be ours; and our city is being marketed in creative and cost-effective ways, leading to its discovery by so many who previously knew of it very little.

And make no mistake about it – it was vitally important that we as a City acknowledged and accepted the need for our “hidden little gem” to be discovered by others – more residents, more visitors, and more businesses. Thanks to the partnership we enjoy with our Tourism Council and its Executive Director, Kathy Tank, as well as the support we’ve received from other crucial organizational partners, our City is engaged more actively than ever in marketing itself and the many things that make us unique. The results have been encouraging, by any metric: room tax revenue has been increasing these past several years, with our City welcoming an estimated 50,000 overnight visitors in 2014! We’ve earned considerable media coverage over the past several years, highlighting the extraordinary developments, partnerships, and initiatives we’ve advanced. People are discovering, investing in, and sharing the very good news about “Our Home Port”!

And we’ve managed to accomplish so much – and position ourselves for even more success in 2016 – while being diligent and responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. We can and should all be incredibly proud of the high level of services, both in terms of quality and scope, we provide our City residents, and at a very affordable price. A simple examination of 2015 municipality tax rates in Wisconsin will attest to just that; of the 1856 municipalities (cities, towns, and villages) in our state, our City of Port Washington is among the lowest 25% in terms of total tax rate. In other words, about 75% of the communities in our State of Wisconsin assess their residents at a higher tax rate than us. The only community in Ozaukee County with a lower total tax rate than us is Mequon, a city more than double our size in population – and seven times our size in land mass.

This is not lost on those who assess the financial strength of our City. In fact, Moody’s Investors Service Inc. (“Moody’s”) assigned our City of Port Washington a high-quality investment grade rating of “Aa3.” For the unfamiliar, this “Aa3” rating is excellent, about the best a municipality our size can be rated, and represents an independent review of our City’s economy, finances, management and obligations. The bond rating is used to assess credit risk by identifying various strengths and challenges. The assignment of the bond rating considers the historical and current practices, as well as the forward-looking vision, of our City’s Administration and elected leadership. In short, the financial management practices of our City are viewed very favorably.

Because of the historically sound financial management of City Administration and elected leadership, our City of Port Washington finds itself in a strong financial position and with debt capacity available to fund necessary infrastructure repairs and improvements. While the future infrastructure funding needs will be significant, the anticipated continuation of the City’s high-quality investment grade rating should allow for borrowing capability to invest in the things we need to invest to ensure a vibrant, thriving City – and for that borrowing to happen at low interest rates.

The above all said, and with my eternal optimism and very positive outlook all very warranted, there remain very significant challenges for us all to tackle and overcome together.

Our city business partners are facing very tangible shortages of skilled labor, the very people they need to employ to grow their business and expand their investments in our community. We hear it across all sectors and in all areas of the city, but most notably in our industrial park and throughout our manufacturing partners. While talent acquisition and retention and workforce development is first a business responsibility, we can and must do all we can to help partner with them, support them, invest in them, advocate for them, and provide for them – and that means commitment to collaborative marketing efforts to help attract workers and execution on redevelopment priorities that will offer them new housing opportunities throughout our city. Moreover, we must continue to encourage and demand that our educational institutions, especially those receiving taxpayer funding, invest in and offer robust programming tied to local workforce, entrepreneurial, and career opportunities – and demonstrate through accountability measures the ability to truly meet those community workforce needs. Our Port Washington-Saukville School District has become a leader in this area, establishing active partnerships with manufacturers in our community, and our City can support those efforts and help connect them with other educational institutions to advance their efforts. In short, local retention of talented young people is not and cannot be the sole responsibility of our educational institutions. Parents, family members, employers, and all community members must advocate for our City and be a part of the solution.

Our infrastructure, both that we own in the letter of the law and that which we call our own in spirit of the law, continues to age and, in some instances, near a tipping point. We have fought hard collectively to secure federal funding for the federal asset that is the breakwater, protecting our harbor, marina, and lakefront assets. But despite our successes, much more work remains, and more funding is essential to get that work done – and we still have not been able to procure all we need. We cannot fail in this effort; this is our window of time in history in which to ensure both the north and south breakwaters, owned by the Corps of Engineers but so important to all of us as lakefront community, are made viable and sustainable for generations to come.

