From “Vruwink: Here’s how we’re improving city gov’t” — By Zach Vruwink, mayor of Wisconsin Rapids – Shortly into my first term as mayor of Wisconsin Rapids, I pledged to pursue streamlining operations and making government more efficient, effective and customer-friendly. With support of that vision from the City Council and a partnership with Mid-State Technical College, our employees began Lean Six Sigma training to equip us with the tools to identify improvement projects, approach problem solving differently and form cross-functional teams across departments to develop new solutions to the way we approach new and everyday tasks.

We live in a world where the expectation to do things “better” is commonplace. An investment in professional development, specifically in process improvement, exposes employees to additional ways to identify and solve problems, resulting in improved service and increased customer satisfaction — in our case, our “customers” are our employees and our residents.

Now, just a year after our formal launch of the initiative, I am happy to report that over 25 percent of our employees have been trained in the fundamentals of process improvement. Even more have been involved with identifying processes for improvement and as “subject matter experts” in their specific areas of process improvement.

On June 25, all city employees were invited to a report-out event to recognize the progress of the initiative and provide an overview of the projects they are working on. The event was a reminder of how far we’ve come, and it was a chance to see what improvements are being made across the organization and encourage interdepartmental collaboration among all employees.

Just as significant, the “Rapid Improvement” process has given us the opportunity for self-reflection from those of us in the organization; that’s something that can often be the difference from an organization being “good enough” and being “great.”

The result, I’m excited to announce, is seven projects near completion. For example, we are examining the city’s special assessments process; its business inspection process; and even the library’s book check-in and shelving process.

Take the business inspection process: City departments such as police, fire and code enforcement have heard from businesses that our compliance inspection process should be improved. Previously, departments conducted individual visits, disrupting businesses as frequently as six times per year. After the project team applied the Lean Six Sigma methodology, business inspections (or disruptions) have been reduced to one or two annually. Businesses now are informed proactively of common violations and also have a voice in further improving the process. This allows departments time to perform other functions and disrupts businesses less, all the while preserving the integrity of inspections.

Since the essence of the Rapid Improvement initiative is “continuous improvement,” projects will continue to be started and completed with varying degrees of impact. An internal steering team has scored and will continue to score employee-submitted projects to be worked on in the future. Residents, too, are invited to submit improvement projects for improvement.

If you have an improvement idea, please communicate to me, another city staff member or submit your idea online by visiting

Each day we show up for work with the opportunity to not only do our jobs, but also to make a significant impact on how we improve processes within our organization and within our city. I’m proud of the progress our city employees have made so far in the initiative and I look forward to continuing our journey of process improvement, identifying project opportunities, measuring our efficiency and ultimately improving the delivery of city services.

From “State leaders encourage students to consider manufacturing jobs” — GRAND RAPIDS — State and local leaders are encouraging students across Wisconsin to consider manufacturing jobs when planning their academic future.

As a major part of the state’s workforce, manufacturing jobs play a key role in growing the economy, Gov. Scott Walker told students today as part of the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce’s Heavy Metal Bus Tour, which gave dozens of south Wood County middle and high school students the chance to tour local manufacturing plants and hear about the industry.

“I’d love to have it in every community, connected with every technical college and employers in every part of the state of Wisconsin, just because it’s a great opportunity to open the eyes of not only students, but really of parents, of guidance counselors and others to see there are great careers — not just jobs — but great careers in manufacturing,” Walker said during a lunchtime stop at Mid-State Technical College’s Wisconsin Rapids campus. “Getting these kids interested early on is key to this.”

The local event coincided with October Manufacturing Month in Wisconsin, which is designed to spur job creation through the promotion of manufacturing as a career. Nearly 75 seventh- through 10th-graders from across south Wood County participated in the bus tour, which took them to Domtar Corp., Corenso North America, Tweet Garot Mechanical and Mariani Packing Co., said Melissa Reichert, president of the Wisconsin Rapids-based chamber.

