Barrett Taps Polenske For Public Works
Veteran City Engineer to become head of 2,300-employee Department of Public Works.
Mayor Tom Barrett didn’t have to look far to replace recently departed Department of Public Works (DPW) Commissioner Ghassan Korban. Barrett selected longtime City Engineer Jeff Polenske to lead the department.
Polenske will need to be confirmed by the Common Council, but it’s a position he’s been in before. Polenske has served as City Engineer, a council confirmed job, since August 2000. He was originally appointed by Mayor John Norquist, and has been reappointed by Barrett four times.
Barrett said he interviewed five or six of the many applicants, but “at the end of the process, we felt that Jeff was the one that was best suited to step right in and continue the work from Ghassan.” Polenske had the skills, temperament and experience to move the department forward, the mayor said.
Polenske graduated from UW-Milwaukee in 1990 with a degree in civil engineering and immediately got to work at the city as a traffic control engineer. Promoted twice, he left the city for less than a year in 1999 to work at Earth Tech. He returned in 2000 when he was appointed City Engineer by Norquist. He is a licensed professional engineer in Wisconsin.
He’ll replace longtime colleague Ghassan Korban who retired in August. Korban had been with the department since 1987, and the commissioner since 2011. Barrett said Korban’s decision to retire didn’t surprise him, and he knew Korban was actively looking for another job.
Polenske’s appointment is likely to be first heard by the Public Works Committee on November 15th. An agenda for that meeting has not yet been released.
Korban’s New Gig
Korban’s new job is much higher paying ($265,000 annually), and likely more stressful job, as Executive Director of the Sewerage and Water Board of the City of New Orleans. He’s the seventh person to hold the job is less than a year.
Korban was praised by members of the council for his accessibility, both via phone and in person, during his time as commissioner in Milwaukee. His phone is likely to get plenty of work in New Orleans as he’s begun to lay out a vision to entirely replace the city’s aging drainage, water and sewerage systems.
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