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Mayor Merkes announces he will not seek fifth term

After nearly sixteen years, Mayor Donald Merkes announced today that he will not seek a fifth term in 2024. “It has been an honor and privilege to serve Menasha as its 40th Mayor”, Merkes said. “The thoughtful partnership of our city employees and elected officials have led to innovations that continue to make Menasha a stronger community.”

First elected to office as the Alderman for the First District in 2005, Merkes developed a reputation for providing information to residents and developing relationships, many of which are still strong today. Stepping into the role of Mayor in 2008, Merkes led the City through a difficult financial chapter, culminating in a overwhelming referendum saving its electric utility.

Menasha took on a new slogan, “your place on the water” during Merkes’s tenure providing a new viewpoint and source of pride for people in Menasha and those looking in from outside. This viewpoint led to a new focus on expanding access to the waterfront, parks, trails, and green spaces leading to new economic development.

The City received millions of dollars in grants and donations during Merkes’s terms that lead to amenities such as Loop the Lake, Province Terrace Boardwalk, Water Street Trail, and Jefferson Park renovations. Economic development grants led to the construction of One Menasha Center and The Brin. Environmental grants supported stormwater, forestry, and energy efficiency. Infrastructure grants built a new fire station, miles of streets, and a safer Racine Street Bridge. Safe water funding allowed Menasha to be among the first communities in the State to remove and replace all lead water laterals in the City.

The City’s population increased by nearly 18% to 18,576 and equalized value nearly doubled to $1.7 billion. Six TIF districts were closed placing over $75 million back on the tax levy reducing property taxes.

One of the largest projects built under Merkes’s tenure was the Public Works Facility. Recognizing that employees can provide better services to the community with adequate support facilities, this project has been a priority for years. It was only with the City’s improved financial position and low interest rates that it was able to be completed in 2021. In addition, the rooftop solar system will generate 100% of its electric requirements.

Menasha was recognized throughout Merkes’s tenure with awards including: Library of the Year, RP3 Reliable Power Provider, Engineering Excellence (Loop the Lake), 40 years as a Tree City USA, WIAWWA Best tasting Water, Smithworks Innovation Award, Innovations in Urban Forestry, Great Places in Wisconsin (Fox Cities Trestle), and designated as a Bike Friendly Community.

Merkes values the community’s extensive relationship with the Menasha School District that continues to grow. The City expanded its School Resource Officer program in the elementary schools, and added both a drug K9 and facility K9. Merkes was also instrumental in maintaining its independent Health Department which facilitated the City and school district COVID-19 response. Combining operations in one building with the School District is another example of innovation that saves money and provides better services for Menasha residents.

“While there are many challenges in today’s environment, I’m happy to have worked with a team that has been so creative and open to trying new things”. Merkes stated, “Menasha’s future is bright. I look forward to seeing what the next generation will achieve.”