West Allis tries to create a new vision of itself

March 19, 2013

West Allis - Independent of one another, two first-term alderman came up with ideas they hoped would help the city shake off its old industrial-town stereotype and begin a new era.

When they discovered they shared common goals, and told the entire Common Council about it, the result was an official initiative that could involve other West Allis government officials, the public at large and representatives from business organizations.

With the blessing of the council, Alderman Michael May and Alderwoman Cathleen Probst decided to combine their energies, creating a group that in think-tank fashion will try to outline a plan to end such stereotypical views of the community as a dirty industrial city.

Sharing the view

West Allis can sit back and let others define it or it can find a new vision for itself, the two aldermen say. The key is figuring out how to play to the city's strengths while battling its weaknesses, May said.

By getting so many sectors of the city together, May said, "It's an opportunity to get a pulse on our community today, a vision of where we want to be tomorrow and the proactive steps to make that vision a reality."

Added Probst: "We need to share efforts and brain power. We want to generate excitement."

Mayor Dan Devine added his support, saying, "This could be a new wave of optimism."

The plan is to form a Strategic Plan Committee of 25 to 30 members, ideally with five from city government/ management; five from the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District, its teachers and PTAs; five from the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Business Improvement District; five student representatives; five residents at large; and five unaffiliated business owners and operators.

All will be volunteers appointed by the mayor.

With a lot of young families moving in, Devine said he hopes the effort can bring them to the table to be a source of fresh ideas and viewpoints.

May said he also hopes to create a common identity that all the major sectors of the city can rally behind.

The process and plan

The planners will go about their task blitzkrieg-fashion.

In just two meetings, they will identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and even threats coming down the road. They will also identify values, set goals and then outline objectives and strategies for meeting those goals.

Then responsibility will be assigned to various sectors of the community to carry those strategies out.

The plan would be completely advisory, the aldermen stressed.

May and Probst both have experience leading these kinds of planning efforts and will facilitate at the two meetings.

The whole project is projected to take six months, May said - two months to gather all the people for the Strategic Plan Committee, two months to develop the plan and two months to move ahead with implementation.

For more information or to volunteer, contact the mayor's office by phone, (414) 302-8290, or by email from the West Allis website,westalliswi.gov.

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