MMSD’s Shafer Gets ‘2016 Policymaker of the Year’ Award


Kevin Shafer

Gathering Waters, a Wisconsin association dedicated to helping land trusts, landowners and communities protect natural resources, has named Kevin Shafer, executive director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District (MMSD), its 2016 Policymaker of the Year.

At the MMSD, Shafer has fostered a cooperative relationship between the district and a wide range of public and private conservation partners. His leadership has resulted in the implementation of cost effective, creative solutions for reducing water runoff and wastewater discharge with resounding success — drastically improving the water quality of the Milwaukee River watershed.

During his tenure at MMSD, Shafer has guided the agency’s embrace of green infrastructure. By utilizing incentive programs that aid homeowners with the costs of rain gardens and rain barrels, in addition to removing the concrete lining and dams in Milwaukee’s rivers, lake and streams, rain water is trapped where it falls. This approach reduces the rate and severity of floods, and cleans the water as it’s filtered through the ground.

Additionally, Shafer has significantly shaped the ways in which MMSD works and collaborates with the communities it serves.

“Kevin has transformed the relationship MMSD has with its surrounding communities,” said Christine Nuernberg, former Mayor of Mequon, Wis. “Kevin’s collaborative approach has replaced the adversarial relationship that predominated the past.” This newfound cooperation has enabled MMSD to work with municipalities, conservation groups and other stakeholders to implement Greenseams.

Greenseams is a program that places upstream shorelines and wetlands in Milwaukee’s watershed under conservation easements (meaning, development of the property is permanently restricted). In addition to preventing floods, filtering water and cleaning the air, these habitats revitalize natural areas in otherwise developed communities and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation.

“By being a visionary and team player, Kevin has made Milwaukee a national leader in innovative storm water management,” said Jeff Martinka, executive director of Neighborhood House of Milwaukee.

Shafer has served as executive director of MMSD since 2002 and has been instrumental in steering the district’s innovative and collaborative approaches to solving water quality issues.

RELATED: Shafer Helps Milwaukee Maintain Leadership Position.

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