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Citizen of the Year to kick off Fun Fest parade

Jim Zajkowski will represent New Richmond as this year's Fun Fest parade grand marshal. Zajkowski, who has served on the New Richmond City Council for 21 years, was named Citizen of the Year by the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce in January.

When Jim Zajkowski was named New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year in January, he was automatically signed up to be the grand marshal of the annual Fun Fest parade.

Fun Fest, which takes place July 13-14, hosts a parade that begins downtown and tracks all the way to the Fun Fest grounds near Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.

Zajkowski, who has served on the New Richmond City Council for 21 years, said he's honored to represent New Richmond.

"It's a good feeling to be recognized by your peers," he said. "I feel like everything I've helped get accomplished over the last few years has been worth something."

Zajkowski said some of his proudest moments as a city alderman have come recently.

"The City Council has done a lot in the past year and the past few years," Zajkowski said. "We've taken some important steps for the community and now we're ready for the four-lane highway. We're ready for the future to come."

Some of those projects include the work he's done to get Freedom Park (formerly Hatfield Lake Regional Park) established, the recent upgrades at Mary Park, bringing the YMCA to New Richmond (and later helping with the transition from the YMCA to The Centre), and the establishment of the Government Entities Network.

"I was part of the original group that set up the GEN network between New Richmond and all the area townships," he said. "We never talked before and there was a lot of bitterness. Since the GEN network, the relationship has changed 180 degrees."

Zajkowski said every decision he's made while on the City Council has been with the future in mind.

"I'm always thinking about 'what does it cost today versus what would it cost to not do it today,'" he said.

For example, Zajkowski said he was one of the people who pushed for the purchase of the new New Richmond Police Department building.

"That building was originally listed at $1.8 million and we got it for $500,000," he said. "The police department went from 4,500 square feet to 10,000 square feet and now they're set for the next 20 to 25 years. In addition, that 4,500 square feet that was vacated can now be divvied up between the other departments at the Civic Center."

In addition to his service on the City Council, Zajkowski has also served on nearly all the city subcommittees, including finance, parks, budget, streets, property and Plan Commission.

"Sometimes my wife says she feels like a widow," he joked. "She's been very patient with me."

Zajkowski said it's because of his wife, children and grandchildren that he serves in the way he does.

"When you have family and grandkids in the community, you want to make it a better place," he said. "I'm so pleased with the progress we've made."

Zajkowski said he continues to serve the city because he wants to see the library project finished.

"We've been working with a firm for about six months now and I think we're getting close," he said. "It's something I want to see through."

Zajkowski said he also wants to see Freedom Park completed.

"These are two important things for the community and attracting young families to move to New Richmond," he said. "We have so many pluses with the airport, industrial park, the new schools and WITC. There are endless opportunities now. We've prepared ourselves for all that is going to happen when the four-lane highway is completed and the new Stillwater bridge is built."