Brunner credits team effort for successes at Whitewater
ELKHORN Outgoing Whitewater City Manager Kevin Brunner credits a team effort for economic growth and fiscal restraint during his eight-year reign.
During an interview Friday, Brunner said he leaves the city in competent hands.
"We have a very strong and stable management group, and there's no concern on my part that my leaving will cause any problems," Brunner said. "I am very fortunate to be able to work with such a dedicated team."
Brunner leaves to become director of central services for Walworth County on July 20. His assistant, Cameron Clapper, will serve as interim city manager. Brunner said he's been asked to arrange for someone with management experience to work with Clapper.
Keeping a tight lid on tax increases and revitalizing the downtown area are two accomplishments Brunner cited when asked to look back on his eight years.
"Again, it's always a team effort," Brunner said, "but the downtown revitalization was a success thanks to the efforts of Downtown Whitewater, the Whitewater Arts Alliance, the Whitewater Historical Society and many others.
"We are all very proud of the work with the Whitewater University Technology Park and the Innovation Center as well as the Whitewater Industrial Park,' Brunner said. "We have also made great strides in infrastructure improvements, including our treatment plant, streets and utilities."
The property tax rate is a subject never far from the thoughts of city residents. Under Brunner's watch, property taxes are among the lowest in the state.
"The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance reports that our 2011 rate paid in 2012 of $5.27 is one of the lowest in the state," Brunner said. "University of Wisconsin System communities average $8.02 and cities of similar size at about 15,000 population average $6.89.
"I'm proud of our work to keep taxes down while continuing to provide a high level of services," he said. "Many of our more successful projects have been coordinated with UW-Whitewater including the commuter bus service, joint police dispatchers and a recent parking agreement that provides the university with more street parking and the city with additional revenue."
There's more work to be done after Brunner leaves, such as implementing a plan for the city's two lakes, Cravath and Trippe.
"The lakes are great resources for the city," Brunner said. "We have developed a lakes plan, but both lakes continue to need attention.
"We still need to get more broadband capability throughout the community, and we must continue the development at the business and tech parks," he said.
Successfully running city government in Whitewater for eight years is not Brunner's only claim to fame. He also taught basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson state and local government when they were students at Michigan State University. Brunner was a graduate student and teaching assistant when Johnson was an undergraduate student in 1979, the year Johnson and Michigan State defeated Larry Bird and Indiana State for the national championship.