“They’re learning all kinds of things about the great careers that are here in central Wisconsin,” Reichert said. “These are good-paying jobs that average over $52,000 a year, and these companies are hiring.”

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson, state Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and state Rep. Scott Krug, R-Rome, also participated in today’s event.

The state should financially support programs that make technical education more affordable and expose students to the importance of manufacturing — through hands-on learning and other activities — at an earlier age, Krug said.

“We’re looking to close that financial gap (and) make sure it’s accessible to everybody,” he said. “Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, those programs are important … (in) helping local employers fill those jobs they have open right now. It’s a no-lose situation, and it’s a small investment for the state to make.”

On a more local level, Mid-State Technical College continues to work with local employers and other agencies to help address the so-called “skills gap” — the difference between the qualifications company leaders are looking for and the skills potential workers possess, MSTC President Sue Budjac said.

“When we talk to employers in manufacturing, what they’re telling us is that in the very near future, they’re going to have retirements on a massive scale, and they are going to need skilled and qualified workers to fill in behind those retirees that are going to be leaving their industry,” Budjac said. “We are adjusting our curriculum — the content and our courses — in ways so that we make sure that we’re responsive and delivering the skill set that they need.”

Such local efforts — one of two programs in the state and three rural sites nationwide — can serve as a model for other parts of the state as a successful partnership between private-sector employers and post-secondary education and training institutions in order to help spur workforce development that meets employers’ needs, Walker said.

“The more frequent (the) communication, the more partnership there is, the more shared accountability there is; employers will step up and put money and time and resources and equipment, in many cases, behind technical colleges that are responding to the needs that they have with the jobs they have right now as well as those in the future.”

From “Job fair in Wisconsin Rapids full of employers” — Hundreds of job seekers headed to Mid State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids.

The school held its annual job fair Thursday and coordinators say the turnout was better than expected.

According to the latest jobs report, businesses across the country continued to hire new workers in August.

Employers from all over Wisconsin attended the job fair.

From Madison to Green Bay, employers were looking for workers.

The job seekers included students and people of all ages.

57 employers set up booths in the gymnasium on Mid State Tech’s campus.

Organizers tell Newsline 9 that it’s the most booths they’ve had for the fall fair in several years.

“This past spring we had 58, this time we have 57, which is very encouraging and I’ve done this for a number of years and in the fall it’s usually pretty small, but this is our best fall in over seven years,” said Stephany Hartman, Career Services employee with Mid State Technical College.

Mid State Technical College holds two job fairs per year.

School leaders say the next one is in April of 2014.


From “New MSTC fire tower a safe way for emergency service personnel to learn” — By Karen Madden – GRAND RAPIDS — A new training tool at Mid-State Technical College will allow firefighters to practice basic to complex skills in a safe environment, according to officials.

Members of both career and volunteer fire departments helped design the campus’s new fire tower, said Barb Jascor, MSTC associate dean and fire training coordinator. It was important to the school to get input from fire departments in designing the new tower to make sure it met the needs of all central Wisconsin fire departments, as well as the needs of students.

On Monday, Wisconsin Rapids firefighters trained in the new tower for the first time. Until MSTC built its fire tower, Wisconsin Rapids firefighters traveled to Rome to train on the Rome Fire Department’s tower, Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department Captain Chuck Peters said.

“To be able to have this in our city is such an asset, not only to our department, but to Mid-State, as well,” Peters said.

The caliber of the new tower’s equipment rivals any that Peters has seen. Not only firefighters, but emergency medical technicians and law enforcement officers, will be able to use the tower to practice realistic scenarios in a safe environment, he said.

Rescuers can practice getting a patient down from the building’s third floor, Peters said. A basic medical issue can become much more difficult when EMTs have to get a patient down stairs, he said.

The tower contains two rooms where firefighters can practice putting out live fires, Jascor said. One is larger and can be used to simulate a living room or other large-room fire. A smaller room would be similar to a fire in a bedroom, Jascor said.

