Waukesha community development director Steve Crandell stepping down in August

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Published on: 2/11/2014

Steve Crandell came to Waukesha simply because his wife got a job for the Waukesha School District as a speech pathologist.

He not only found his career here but stayed for almost 40 years — that is, until he retires this summer.

"I was thinking about it for some time, and after doing the necessary homework I thought it was time," said Crandell, who announced his intentions last week.

He will step down the first week of August.

"This has been a very privileged career, and I have seen the transformation and growth of this community," Crandell said.

He has held numerous positions with the city, most recently as community development director.

He started in 1976 as an intern in the city Land Use Division before beginning his career in the Engineering Department. Crandell spent one year there before moving to the city Planning Department.

Crandell served as the city's planner until he became the community development director in 1998. The department is broken into the Planning Division and Building Inspection Division.

"Steve is one of the city's most passionate advocates and his love for the city shows every day in his approach to the work he does for the city," said City of Waukesha Planner Jennifer Andrews.

In recent years, Crandell has also stepped up as an interim city administrator on two occasions. The first was in 2007 for eight months before Lori Luther was hired in 2008.

After she left her position in mid-2011, Crandell again filled in until the city hired its new city administrator, Ed Henschel, more than a year later.

Crandell said one of his biggest projects was in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the Fox River Corridor development.

Andrews agreed that one of Crandell's "most notable" projects that had a "significant impact on not only the quality of life in Waukesha but the economic strength of the city" was the Riverwalk.

"The Riverwalk served as a catalyst to other important redevelopment projects downtown and showcased the Fox River as one of the city's most valuable natural and economic resources," Andrews said.

Crandell said many of the transformations have been made possible through the city's use of tax incremental financing, which has helped to create jobs and businesses.

"We've been using TIFs since 1978 and were one of the first communities in the state to do so," Crandell said. "It allows the city to put in new infrastructure, and it's not paid out by general taxpayers. The use of TIFs has created an industrial base and has helped revitalize downtown."

Crandell was also involved with the now-disbanded downtown Business Improvement District.

Crandell said finding his replacement will be up to the city administrator and mayor.

Whoever replaces him will have a tough act to follow, Andrews said.

"It is undeniable that Steve is a leader among the staff and in the community," Andrews said. "How he approaches his work at the city and his strong ethics have earned him the respect of other government officials, business leaders and the community at large.

"Steve has been a mentor and friend to not only staff members in his own department but to staff members citywide. His retirement from public service is well deserved but his leadership and professional knowledge will be missed in the public and private sector alike."