One of the lasting legacies of Sue Black's eight years on the job as director of the Milwaukee County Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture is her ability to reach out to the private sector and secure corporate partners to support the park system.
At a time when former County Executive Scott Walker was slashing the department's budget, Black was able to convince companies such as REI, MillerCoors, Kohl's Corp., the Milwaukee Bucks, Northwestern Mutual Insurance Co. Inc., Harley-Davidson Inc., AT&T Inc. and Rockwell Automation Inc. to step forward and become corporate partners with The Park People of Milwaukee Inc., an independent non-profit organization promoting citizen stewardship of Milwaukee County Parks.
Black convinced MillerCoors to lead the clean-up of Bradford Beach. She convinced Bartolotta's to provide food at county park venues such as Boerner Botanical Gardens. She convinced Starbucks to open a coffeehouse at Red Arrow Park in Downtown Milwaukee.
According to Dan Cody, board president of The Park People, Black convinced the corporate partners to donate because the quality of life in Milwaukee is a vital tool for recruiting talent to the city, and a clean, effective public park system is crucial for that quality of life.
"I think she was really effective at that. She really went out and hustled her butt off to get some private money to augment the money that was being cut from her budget," Cody said. "She was a real go-getter in terms of corporations, not only for sponsorships, but for donations."
Cody said the corporate sponsors had absolute confidence that their donations would be put to effective use under Black's leadership of the county parks.
The question now is, with Black's abrupt and mysterious firing by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele on Aug. 16, will the corporate sponsors be less inclined to support the county parks?
"It's fair to say that with their money they felt very comfortable with Sue at the helm. That's why they opened up their wallets and their checkbooks, so to speak. There is concern. I hope they don't pull back, even though Sue is not here to drive that," Cody said. "Uncertainly is never good for giving, just like investing."
Black told BizTimes she was not given a reason for her dismissal.
"I can't really say anything. It's just shocking," Black said. "I don't think it was deserving. After 10 years, I deserve more. This is home. I love this place. I tried to make it a better place. I live and breathe it."
Abele said he had a reason for firing Black, but he declined to disclose it.Â Furthermore, Abele said he did not owe anyone any "gossip."
Unfortunately, by keeping his reason secret, Abele instead is inviting more gossip and speculation to fill the void of information.
So, for the moment, file Black's firing in a folder of weird Milwaukee mysteries, right next to the firing of Bo Black (no relation) as the executive director of Summerfest in 2003. (Bo told me the true reasons she believes she was fired, but unfortunately, I am sworn to secrecy about that one.)
It's enough to make a Milwaukeean wonder ... Did Laurie "Bambi" Bembenek really kill Christine Schultz, or was she framed by her husband?
We may never know.
Yeah, it's a big surprise why corporations would want to donate money to the parks. I wouldn't quite call it donating, as I'm sure they are profiting mightily - Starbucks, Miller, The Bartolottas. I'm sure they do quite nicely. Perhaps, just perhaps, Abele didn't want the parks to be privatized, in a sense partially owned, by private organizations with private agendas. Perhaps.
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Steve Jagler
Published May 16, 2013
I often wonder if public officials give any consideration to the historical lens that will define their current level of enlightenment decades from now. History will show there is a "right" side and a "wrong" side to many of the issues we debate today, including health care reform, gay marriage and gun control.
Published April 17, 2013
Hey Milwaukee, are ya feeling the love? In case you haven't noticed, the city has been receiving plenty of praise in recent weeks from Forbes magazine, which named it "The Capital of Water" and one of the nation's "Emerging Downtowns."
Published March 6, 2013
Steve Jagler's friend Tiffany Weber got tired of the rat race. So she's decided to go into the business of being Tiffany.
Published Feb. 25, 2013
Milwaukee-based development firm HKS Holdings LLC plans to develop an eight-story, 158-room Kimpton hotel in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward, San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants announced today.
Published Feb. 18, 2013
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's plan to reject additional federal Medicaid funding for the state's BadgerCare program is drawing mixed reviews, mostly divided along party lines.
Published Feb. 1, 2013
The common stock shares for Kohl's Corp. rose 56 cents Thursday amid growing Wall Street speculation that the Menomonee Falls-based retailer could be a prime target to be acquired by a private equity firm in 2013.
Published Jan. 24, 2013
Regardless of the impact of the Affordable Care Act, the members of the board of directors of the Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE) are remarkably bullish about their prospects for 2013.
Published Jan. 10, 2013
A September research report by Ceres, a Boston-based business sustainability advocacy organization, was eerily prescient. Ceres published the white paper titled, "Stormy Future for U.S. Property/Casualty Insurers: The Growing Costs and Risks of Extreme Weather Events."
Published Dec. 20, 2012
Not to be confused with THE Christmas story, I would like to conclude the year with a Christmas story. And a lighthearted, silly little one at that.
Published Dec. 19, 2012
As we prepare to discard the calendar of a tumultuous and often nasty 2012 in Wisconsin, it's time to launch into 2013 with a clean slate and try to begin the year with no grudges and a spirit of compromise. Here's one man's Milwaukee wish list for Santa.