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Guiding Principles 

Listen first, Act second

It's important  to me that you understand my guiding principles. This is how I make decisions and what has driven me these past few years. 

  • I believe in listening first, and acting second. This ensures I am listening to the whole story before making a decision. It also ensures that I am listening to the citizens and their wants and needs. I never make a rushed decision. I ask questions and I gather as many facts as possible before acting. 

  • I believe in a clean campaign. I have never run a negative campaign against my opponents. They deserve to be heard and their view of how the city should be operated should be weighed against my views. The citizens are the boss of the Mayor, if they decide to go in a different direction that is their choice. I will share my priorities and my positions versus diminishing others'. 

  • I believe in allowing staff to work independently with direction. I have always said that I am not a police officer, why should I try to run the day-to-day operations of the Police Department. I trust the Police Chief to give me the best information to make a decision. I trust all my staff to do the same. I believe the Mayor's role is to provide direction and where he/she believes the priorities of the citizens are and that staff is charged to carry that vision out. 

  • I believe we work for the citizens. I push city employees to understand and appreciate that they work for you and that it is an honor and privilege to give back to the community as an employee.

  • I love this city. I was born and raised here. I go to work every day with the understanding that I am a temporary occupant of that office and I am entrusted by you to make the best decisions for today and what our community will be in the future. 

Trusted, Consistent Leadership! 

Issues of Importance

Trusted, Proven Leadership 

Open Government 


A top priority when I was first elected was to ensure your government was open and accessible to you. 

I have consistently asked your thoughts on major issues before presenting them to the City Council for consideration. 

I instituted an open government forum where all standing committees and council meetings are recorded and all the documents that elected officials see can also be seen by you. Check it out for yourself:  (or click on the photo below) 
All City Council meetings are also live streamed on the city's Facebook page

I have also always made myself available by phone, e-mail, social media, or my office for any citizen to get in touch with me. 

I have instituted a weekly business visit, where my Community Development Director and I visit a local business, large or small, at least once a week. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, this was put on hold. However, once things get back to normal we will begin doing this again! I will also continue the Annual Mayor's Business Roundtable. 

I have involved City Council members in decisions, especially the city budget. I have always reached out to them in advance of working on the budget to ensure the issues that are important to them, or their district, are heard. Again, before COVID-19, I went to each district with each Council Member to hold a listening session in the district for the district citizens to address any questions, comments, or concerns to their Council Member and Mayor. 

I have instituted a weekly city employee visit, where I go to the employees work place and learn about their job and listen to any ideas or concerns they have. Several ideas have already been implemented city-wide. 

Trusted, Consistent Leadership! 

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Washington Street 

Who will fix it?

​Community Update: August 11, 2020

Over the past few weeks I have been receiving several complaints about the condition of Washington Street and what the city is doing to fix it (or why the city isn’t fixing it).

Washington Street is a State Highway (Highway 42). US Highway 151 also runs over Washington Street. Much like Waldo Blvd. which is also a state highway (Highway 10), the state is responsible for reconstruction of highways through city limits and the city is given dollars from the state annually to maintain those state highway roads.

Washington Street was first constructed in 1920. Some portions were reconstructed in 1948 and it was resurfaced in 2001 (the photos are from Vinton reconstructing: for reference, Harry Truman was president the last time this road was partially reconstructed). Many portions of Washington Street are 100 years old.

Waldo Blvd. is finishing its reconstruction this year. This is roughly a 3-mile stretch of road. The state was the lead on the project since they are responsible for complete reconstruction. For reference, the total cost to reconstruct Waldo Blvd. is: $26,868,213 or $8,956,071 per mile. The city’s portion of that total cost will be over $4,000,000 (sanitary sewer, water main, lighting, ect.) Keep these numbers in mind for the remainder of this article.

The City of Manitowoc receives what is called “Connecting Highway Aids” on an annual basis from the state to maintain the state highways in the city limits. According to the State DOT, “Connecting Highway Aids assist municipalities with costs associated with increased traffic and maintenance on roads that connect segments of the state highway system.” It goes on to state: “One hundred seventeen (117) municipalities receive quarterly payments on a per lane mile basis, with rates varying according to population and appropriations set in the state budget.”

In 2020, the City of Manitowoc received $229,810 from the state for connecting highway aids. This number is pretty much consistent year-after-year. There are roughly 11 miles of lane miles in the city limits (3 of which are Waldo Blvd.), so we receive roughly $21,000/mile. Note: it’s important to remember that some roads have 6 lanes in them (2 parking lanes and 4 driving lanes), so not all roads are made equal. It is also important to note that the connecting highway aids are not just for filling potholes or replacing sections of road; they are also used for snow plowing and other ways the city maintains the road for the state. Total lane miles for all the roads in the city is 194 miles, so the state highways in the city make up about 5.6% of all the roads in the city (and are arguably some of the most used roads in the city). Note: The city also receives “General Transportation Aids” for roads (183 remaining miles, these dollars are not intended for state highways due to the connecting highway aids). The total allocation for that in 2020 was: $1,607,791.11 or $8,785.74 per mile. According to the DOT, these dollars are intended “to receive state aid payments to offset the cost of county and municipal road construction, maintenance, and traffic operations. The funding sources of these aid payments are the fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees collected by the state.”