The second floor of the tower contains walls that can be moved to create different layouts. The ability to change the floor plan will keep firefighters from getting too accustomed to what they’ll find when they enter the tower for a training exercise, Jascor said.

The three-story tower has multiple doors in each room, window openings and both an inside and outside staircase, allowing many different types of training scenarios, Jascor said. An enclosed ladder on one side of the building is meant to simulate what firefighters would encounter in a silo or some factories.

Pittsville Fire Chief Jerry Minor said his department encounters situations such as the enclosed ladder frequently. Minor, who was a member of the committee that planned the tower, said the ladder is one of the things he asked to be included in the training structure.

“There are a lot of different options with this building,” Minor said. “I think we looked at about every conceivable option we could think of.”

Committee members toured many fire tours, Jascor said. They talked to fire departments and schools about what worked and what didn’t work, she said.

“The project was truly a collaborative effort,” Jascor said.

From “Clinic gives pet owners chance to provide protection for four-legged friends” — South Wood County Humane Society employees and volunteers turned Robinson Park into a clinic over the weekend to encourage healthier and safer pets.

During the Humane Society’s annual Pet Vaccine and Microchip Clinic, a veterinarian administered rabies and distemper vaccines and implanted microchips for identification. The clinic gives pet owners a lower-cost chance to protect their dogs and cats, said Bridget Chariton, Humane Society executive director.

Also, she said, “a high number (of Wisconsin Rapids pets) are not microchipped.”

Chariton expected to place microchips in 200 to 250 pets on Saturday.

The veterinarian places the microchip in the fatty tissue on the back of the dog or cat’s neck. Humane Society employees then register the animal, and when someone scans the animal with a hand-held wand, it picks up the signal from the chip.

Blue, an energetic three-legged female blue heeler, already has a microchip but was at the clinic Saturday to get vaccinated, said Sher Mosley, Blue’s owner.

Mosley found Blue abandoned in a barn and rescued the dog. The pair do a lot of camping and Mosley said she would miss her canine companion, if anything happened to her.

“This is my second year (at the clinic),” Mosley said. “I love it; it gives people who couldn’t otherwise afford it a chance to get their dogs immunized.”

Roxann Cote of Wisconsin Rapids said she’d been telling her husband they should get their Yorkie, Sammy, a microchip for a long time. Cote previously had a Yorkie that ran away, and she wanted to be sure Sammy is safe, if he should decide to chase a rabbit or squirrel.

On Saturday, the couple brought Sammy to get his microchip.

“We live in the city and anything can happen,” Cote said. “He’s a spoiled dog. We’d feel terrible if anything happened to him.”

Most animal shelters scan all incoming cats and dogs for microchips, Chariton said. Pets frequently lose collars and tags, which are designed to come off easily to prevent dogs from becoming choked. The chips often are the only way to quickly identify an owner.

Although people most frequently think of placing a microchip in their dog, it’s important to give cats protection, too, Chariton said. Cats can often slip out of homes, and it has to happen only once to lose the pet.

This past summer, the shelter was able to return Ace the cat to his Arizona family when staff members found and scanned the feline’s chip. The Siamese cat had disappeared from his Tuscon, Ariz., home about 10 months earlier, and no one knew how he had gotten to Wisconsin.

The South Wood County Humane Society provides the vaccines only once a year but will place microchips in pets any day the shelter is open. The cost is $25, and people can call 715-423-0505 to schedule an appointment.

From “Event inspires administrators to go two-wheelin'” — GRAND RAPIDS — These days, Sue Budjac, of Rome, and Connie Willfahrt, of the town of Arpin, might consider riding their bikes to their Wisconsin Rapids campus office as a simple jaunt.

That might not have been the case last spring, when Budjac, Mid-State Technical College president, and Willfahrt, vice president of student affairs and information technology, decided to participate in Saturday’s centennial bike ride, a kickoff event to the college’s 100th anniversary celebration.

The ride will highlight the employee wellness program and offers a ride — or walk — at three levels: a 100K and 50K bike ride and 10K ride or walk, Budjac said.

