Two generations of public service
By Josh Staloch
GREEN BAY – With more than 107,000 residents, Green Bay enjoys the distinction of being the third-largest city in Wisconsin, behind Milwaukee and Madison.
With that distinction comes a unique set of benefits as well as challenges and it’s up to Mayor Eric Genrich to make sure it’s all running smoothly.
While the population of Green Bay proper has cracked the six-figure range and will continue to climb, the Greater Green Bay community includes smaller villages like Suamico, with roughly 13,000 residents, Bellevue with just over 16,000, Allouez at 14,000 and Ashwaubenon with nearly 17,000.
With Green Bay’s neighboring villages playing such a crucial role in its own success and growth, it stands to reason that Mayor Genrich would want to maintain close working relationships with the governing bodies of those villages.
In Allouez, that relationship runs especially deep as Mayor Genrich’s father, Jim, is a trustee on the Allouez Village Board.
“My dad and I are always talking about different things that are going on in the village and in the city so it’s nice to have that personal connection,” Mayor Genrich said. “We’re experiencing politics at the same time but in different ways and in different communities. From that aspect, it’s pretty cool.”
A blueprint for getting involved
The senior Genrich was not politically inclined during Eric’s childhood but his interests outside of his career in the healthcare field stand out as things that shaped his interest in politics and serving the community.
Before joining the village board in 2010, Jim was on the Allouez Plan Commission and he has also served on the Allouez Public Works Committee.
He has served as president of the Corporate Board of Directors of Heritage Hill State Historic Park as well as the Allouez-Greater Green Bay Kiwanis Club.
“Politics was not something that we talked about a whole lot when I was growing up,” Mayor Genrich said. “But the one thing that translates to politics, I think, is just community involvement. My dad’s been involved with Kiwanis, for example, for a really long time so there were always just all kinds of different community events that he would go to and he’d kind of drag us along to different things he would be volunteering for.”
Eric first got involved in politics as a student at UW-Madison in the late 1990s with an interest in issues like housing affordability and non-discrimination in housing. He worked for state senator Dave Hansen for a number of years and also worked for congressman Steve Kagen (8th District) before he ran successfully for the State Assembly in 2012, where he served three terms before defeating Pat Buckley in a race for the Green Bay mayor’s office to replace the outgoing Jim Schmitt in 2019.
“That was an extremely prideful moment,” Trustee Genrich said of the night in April 2019 when his son was elected mayor. “Because I knew how committed he was and how hard he worked to get to that point. We were very excited, it took a while to settle in.”
Well-equipped to help
When it comes to Green Bay’s problems, Mayor Genrich said being a community of this size, where issues feel solvable and relationships can go a long way towards getting things done efficiently, has its benefits.
“So we have a metropolitan transit system, centered here in downtown Green Bay but it serves a number of the surrounding communities,” the mayor said. “We’ve had rate changes over the last year, in some places it went up and in some, it went down. I think Allouez was in a position of having to pay a little bit more for service in comparison to years past but because of the relationship that Patty (Kiewez, City of Green Bay Transit Director) has with leadership in surrounding communities, I think it went a lot better than it might have otherwise.”
At the end of the day, both Eric and Jim agree that there is consensus across party lines to get things done for the Greater Green Bay community.
Rest assured, Genrich is answering calls that come to his work phone, as failure to do so might complicate family get-togethers.