From the time Brennan Kane was a youngster, he had an interest in architecture.
He went from playing with Legos and Lincoln Logs to taking industrial design courses in high school and studying architecture in college.
On June 3, he became the city of Waupaca’s new economic development director.
“I’ve always had a fascination, outside of architecture, in government and helping people,” Kane said.
After graduating from Ashwaubenon High School in 2001, he headed to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to study architecture.
“It was the only program in the state offering architecture,” Kane said of his decision to go there.
He took an elective course in urban planning and decided to include that track in his studies.
When Kane graduated from UW-Milwaukee in 2005, he did so with a major in architecture and a minor in urban studies.
“Taking urban planning gave me a broader perspective on community development, not only local but a regional basis,” he said.
After Kane graduated from college, he looked for architecture jobs.
“I had a friend working for the village of Mt. Pleasant as an intern. He told me about a position. I started in August (2005),” he said.
Mt. Pleasant was incorporated as a village in 2003. Located in Racine County, its population is about 28,000.
Kane was the village’s deputy director of planning and development.
“Even in the recession, we were still doing $50 to $60 million in development per year in industrial, manufacturing, commercial and residential,” he said.
His background in architecture helped when he worked with developers.
“I knew their language,” Kane said.
In August 2006, he started grad school at UW-Milwaukee.
“I had always planned on getting a master’s,” he said. “I wanted to be the first person in my family to receive a master’s.”
It took him six years to do so, as he continuing working full time for the village of Mt. Pleasant.
Kane pursued a double master’s degree in architecture and urban planning and graduated with that degree in May of 2012.
It’s a small world
“As I continued at Mt. Pleasant, I knew my goal was to find a director position in a community,” he said. “I was looking out of state for a while.”
Kane loves the outdoors and was considering a move to Oregon or Colorado, while also looking for job opportunities in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.
He was interested in a director position in a smaller community or a senior planning position in a larger one.
Kane learned about Waupaca’s opening from Patrick Wetzel.
They graduated from Ashwaubenon High School together, and Wetzel became Weyauwega’s city administrator earlier this year.
Wetzel met Waupaca City Administrator Henry Veleker at an area administrative function, and Veleker asked him if he knew of anyone looking for an economic development job.
“Pat reached out to me. I reached out to Henry and scheduled a meeting with him. I talked to Henry for three hours,” Kane said.
The meeting ended with Kane leaving materials with Veleker.
They remained in contact, a follow-up meeting was scheduled with Mayor Brian Smith and then an interview panel, which included Veleker, Smith, Director of Public Works John Edlebeck, Ald. Paul Mayou and Tom Barron, of the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.
“They interviewed me and made a recommendation to the council,” Kane said.
On May 7, the Waupaca Common Council approved hiring Kane to be the city’s economic development director.
“I was looking for that next position. As I continued coming up here to meet with Henry and the mayor, I grew to love it more and more,” Kane said of the city of Waupaca. “I think the biggest thing is the atmosphere – the community pride portrayed here. It’s always been known as a tourist attraction, destination.”
Main Street, East Gateway
Kane knows the reconstruction of Main Street will be an upcoming project in the city.
“One of the huge reasons I took the position is for the opportunity to work on a project like that,” he said. “Main streets, central business districts are the heartbeat of a community.”
Kane also looks forward to the supervisory role he has in his new position and to the mentorships he will receive here.
“It’s a team approach, a collaborative working environment here,” he said. “I looked at it as an opportunity to grow as a professional.”
In addition to the Main Street project, Kane sees developing the East Gateway as another focus.
“I was hired to bring economic development to the community,” he said. “One thing Henry and I talked about is what is economic development today.”
Kane said economic development is not just about buildings but also about policies, procedures and being business friendly.
“I’m a very transparent individual and very community minded,” he said.
When he is working on a project, he strives for citizen participation and input.
“I want people to speak their minds and present their ideas,” Kane said. “I want to work with people to bring development to the community.”
He has an open door policy and wants to establish a proactive approach to economic development.
Outside of work, the 30 year old enjoys golfing, biking, hiking, kayaking, canoeing and camping.
With grad school behind him, he wants to start running again.
“I’m excited to dive into a lot of different projects within the community. I’m looking forward to working with the businesses and residents who make up this community and moving it in a positive direction,” Kane said.