Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Ald. Mark Borkowski Retiring

Veteran politician won't run for reelection in 2024.

By - Aug 29th, 2023 04:25 pm
Mark Borkowski

Mark Borkowski

One of Milwaukee’s most quotable, straightforward and consistent politicians is calling it a career.

Alderman Mark Borkowski, 65, announced Tuesday that he won’t pursue reelection in spring 2024.

“It has been an honor and privilege to have represented the South Side for thirty-two years,” said Borkowski in a statement. ”I entered public service to be the voice of my constituents, and I am proud of my record of constituent service and responsible public policy. I feel that I have represented my constituents well.”

The longtime southside resident was first elected to the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors in 1992 and made the jump to the Common Council via a 2015 special election to replace the late Joe Dudzik. Borkowski gave a eulogy at Dudzik’s funeral.

The 11th District alderman currently chairs the Judiciary & Legislation Committee and has a track record of being an active, attentive participant on all of the committees on which he serves. He also earned a reputation for being attentive to constituent concerns, particularly during snowstorms.

“During snowstorms, Mark will drive through his district to dig out elderly constituents whose driveways had been plowed in by City of Milwaukee snow removal trucks,” said friend and political advisor Craig Peterson. “Last year, his car was totaled when he raced to a neighborhood in the middle of the night during a torrential downpour because a constituent had called about street flooding caused by clogged city sewer grates. Unfortunately, Mark’s car became a victim of the flooded street. He also forgot his cell phone so he had to knock on someone’s door in the middle of the night; as his car took on water nearby. ”

Following the 2020 retirement of Ald. Robert Donovan, Borkowski became the most conservative member of the non-partisan council. That often found him being the most outspoken defender of rank-and-file police officers and voting against settlement agreements, but his positions have long been far more complex than traditional partisan divides. He’s championed the city’s general laborers and voted for a 2% sales tax increase while also being critical of additional spending. In 2000, he voted for the infamous county pension sweetener that triggered seven recalls of board members, but avoided facing one himself and has said he wouldn’t have voted for it if he knew that the county executive and others, including himself, would be enriched by the deal. He floated a jackpot tax at the casino in the past year, and has voted against the city pursuing a repeal of the state’s abortion ban and a policy to make single-stall bathrooms gender-neutral. As Department of Public Works representatives found in recent years, he could switch from criticizing someone to praising them when he perceived service improved.

During his time with the county and city, he established a pattern of questioning transit investments beyond providing basic bus service. After pledging to eat his tie if the Milwaukee County Transit System bike racks were used 100,000 times, the good-humored Borkowski was presented with a cake adorned with a frosting tie. Since making the jump to the Common Council, Borkowski has been an outspoken critic of the streetcar.

While he finishes out his term, which runs through April 2024, he’ll have plenty of chances to offer more of his classic quotes, often frank, off-the-cuff assessments. “I might be the council’s drama queen,” he said during a July 7, 2022 meeting.

“This profession has been tremendously rewarding, but after thirty-two years, it’s time to move on,” said Borkowski on Tuesday. “Being alderman is not a forty-hour-per-week job. It’s non-stop seven days per week, beginning early mornings at the office and carrying into evenings and weekends with boots on the ground in the district. As city services decrease and property taxes increase, it’s important that constituents have a say in how those limited resources are distributed. I am honored to have been their voice in City Hall and the County Courthouse.”

The veteran politician credits his mother and father, deacon Donald Borkowski and the late Antoinette Borkowski for his interest in public service. “I remember when mom and dad helped organize S.H.A.R.E. (Self Help and Resource Exchange) in the mid-1980s and the satisfaction they felt knowing they were helping their neighbors. I have tried to emulate them and stand on their shoulders from the example they have shown me,” said Borkowski.

Borkowski has two adult children. The Wedgewood Park neighborhood resident holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Carroll College. He was previously the national director and national commissioner of the Polish National Alliance and president of the Milwaukee Society Polish National Alliance Group 2159. Borkowski was recognized as the “Polish American of the Year” in 2015 by the Milwaukee Society Group 2159. He previously worked as executive director of the Mitchell Street Advancement Corp. and served as a special events director for the American Heart Association of Wisconsin.

The alderman’s political career almost stopped before it started. He ran unsuccessfully for county clerk in 1988 and county treasurer in 1990. After winning his county board seat in 1992, he was re-elected five times. As the county board was switched to a part-time role and two-year terms, Borkowski made the jump to the city seat. After winning a special election, he was reelected to four-year terms in 2016 and 2020.

A primary, if three or more candidates run to replace him, will be held in February. The general election will be held in April.

The voting age population of the 11th District, which encompasses the city’s southwest side, is 65.6% white, 5.6% Black, 4.54% Asian and 21.5% Hispanic. It was 77.9% white following the 2010 census, but has seen its demographics change following the end of the city’s residency requirement. Council members are paid $73,222 per year.

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Categories: City Hall, Politics

4 thoughts on “City Hall: Ald. Mark Borkowski Retiring”

  1. dk mke says:

    What a true servant of his constituents. I didn’t always agree with him but even so he was always thoughtful and truly listened.

  2. Paul Nannis says:

    About time

  3. RetiredResident says:

    That’s what Marky B said until a seat that paid twice as much came open and he got a city pension in addition to his county pension.

  4. Marty wall says:

    to Alderman Borkowski: May you be blessed with a long, healthy and happy retirement. However, I am compelled to remind you that much work remains to be done as we are in an Emergency. You, while Chairing the Public Safety Committee on December 2, 2021 (with the full vocal support of Alderman Scott Spiker), took a long and hard look at ” Reckless Driving “. The Committee listened to “comments from the public, from the Police Department, and the Fire and Police Commission. More than 15 citizens spoke to the issue, concentrating on the Sherman Park area. As the compelling testimony raised the issue to the highest level, you rightly stated that more needed to be done. You, and Alder Spiker, called out Mayor Tom Barrett to take action …. despite being a ‘lame duck ‘. Furthermore, you, as Chair, promised the citizens that a special meeting was to be called on this Emergency. This crisis of Reckless Driving, with “babies” and their bicycles lying in the street, Dead!, endures. No meeting yet!…….. Nothing on today’s Agenda of The Honorable Public Safety Committee regarding the Emergency…… No coherent, actionable plan. This powerful Committee, with the power to compel testimony and appearance through subpoena, must take action. I know you will not be another “lame duck”. Let us all take action before the next “baby” is hit by this Emergency; the recent bodies laid on the North side, but could just as easily been at Wilson Park, or Buelah Briton, or Jackson Park, or Kopp’s Park. Come on City Hall. AllTogether. thank you for reading this thought. marty.

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