Editor's Note: The following column was written by Mayor Jeff Scrima. The Key to the City award recipients will be honored during Tuesday's Common Council meeting at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.
The practice of presenting a Key to the City to an individual may be traced back to medieval times, when admission into a city was hampered by walls and locked gates. Back then the key symbolized free entry. Today the presentation honors people and organizations for their outstanding civic contributions, and symbolizes that the city is at their service.
- See Related: 2011 Key to the City Recipients
As a citizen mayor, and custodian for the city residents, I am humbled to give these keys to the following twelve 2012 recipients, whom have my utmost respect and whom deserve this recognition. Their contributions have further stabilized the family values of Waukesha – values of empathy, responsibility, and creativity. They have carried out these values with strength to proactively build a brighter future – a brighter future for ourselves and for our children.
- Steve Crandell is an outstanding public servant, who for 36 ½ years has carried out his duties with competence, commitment and effectiveness. As Community Development Director, he has provided long-term planning and balance to Waukesha – including commercial, industrial, residential (for all income levels), and cultural opportunities – and assisted in bringing in millions of dollars of new investment and new employment into our community. He also played a key role in the redevelopment of the Frame Park Riverwalk and served twice as Interim City Administrator. He is a man of professionalism that works for and with others.
- Ron Grall and the WPRF Team are humble, flexible and persistent in providing exceptional park, recreation and urban forestry services making our community a desirable place to live, work and play. During the last 12 years he has overseen the growth of community partnerships, volunteerism, and planning initiatives bringing us the services that we enjoy today. His ability to create the conditions that engage everyone to achieve organizational goals helped the Waukesha Parks Team earn the National Recreation and Park Association “Gold Medal Award.”
- Rick Congdon understands opposing emotions, can navigate complexities, and is committed to freedom, justice and restoration. Since 1974 his service to Waukesha has included being on the Housing Rehabilitation Committee, Board of Review, Board of Directors for La Casa de Esperanza, a Circuit Court Judge, a representative to Sister City of Kochatau in Kazakhstan, and President of the Waukesha-Granada Partner City Association. He currently serves our community as a member of the Plan Commission, President of Waukesha GuitarTown, and Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity.
- John M. Schoenknecht is an educator, historian, and writer who makes Waukesha better by making us aware of our impressive history. He worked on the Sesquicentennial celebration, helped create the 1834 Club, and served on the Landmarks Commission, the Board of the Friends of the Library and the Board of the Waukesha County Historical Society. He also authored the book “The Great Waukesha Springs Era,” edits Landmark magazine, and writes a history column for the Waukesha Freeman. He has taken us on a journey of discovery about our past which has given us the foundation for our future.
- Roger Igielski is a light of the downtown, and his work building up our community front porch events – including Freeman Friday Night Live and Silver Bells – cannot be hidden. During his tenure as President of the Downtown Business Association, and past President of the BID, family attendance to Freeman Friday Night Live has grown from hundreds to thousands, and Silver Bells now shines with the Santa Run, Horse Drawn Carriage Rides and caroling. His purpose is to give light to every business downtown, help the city stand out as recognized by Money Magazine, and allow people to see Waukesha as a good small town American destination.
- Nancy Major and Safe Babies Healthy Families welcome the little children, recognize that the future of our community belongs to such as these, and provide hands-on support to parents. They have become a “voice” for the innocent and are committed to breaking the cycle of child abuse, neglect and poverty. (Their organization has successfully been created from the merger of two non-profits – thereby creating better efficiencies and better service.) Against the odds and despite risk factors, 98 percent of the children in their program today are living life, life free from abuse or neglect, and reaching their potential. They passionately produce outcomes that make a difference.
- Renee Ramirez and the Waukesha Community Dental Clinic expresses caring leadership and an organization dedicated to improving the dental health of all residents through preventive services, treatment, and education and advocacy, most notably for children. As executive director, Mrs. Ramirez builds mutuality with others and takes pleasure in her work. We are delighted to have the Community Dental Clinic. Their presence ensures that more children in Waukesha can experience the joy of a healthy smile.
- Thom Farrell and SPX Transformer Solutions; Recently SPX Transformer Solutions built an $80 million plant expansion that added 250 highly skilled family supporting jobs to Waukesha. They are a proud primary manufacturer of state-of-the-art transformer and mega-transformers, which are being used to rebuild and strengthen the American power grid, sending electric power thousands of miles to serve millions of people. They are strong community partners and we are honored to have them in Waukesha.
- GE’s Waukesha Gas Engines; GE purchased the Waukesha gas engine business two years ago and has since invested millions of dollars in upgrading this plant and engineering center, and has added 115 new family supporting jobs to our community. The GE Waukesha Gas Engines manufactured here are known for their innovation, preparedness and ability to perform reliably, around the clock, in the rugged, demanding and often-isolated conditions all over the world. GE uses their influence well and Waukesha is proud of GE.
- Page Remmers and Waukesha Community Art Project help middle school students reach their own potential by developing their self-expression, creativity, leadership skills, and community involvement through quality after school art experiences. They also sponsor free community art events, collaborate with a variety of local businesses and organizations, and have been recognized the last two years as one of the reasons that America’s Promise Alliance ranked Waukesha one of the “100 Best Communities for Young People” in the United States.
- Todd Gray and School District of Waukesha are accountable for more than 12,000 students and relentless pursue new educational opportunities for students to learn and grow including: Waukesha STEM Academy, Harvey Philip Alternative Charter School, Charter Recovery School, Waukesha Academy of Health Professions, Waukesha Engineering Preparatory Academy, and iQ/eAchieve Academy Wisconsin. Recent accomplishments also include high school State Academic Decathlon titles and multiple State Marching Band titles. The district is well known for its music, art and other fine arts initiatives – and is planning a future Fine Arts Academy.
- Majors Ronald and Carol Lemirand and The Salvation Army Waukesha are empathetic and authentic servants. For the past 110 years The Salvation Army has had a strong presence in Waukesha and has demonstrated redemption and the ability to "Meet Human Need at the Point of Need" through various programs including: Emergency Lodge, Drop In Homeless Hygiene Program, Family Services, Snack Pack, Feed The Kids, Community Meal Program, Summer Camps, and Disaster Services. They care for the poor, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend the friendless. Their average is to use 83 cents of every dollar donated in direct services for people in need. As a result, people believe that when they contribute to The Salvation Army, they're giving where it will do the most good!
Together, as the Waukesha family - a caring responsible family - we celebrate and are proud of what makes each of us unique. We recognize that we need each other. By treating each other as we would like to be treated, and by working together towards the good, together we can build a brighter future home and an outstanding experience for our children. For in the Waukesha family, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and this is the Key to the City!