So, how far would $229,810 get us if we put 100% of those dollars into repairing Washington Street? I am sure at this point you wouldn’t be alarmed when I said only 2 blocks, and that doesn’t include any underground utility work (which some of the utilities are 100 years old). At that rate, we could repair most of Washington Street in 10 years, with no utilities being replaced, and none of the other almost 11 miles of state highways in the city being maintained. Not to mention after 10 years of a simple overlay the first portion we started with would need to be replaced again, most likely. If we used the same numbers for complete reconstruct of Washington Street as the Waldo Blvd. numbers, we would be looking at a total reconstruction cost of $13,500,000 (it is roughly 1.5 miles). In other words, it would take us almost 59 years utilizing 100% of the connecting highways aids to completely reconstruct Washington Street. For another example, the city received $16,566,778 in local property taxes in 2020. These dollars fund police, fire, streets, elections, snow plowing, library, parks, etc. Basically every penny you paid in local property taxes this year would fund the full reconstruction of Washington Street (1.5 miles or .07% of the total roads in the city), and we would have nothing remaining for anything the city does – nor the 181.5 remaining miles of streets the city is responsible for.

Our Public Infrastructure Committee met early this summer to discuss our options in greater detail. State Senator Devin LeMahieu and State Assemblyman Paul Tittl were asked to help write a letter on behalf of the city to the DOT Secretary to help us get this street on the state’s plans. They did write a letter in support of the city on June 9th. The purpose for this request was two-fold: one, we want to make sure this street is on the state’s radar and they realize how bad it is, and two, we didn’t want to put a lot of city dollars into repairing the road if the state was going to come in soon and reconstruct it.

The DOT Secretary responded to their letter on June 26th. Here is the major take away from that letter: “A 2018 PMDSS review of this section of US 151 in Manitowoc showed a pavement replacement would not be recommended until 2037. Based on this review, a resurfacing-level improvement in approximately 2026 will extend the life of the pavement structure another 10-15 years. For those reasons, based upon the current fiscal situation, WisDOT will not be adding a reconstruction of this section of highway to the current 6-year plan at this time.” ~DOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson.

My recommendation to the City Council will be to allocate all 2021 state connecting highway aid dollars to Washington Street because we cannot wait 17 years for the state to do what needs to be done today (note: Waldo Blvd. was pushed back almost 8 years from when it was originally supposed to be reconstructed). The city doing full reconstruction of this road, even small portions year after year is literally impossible as you could see from the numbers I listed above.

I also strongly encourage you to contact your state representatives to get this street on the state’s plans much sooner. Both our Senator and Assemblyman have been helpful to this point, but they (and we) need to keep the pressure on, especially as they head into the next state biennium budget in early 2021. Also, since connecting highway aids are based in part on “appropriations set in the state budget”, we need our state legislators to advocate for increasing those dollars. The current allocations clearly don’t get us too far.

I am with you. Portions of this road are atrocious. Something needs to be done. I will try and maintain portions of it moving forward, but I need you to voice your concerns not just to me or your city council representative, but to your state representatives.

I’ll be 50 in 17 years. I feel bad for whoever the mayor is at that point because then I’ll be the crabby old man calling open mic and complaining. Not that 50 is old. This road is just aging me fast.

Trusted, Consistent Leadership! 

Drug Epidemic

Support for local groups

While ​unfortunately there is no easy answer to eliminating the drug problem in our nation and our city, there are many groups that are fighting each and every day to make our community a drug free home and are working tirelessly with individuals to help them.  The city needs to support these groups any way they can. 

I have staunchly supported the following groups and their valiant efforts:

Trusted, Consistent Leadership! 



What have we done?

  • COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund 

    • Over 70 businesses received a grant that was championed by Mayor Nickels. The city and Manitowoc Public Utilities both committed $150,000 ​each along with a few private businesses who also contributed. 

    • In the end over $289,000 was awarded! 

      • City of Manitowoc: $150,000

      • Manitowoc Public Utilities: $150,000

      • Investors Community Bank: $50,000

      • Bank First: $50,000

      • The West Foundation: $50,000

      • Anonymous: $10,000

      • Dave Wage: $5,000

      • Terry Burbey: $5,000

      • UnitedOne Credit Union: $1,000

      • Cher-Make Sausage: $1,000

  • Delayed property tax installments 

  • Decreased electric rates an additional 3% (on top of the 5.6% decrease already implemented in 2020) 

  • Instituted a mask mandate for all city facilities and employees 

  • Required special events to adhere to new requirements 

  • Implemented emergency sick days for city employees to stay home if they didn't feel well 

  • Eliminated Maritime Metro Transit fares for the year

  • Implemented a hiring and spending freeze to absorb the loss in revenue due to the pandemic

  • Note: the city does not have a health department so we rely on Manitowoc County Health Department for guidance and decisions to implement other ways to stop the spread 

Trusted, Consistent Leadership! 


What are the Mayor's Responsibilities?

Manitowoc Municipal Code 3.410 Powers of the Mayor

Manitowoc Mayor Powers

Wisconsin State Statute 62.09(8) Powers of the Mayor​

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