Mayor Wiza reflects on 20 years in Stevens Point (Part II)
By Joe Bachman
This column is continued from last week’s article.
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.
How has the city evolved?
Wiza has lived in the area for 53 years now, and believes Stevens Point has changed with the times; which is something he is proud of.
“This is our Stevens Point right now,” said Wiza. “And one of the things I like to point out is the last five years; we’ve had above-average growth. Growth isn’t just in the city center, but it’s in the outskirts as well.”
Wiza also recalls fond memories of playing in a less cautious Stevens Point as a youth. He mentions playing “King of the Mountain” in the large snow piles in the former Portesi’s parking lot, and riding his bike and playing “Capture the Flag” in the Johns Drive area of the woods.
“Everybody is so cautious about stuff, where you don’t have that ability to explore yourself like we did back then,” said Wiza. “A lot of kids and how they’re socializing – Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram – there’s not a lot of interaction. “
In 1999, Wiza was working in the computer field, and on New Year’s Eve. He was one of many across the country running tests on mainframes to ensure that the world didn’t end on New Year’s Day, 2000.
“About 20 years ago everyone was losing it over Y2k.” said Wiza.
“I knew that your coffee maker wasn’t going to rise up and kill you in your sleep, but there were people talking about this and believing that anything that was electronic was going to go all haywire. Technology was going to be gone and that we’ll be back in the Stone Age.”
Technology has infinitely changed the way things are run now in the community. As permits, city meetings, and all other pertinent information can now be found online.
“You want to know exactly what happened and not someone’s interpretation or abbreviated summary of what happened, you can watch the video.” said Wiza.
What does the future hold for Stevens Point?
“Flying cars, right?” joked Wiza.
“In high school I remember thinking in the year 2000 ‘I’m going to be so old, I probably won’t even be around then.’ – We’ll have flying cars, robot housekeepers and stuff – but that never happened.”
Wiza has high hopes that in the near future, the city, — and the country – will move towards a greener, more environmentally friendly place to live.
“I would like to think that our reliance on fossil fuels will be significantly if not completely reduced. I think we can get there one step at a time. I hope people wake up and realize what they’re doing to their environment with the amount of trash they throw away and the products they buy.”
Also recognizes the continued rise of automation, and how that will likely affect local businesses. However, Wiza feels that local businesses will adapt and remain as relevant than ever in the future. He points to the skilled labor market as a large need as well, as these industries will need employees.
As smaller businesses adapt to rising technology, it erases the need to hit big-box retailers. He hopes the focus will be more on local shopping than ever before. No matter what the future holds, he bets on small business being an important part of the community.
“Twenty years from now you will still need the expert advice of local businesses.”