Dan Warren reflects on serving Waukesha for more than two decades
Was president of school board, water utility for number of years
Warm weather, relaxation and sitting poolside are all in Dan Warren's immediate future.
But while he's enjoying retirement at The Villages in central Florida with his wife, Nola, don't be surprised if the day's events in Waukesha are still in the back of his mind.
"Just because I'll be 1,200 miles away, my interest in the water utility and its quest for Lake Michigan water and my support in that will not go away," Warren said. "The same goes for the school district. I will remain in contact with both the school district and water utility because they've been so much a part of my life."
Warren was a longtime president of the Waukesha Water Utility Commission (he didn't accept another appointment last month after serving for 24 years) and has been on the Waukesha School Board for 21 years (he's resigning Jan. 1, 2014).
"I felt I had a specific skill set the district and citizens could benefit from," said Warren, who has a civil engineer degree from Univeristy of Wisconsin-Madison and a master's degree in finance from the Keller Graduate School of Management of DeVry University.
Joining school board
However, with three boys (Max, Crosby and Logan) in the district at the time, Warren said he got involved because of budget and spending concerns.
He earned a spot on the board in 1992 and since then he has had a say in what goes on in one of the state's largest districts.
"Over the span of 21 years and two decades, so many things have occurred in a positive way, it's difficult to signal out certain things," Warren said.
But it didn't take long for Warren to begin highlighting the changes he helped foster as a board member and president, a position he's held the last five years.
His first year a referendum was passed for the construction of Waukesha West High School and Summit View Elementary School. And along the way, multiple charter schools opened in the district, including an online academy and a school that focuses on the STEM principles (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
"I'm most proud of the charter schools that have been created," Warren said. "It shows we're a district of opportunity and can excel in many areas."
Meanwhile, he and the board have also made prudent financial decisions to re-purpose or close certain schools.
Changing with times
Another positive decision, he said, the board made is moving sixth-graders into the middle schools a few years ago and reconfiguring the district's bilingual system.
And one of his last major votes was helping implement the district's new technology initiative called "Waukesha One." A major component of this is putting iPads in schools over the next three years.
"The district has always been a leader in terms of technology," Warren said. "We're all about delivering high-end education. We're a very diverse student population in terms of socioeconomic profile, which I think is a testament that we're here to create opportunities, to educate all children and to do it effectively."
School Board member Joseph Como said Warren did his job effectively.
"Dan has served the public well," said Como, who worked with Warren for 11 years. "He has spent countless hours working diligently toward solutions that help move the district forward while balancing the needs of our constituents with those of our staff and students."
Encouraged by ACT 10
But Warren added "despite challenges from the state," he's proud he was part of a district that "manages budgets very effectively without losing programs or staff." He praised Superintendent Todd Gray for leading the district during tough financial times.
"I refer to Todd as a blue chip individual," Warren said. "He's one of the reasons I wanted to continue to participate as a school board member. When you have an exceptional person you can trust and who is up front with difficult issues, it makes board members' participation that much more rewarding."
Gray's involvement, the board's decisions over the years and the students and teachers are why he says the "the trajectory of the district is heading in a very positive direction."
Warren is encouraged by ACT 10.
"I'm very happy with some of the opportunities it created in terms of giving our administration and our board more flexibility in creating a compensation system for our teachers based on student achievement where it rewards our staff who go above and beyond," he said.
Making water decisions
When Warren wasn't at school board meetings, he turned his attention to the Water Utility Commission.
Most of his time was devoted to studies that looked at Waukesha's future water supply and alternatives. He was part of a team that released a 134-page report titled "Future Water Supply" in March 2002.
It took the city down a path that eventually led to a historic decision last fall when Waukesha entered into an agreement to connect with the City of Oak Creek in the sale of Lake Michigan water.
The city is under a court-ordered deadline to have radium-compliant water by 2018.
"My first meeting 24 years ago the word 'radium' came up, so I have been associated with that issue and that term since then," Warren said. "One of my first tasks was to understand what it was, some of the analysis that had been done and the realistic health risks."
Giving Warren thanks
Warren, the development manager of the Pabst Farms Development in Oconomowoc, said serving on the Water Utility Commission was a perfect fit. Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak, who has worked with Warren since 2003, agreed.
"We appreciate the almost 25 years Dan Warren has given to the Waukesha community," Duchniak said. "He has spent countless hours advocating for the residents of the City of Waukesha as a water commissioner leading the effort in dealing with radium and the search for a new water supply. His leadership and vision will be greatly missed as he moves on to the next chapter of his life."
While Waukesha's water application still has to pass many hurdles, Warren is confident it will be approved.
"I think the odds are in our favor," he said. "This is a very rigorous, objective, thorough application so that's why I have the confidence the other environmental agencies and the other states are going to see that and use the information objectively and come to believe what we know and that is Waukesha's application demonstrates this is the most long-term environmental and sustainable alternative for Waukesha."
Change of scenery
If it's eventually approved, Warren, however, won't be here to see the finished product (he leaves early next year for the luxurious retirement community).
"I would have loved to (be around) to see the Great Lakes application become successful and that's why I'm going to continue to support the water utility," Warren said. "I invested so much not to be interested."
But, after investing so much time in the Waukesha community, he's ready to put his attention elsewhere.
"My move to Florida allows a big change," Warren said. "My wife is going to be the priority. In the past, with my day job, and then the water utility and school board, which can be demanding, sometimes the family takes a back seat and that is no longer going to be the case."
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