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Barczak family reach half-century mark in their service to West Allis

May 6, 2014

West Allis — West Allis Alderman Gary Barczak sat in his usual seat at the Common Council table but that evening there was something almost unreal about the council meeting.

It was 50 years agothat his dad took the very same seat as a 3rd District alderman. His father, Steve Barczak, was elected in 1964 and served 24 years in that seat. When he stepped down, his son, Gary, was elected and served 26 years, rounding out 50 years of service to the city on the Common Council by a Barczak.

"To me, it was a real special night," Gary Barczak said. "Fifty years of service by a Barczak to the city is pretty neat and pretty cool.

"I'd almost say I was a little emotional, especially at the end of the meeting. He had brought one of his treasured possessions to the meeting, a framed newspaper story about his father handing over aldermanic responsibilities to his son. Barczak wanted a photograph taken of himself holding the story at their aldermanic seat.

Pulling out the picture that night and talking about his dad, who has passed away, Barczak said: "He was sorta there."

Alderman Tom Lajsic knew both father and son. "They both are very dedicated to their constituents," he said.

That dedication extended to his dad working hard to get a playing field for the city's soccer team, Barczak said.

"At that time, soccer was real popular in West Allis," he said.

By 1988 when Gary took office, there were soccer fields at Reservoir Park. His son added to that legacy with the help of Development Director John Stibal by getting federal dollars to pay for a Little League field at Reservoir Park, also.

The park is special because: "That was a joint effort between my dad and I," Barczak said.

The field is named after his dad and Steve threw out the first pitch. "And my son umped the game," Barczak said.

The new library was another joint project for father and son. They both worked to build the new library on the site of a former football field and both their names are on the plaque in the library's entrance. Barczak looks at that plaque and remembers his dad every time he goes into the library, he said.

He also remembers that in the early days, you could canoe past flooded houses in an area that didn't have storm sewers. Steve Barczak soon did something about that.

"My dad was responsible for getting storm sewers and the flooding problem is nowhere near as bad," Barczak said. He was only 12 when he saw his father take the oath of office and the experience changed his life.

"I said, 'Man, I'm going to be there someday'," Barczak remembered.

His father often took him along to meetings with constituents who had problems, and little Gary knew that a job helping people was for him.

"There's a big satisfaction being able to help somebody," Barczak said. "I love talking to people, helping them out and getting them on the right course. It's extremely gratifying."

He and his dad did have a few differences of opinion along the way, however. One was over cruising on Highway 100 that Barczak and the rest of the Common Council were still battling with as recently as this week.

Barczak had proposed anti-cruising measures but his father didn't think they would work.

"He said, 'You're not going to be able to get that done, you're not going to be able to get that done," Barczak remembered. But the council passed the landmark ordinances and indeed cruising fell off.

"We still have cruising, I'm not going to deny that, but it's nowhere near as bad as it used to be," he said.

Lajsic said: "Gary is very much like his father. I think their attitudes are pretty much the same. His dad had a passion for the little guy," that is carried on in his son."

They have a similar style, too, he said.

"Gary's dad was a very, very personable man, just like Gary is," Lajsic said. His dad especially had a great sense of humor and was fun to have at meetings, he said.

Longtime former alderman Jim Sengstock, who retired from the council last fall and served with father and son, paid tribute to the energy that they brought to their service.

"It was my privilege to be associated and serve with Gary and his father," Sengstock said.

AT A GLANCE

The 50 years of service to the city by a Barczak include many landmarks for West Allis:

· A new library that consolidated three neighborhood libraries, streamlining library functions and reducing costs

· A new police and municipal court building

· Farmers Market renovation

· Creation of the Community Development Authority and Department of Development that began the city's aggressive effort to redevelop after the collapse of the big manufacturers within its borders

· Major improvements at Reservoir and Rogers parks

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