And, more directly, to the point of the assets for which we are directly responsible, we must continue to take steps – as Council and as city staff and leadership – to put in place a plan for sustainable roadway infrastructure. Ours is a growing community, and with over 60 miles of road to maintain and much of it aging rapidly, we face a potential $15-$20 million impact in the years to come. We cannot simply talk about this issue, we must set about to solve it, and we cannot solely plan on borrowing to fund that solution. There is no money tree, not here, not in Madison, and not in Washington D.C. – and we can and should expect ourselves to be up to this task of crafting and funding these collaborative solutions.

For this reason, and so many others, then, our city must embrace this reality – continued economic growth and development is not a choice, it is a necessity. And, that continued economic growth and development is not a “sometimes cause” – it must be a part of our focus all the time here in the City we love each and every day. If we do not collectively explore the opportunities before us to partner with those who seek to partner and invest in those who wish to invest in us, then we will fail the generations of Port Washington residents to come. If we do not collectively fight to keep here all the businesses already calling Port home and fight to attract new businesses looking for a new place to establish its roots, then we will fail the generations of Port Washington residents to come. To be successful in those efforts, we must be willing to invest OF our resources and invest IN resources, including people capital. We have so much of which to be proud, but inaction now on the vital priorities we’ve set forth will have devastating consequences and leave us unable to make the necessary investments in community and lead forward the community-wide initiatives that we all desire, need and expect. And, I believe we can continue with necessary progress and change in a responsible, smart, strategic manner that still makes clear our core principles hold strong – fiscal responsibility, sustainability of our environmental commitment, and advancement of affordable quality of life. At times we will disagree respectfully and civilly on how best to accomplish that progress and change, but we must unify behind the need for progress and change if we are to truly ensure for future generations the kind of City of Port Washington we all deserve.

Collectively, all of us who live and work here are coming together to accomplish great things for our great city, and that will continue this New Year. We all can have an impact on our community, and we can all have a stake in its outcome. The time to be an active participant is now, in whatever manner you are able – WE NEED YOU! I assure you, your gifts of time (however much you can give!) and talent (whatever it may be!) are an investment in our city’s future and will pay dividends! If you are interested in helping, please let me know.

So again, THANK YOU for continuing to make us “Your Home Port!” I know I speak on behalf of our entire Council when I declare how truly honored, proud, and privileged we are to be partnering with and serving on behalf of such generous, talented, and passionate people. Together, we WILL make Port EXCEPTIONAL!

Tom Mlada

Tom Mlada
Mayor – City of Port Washington

 

City of Port Washington, Wisconsin Department of Public Works Contact Us

Mayor
Tom Mlada
100 W. Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 307
Port Washington, WI 53074
262-284-5585
tmlada@ci.port-washington.wi.us

City of Port Washington, Wisconsin Proclamation Archive

Click here to view past City of Port Washington proclamations.

City of Port Washington, Wisconsin Proclamation Archive

2012 - Present Thomas Mlada
2003 - 2012 Scott Huebner
1997 - 2003 Mark Gottlieb
1994 - 1997 Joseph Dean
1991 - 1994 Mark Dybdahl
1988 - 1991 Ambrose Mayer
1977 - 1988 George Lampert
1977 - 1977 Robert Lorge
1971 - 1977 James R. Stacker
1961 - 1971 Frank Meyer
1955 - 1961 Paul Schmit
1949 - 1955 John Kaiser
1947 - 1949 Charles Larson
1945 - 1947 George S. Cassels
1939 - 1945 John Kaiser
1929 - 1939 August F. Kruke
1924 - 1929 A.W. Grady
1923 - 1924 Vice Mayor Kuhl
1923 - 1923 George H. Adams
1914 - 1923 John Kaiser, Jr.
1910 - 1914 H.W. Bolens
1908 - 1910 R.E. Maerklein
1906 - 1908 H.W. Bolens
1896 - 1906 Chas. A. Mueller
1895 - 1896 E.B. Bostwick
1893 - 1895 B. Biedermann
1892 - 1893 R. Stelling
1890 - 1892 Chas. A. Mueller
1888 - 1890 R. Stelling
1887 - 1888 H.W. Lyman
1883 - 1887 H.B. Schwin
1882 - 1883 James W. Vail


 

 

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