July 2, 2010 7:47 AM
Today is Joel Plant's last day in my office. Joel has handled neighborhood issues for me for the last three years. Police and fire, community services and Community Development Block Grant programs were all areas that were in Joel's portfolio as well as many other responsibilities. He's leaving to take a job as chief of staff for Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn.
I could give endless examples of Joel's effectiveness, but let me write about just two. A few years ago Halloween on State Street was an annual nightmare. It had become a national black eye for the city. After years of trying different tweaks I decided that we needed to shake things up in a fundamental way. So, I proposed gating and ticketing the event. It was controversial to say the least. I gave the assignment of working out the details to two staff members in my office, Joel Plant and Mario Mendoza. Joel and Mario oversaw that first somewhat rocky year, but we got through it without incident. Every year since then the event has become more peaceful and less costly. This last year it came close to breaking even for the city thanks to Joel's steady guidance over three years. A lot of people deserve credit for that but none more than Joel Plant.
Another nagging problem was the activity in Brittingham Park. For years there had been growing problems in the park. It had become a center for homeless people and for some minor but increasingly more serious criminal activity. The noise and behavior was a real problem for the neighbors, but there was also a keen sensitivity about treating the homeless with respect while we tried to solve the problem. Once again I asked Joel to lead discussions that would result in a workable plan. Within a few short weeks Joel put together a comprehensive list of actionable items, but just as importantly he had worked out buy-in on those items from the alder, the neighborhood, the police, the Parks Division, and homeless advocates. And it worked. Brittingham Park is much more peaceful today than it was before I asked Joel Plant to get involved.
While Joel was very effective in keeping our neighborhoods safe, he also contributed mightily to the safety of Wisconsin waterfowl. Ducks were never safer than when Joel and I were in a marsh with shotguns in our hands.
In addition to his impressive work, Joel is just a likable guy. His colleagues around here don't just respect him; to some he's like a brother. In an office as small as ours and with so many battles we go through together, we end up getting pretty close around here. So, it's always hard to see someone leave. But Joel did great things not just for me but for the city in his time here, and he's now off to new challenges in a bigger city. We'll miss him, but at the same time we're happy for the progress in his career and for his return home to Milwaukee.
So from all of us in city government, best wishes Joel, and make the trip down I-94 once in a while to see your old friends in Madison.