“It (also) allows us to extend an invitation to community members throughout our district in hopes of engaging them in our celebration,” Budjac said.

The noncompetitive event benefits the college’s scholarship program.

“In addition to celebrating the college’s 100 years, it’s also an opportunity to celebrate and help reduce barriers for our students, because the funds that, either through donations that have been made or through registration fees, those funds are going to go to assist students through emergency loans and scholarships,” Budjac said.

More than 80 percent of the college’s almost 9,000 students at its four campuses get some type of financial assistance. The average age for students is about 28, and many are working and have families, Budjac said.

“They struggle every day to achieve their education goal, and a scholarship makes a huge difference in them being able to continue with school,” she said.

It might have been easy for the administrators to sit back and be content to help facilitate and support the event from a bystander aspect. But these two women decided to lead by example. They bought bikes, helmets — even bike wear.

“If I were a designer, I would design much more complimentary bike shorts,” quipped Budjac.

Willfahrt laughed.

“It’s not about fashion; it’s about comfort,” she said.

“What really motivated me was the excitement that has been brewing throughout the weeks and months of planning and wanting to jump in and be part of that,” Willfahrt said.

It’s been a work in progress, but both could be considered accomplished bikers. Willfahrt participated in her first official event, a 70-mile ride in Door County, which she proudly finished in just more than five hours.

Budjac’s practice route was a 60-mile trek around Lake Petenwell.

“That’s a lot of butt-to-seat time,” Budjac said, regarding the length of the rides.

Both said they have relished the training journey and look forward to Saturday’s ride. They’ll both participate in the 100K ride — just more than 62 miles.

“I’m thoroughly enjoying this, so I anticipate participating in an event at least once or twice a year,” Willfahrt said.

Budjac is along for the ride, but more as a recreational biker.

“I don’t see another 100K in my future, but I’ll keep riding,” Budjac said.

From “MSTC celebrates centennial with ride/walk” — In celebration of 100 years of central Wisconsin education and training in what is now known as the Mid-State Technical College, or MSTC, District, the MSTC Foundation is hosting a Centennial Bike Ride & Walk on Sept. 14. This non-competitive event includes 100K, 50K and 10K bike routes and a 10K walk option. All routes begin and end at MSTC’s Wisconsin Rapids Campus.

The 50K and 100K bike routes meander throughout north Wood County. The 10K bike and walk routes go around Lake Wazeecha in South Wood County Park. Beverage and snack stations will be provided for participants along each course.

Registration costs $25 per person and includes opportunities for prizes. Children 12 and younger are free and must be accompanied by an adult. An event T-shirt will be provided to all participants who register by Aug. 21. All biking participants must wear helmets.

Proceeds of this event support the educational programs of the college through educator and student grants and scholarships. Contributions are tax-deductible.

Additional information and the event registration form are available online at or call the MSTC Foundation office at 715-422-5322 or email

MSTC’s Centennial Celebration includes a total of five events during the 2013-14 school year. In addition to the Bike Ride & Walk, people throughout the college district are invited to attend centennial celebrations at each of MSTC’s four locations: Wisconsin Rapids Campus on Oct. 10, Marshfield Campus on Oct. 22, Adams County Center on Nov. 5, and Stevens Point Campus on June 4, 2014. Each celebration event honors MSTC’s past and celebrates its future. Centennial organizers say visitors of the final four events will have the opportunity to learn about new technologies, view fascinating hands-on demonstrations, tour facilities, and explore MSTC student services and academic programs.

MSTC, one of 16 colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System, is a leading provider of higher education offering more than 100 associate degrees, technical diplomas and certificates, including 10 Wisconsin Technical College System programs you will only find at MSTC. Student-focused and community-based, MSTC serves a resident population of approximately 165,000 in central Wisconsin with campuses in Marshfield, Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids, and a learning center in Adams. Smaller classes, flexible scheduling, and instructor involvement all foster student success and contribute to the fact that nearly 9 out of ten MSTC graduates are employed within six months of graduation.

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