October 7, 2003 - Port Huron Times Herald: Nicaragua RPCV Kris Wisniewski is building bridges in Michigan

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nicaragua: Peace Corps Nicaragua: The Peace Corps in Nicaragua: October 7, 2003 - Port Huron Times Herald: Nicaragua RPCV Kris Wisniewski is building bridges in Michigan

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-48-41.balt.east.verizon.net - 151.196.48.41) on Tuesday, October 07, 2003 - 12:08 pm: Edit Post

Nicaragua RPCV Kris Wisniewski is building bridges in Michigan



Nicaragua RPCV Kris Wisniewski is building bridges in Michigan

Building bridges

Former Port Huron City Council maverick returns to oversee Blue Water plaza expansion

By JOSEPH DEINLEIN
Times Herald

By TONY PITTS, Times Herald

FAMILIAR FACE: Z. Kris Wisniewski has been named project manager for expansion of the Blue Water Bridge plaza. The job is a return home, of sorts. He once was a Port Huron City Council member and lived near Pine Grove Park.


Tom Hutka

NEWSMAKERS

ABOUT THIS SERIES

# Newsmakers is a weekly series looking at the local people behind the stories making news.

A CLOSER LOOK

Z. KRIS WISNIEWSKI, 54

# RESIDENCE: Lansing.

# OCCUPATION: Michigan Department of Transportation federal/bi-national policy specialist and project manager for Blue Water Bridge plaza expansion.

# EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

LITTLE-KNOWN FACTS

# He worked for the Peace Corps in Bolivia and Nicaragua for three years in the 1960s. Because of a change in government, he was "kicked out" of Bolivia after about a year.

# For a few years, he sold solar energy panels. To help promote the product, he worked with Economic Opportunity Committee of St. Clair County to install panels on homes of low- to moderate-income families.

# When he was 41, he did a "midlife change" and went to work for the Michigan Department of Transportation. He started off working on state transportation policy, then was moved up to working on federal transportation policy, then to border issues.

Z. Kris Wisniewski paraphrased the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., when talking about a passion for social justice.

"He used to say that the Peace Corps turned regular Americans into communists," Wisniewski said.

Wisniewski's no communist, but his three years in the 1960s with the Peace Corps in Latin America gave him an interest in workers, affordable housing and community building, he said.

That interest is coming into play again for the former Port Huron City Council member.

The Michigan Department of Transportation has named him project manager for the Blue Water Bridge plaza expansion in Port Huron. The project is expected to begin in the next two years.

"Public involvement is the No. 1 priority in my book," he said.

Wisniewski, 54, grew up near Detroit and earned a degree in economics from the University of Michigan, a far cry from public service.

"I grew up in the Vietnam era," he said. "I didn't support the war. I went into the Peace Corps instead of the military."

There, he saw poverty. Immense poverty. He helped to set up credit unions and agricultural cooperatives. He worked as a leader in helping those in Latin America shrink the "chasm between rich and poor."

He worked in Washington, D.C., for a number of years, where he met his wife, Heidi Thornley, who is from Port Huron.

He moved to Port Huron in the early 1980s and eventually was elected twice to the City Council. While in government, he was passionate about people and neighborhoods, said former councilman and Mayor James Relken, who now is chief executive officer of the St. Clair County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Both men joined the council about the same time and were the "minority."

"He was tenacious back then," Relken said.

"His real motivator was giving a voice to the less fortunate. It gave a good perspective to council."

Now, revitalizing neighborhoods is at the forefront of the council's agenda.

Wisniewski said his work on the Blue Water Bridge still focuses on revitalization.

The plaza will direct more traffic and business into downtown.

"The city enjoys working with (Wisniewski)," City Manager Tom Hutka said.

"We're pleased because of his commitment to community priorities."



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Story Source: Port Huron Times Herald

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nicaragua; COS - Bolivia; Revitalization

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