Mayor Wiza reflects on the past 20 years in Stevens Point
By Joe Bachman
STEVENS POINT — From the end of the Centerpoint Mall and the Y2k scare to the evolution of the Green Circle Trail and Riverfront Rendezvous, Mayor Mike Wiza has watched Stevens Point develop as a forward-thinking community before and during his tenure in government.
In an interview with the Gazette, Wiza reflects on the stories that has stood out to him over the past two decades, and where the city will go for the next twenty years.
Mayor Wiza cites the closure and razing of the Centerpoint Mall, as well as parts of the Fox Theater, as stand outs in his mind — but not so much for the nostalgic reasons one may assume.
“The tearing down of the mall — the acquisition of the mall, in general, was one of the biggies,” said Wiza. “I know that was a big point of contention in the eighties when they voted to build the mall, but it seems like a big chunk of Stevens Point’s recent history focuses on that, because it affected so many things.”
“We tore down what some people would call iconic places.” he added.
However, Wiza suggests that nostalgia doesn’t always equate to high quality.
“People have a much fonder recollection of things the longer they’re separated from it. The Fox Theater is a perfect example. Many people have fond memories of the Fox Theater — I had memories of it, but it’s not necessarily something I would hang on to. It was never a grand, luxurious, beautiful theater,” said Wiza. “It was very run-of-the-mill, very plain.” recalls Wiza, who remembers his first movie he watched at the Fox Theater — The Exorcist.
The Mayor believes the city jumped into the mall craze too late in the game, and would never call the mall a success. Wiza credits former Mayor Halverson for Mid-State’s current location, and believes the college, and up to this year, Shopko, made great anchors for the downtown area.
“The one thing that upset me with the whole acquisition was we tore down that center part [of the mall] without having a real good reason for it.” said Wiza, who believes the area could have been best used as business incubators.
City’s Biggest Accomplishment?
Mayor Wiza lists off a few community accomplishments over the last two decades in his mind. This includes the Green Circle Trail, the construction of the Sculpture Park, the success of Riverfront Rendezvous, and the growth of the downtown area. However, the mayor believes that the city’s greatest asset has become its philosophy.
“There’s not one thing I can put a finger on except the vibe or philosophy of the city,” Wiza stated. “We found out niche of creativity, arts culture, and diversity. Those are things that make Stevens Point unique among all of the other communities in Central Wisconsin.”
“We’re really letting people express themselves, and they’re more than willing to pick up that ball and run with it.”
According to Wiza, there has been a difference in how city government has been run over the past two decades. He points to the ideology of local government helping other residents build the community they want to see as a ultimate strength.
“Having government in a lot of cases just getting the hell out of the way — that means a lot,” he said. “I would say that’s one of the biggest philosophies is that we’ve come a long way from what municipal government traditionally was thirty-fourty years ago; police service, garbage pickup, road repair — to something more of a catalyst to help any person realize their dreams or creative juices.”
Continued Next Week