Oak Creek — Every so often, Alderman Chris Guzikowski will post a picture on Facebook with a status that reads, "Where is Alderman Guzikowski in Oak Creek?"
"It's sounds corny, but it's so fun to get the replies and responses from people who read it," said Guzikowski.
As a self-described "nuts and bolts" kind of guy, Guzikowski said he likes to see what's going on in Oak Creek. As such, he's made a point to network—and network some more—at local departments, civic groups and resident hangouts since being sworn in as the city's Sixth District alderman in April.
This is Guzikowski's first time serving as an alderman. He ran for the seat two years ago when Drexel Town Square plans were coming to fruition. He lost the election by 19 votes, he said. At the time, he had been in favor of creating a referendum, or citizen vote, for the downtown development.
"In hindsight, I'm glad we didn't," said Guzikowski.
Guzikowski, a quality-control supervisor for Western Envelope Co., is an Oak Creek native and father of three daughters. He was part of the first class enrolled in Shephard Hills Elementary School and remembers the bar his mom and dad owned in the mid 1960s called "Bob and Vi's Hilltop Inn," on the Upper Legion grounds.
Guzikowski's roots in the community are as deep as his reach. In addition to serving on the plan commission, common council and other committees, Guzikowski is an active volunteer at the Oak Creek Community Center and served as a trustee at St. Stephen's Catholic Church for eight years.
Before being elected as alderman, Guzikowski served on the traffic and safety commission, library planning committee, Oak Creek Cares advisory committee and board of housing and zoning appeals, he said.
"The sense of community is what draws me to service. That's what I've taught my three daughters. It's about giving back," said Guzikowski.
Guzikowski's father was actively involved in the Oak Creek park district and was the original parks and recreation commissioner, he said. Both his father and mother died during Guzikowski's childhood. He remembers the fire department offering to paint the family's home under his sister's guardianship.
"It's been a sense of pride and a sense of home for me to keep (Oak Creek) moving in the right direction," said Guzikowski.
Finding his way
As Guzikowski continues to learn the ins and outs of the system, he said he is trying to appreciate the small gains.
"It's one thing to watch the meetings and another to be a part of it," he said. "I think the biggest surprise for me is the level of detail that goes on behind the scenes. That's a good surprise for me — and a lot of additional reading."
According to Mayor Steve Scaffidi, "Chris is a really thoughtful guy. He's like a lot of the other councilmen. They do their homework, and I think it pays off in smart decisions.
"It's obviously a lot to learn. He did it the right way, meeting with a lot of department heads and spending time in and around city hall to get a feel for it. He has a lot of ideas of where the city is going."
While many calls from Sixth District residents reflect problems with road construction, weeds and other "headaches," Guzikowski said his mantra is "short-term pain for long-term gain."
For now, he is celebrating the gains — like lakefront remediation.
"What's starting to come to fruition on the lakefront is going to be exciting," he said. "It'll be awesome to see that transition."
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