Millennial Matt Milcarek-Committed to Kalamazoo0
Matt Milcarek and his wife, Nicole, were visiting Kalamazoo regularly from their home in Indiana in September of 2008, helping a friend renovate a house in Kalamazoo’s Vine Neighborhood. By December of that year, they became homeowners in the very same charming, historical district.
A professional builder by trade, Milcarek envisioned bringing his skills to Kalamazoo. “There is just something about Kalamazoo that appeals to us,” said Milcarek, recently elected Kalamazoo City Commissioner.
“It’s a large enough city to where it has a lot going on and a lot of potential, but not too large so that you’re lost in a sea of hundreds of thousands of people.”
After moving here and securing a job as construction manager for Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. Milcarek quickly emerged on to the political scene right in his own backyard. He had an early impact both on the board of the Vine Neighborhood Association and on the City’s Community Development Act Advisory Committee.
His past work on state and national campaigns taught him that change and efforts show up faster at a local or regional effort. How fortunate for the rest of us. “I wanted to focus my efforts where real change could happen,” said Milcarek.
Serving over six years on neighborhood boards and city initiatives echoed that sentiment. The community voices became loud and clear. Along with that came his decision to run for public office on the next level.
Milcarek was voted in as one of three new Kalamazoo City Commissioners on Nov. 3, along with Erin Knott and Shannon Sykes.
First on Commissioner Milcarek’s list is to focus more on the city’s budget and growth, which includes drafting and passing a sustainable solution to diversify Kalamazoo’s revenue sources, which will enhance the budgeting process.
“I hope to be a reasonable voice at the city that helps drive forward some initiatives our residents would like to see happen,” said Milcarek.
“Right now, the city of Kalamazoo is more dependent on revenue from property taxes for their budget than most cities its size,” said Milcarek. Serving on the city's Blue Ribbon Revenue Panel has given him some insight into how the city can develop a more sustainable fiscal plan. He is anxious to fix the budget and move on to quality of life issues.
According to Milcarek, the millennial generation moves around a lot, and they’re always looking for that “great city.”
“I take it as my obligation to think about how we can be one of those great cities,” said Milcarek. What things are happening in places like Portland or Minneapolis to attract the next generation of leaders?
“I think Kalamazoo already has a lot of these things, but we also have a long way to go on some other issues. Of most importance, I think young people want a city that works and make sense,” said Milcarek. “As someone who came to Kalamazoo from another state, I also bring a different mindset to the table. I have a lot of respect for some historical norms in this community, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do things different if there’s a better way.”
As a member of the next generation of leaders, Milcarek sees Kalamazoo as a land of opportunity. His family, which now includes one-year-old daughter Tesla, enjoys living within walking distance to downtown and parks.
“Location, people, and culture make this a great place to call home. We have our own set of challenges, but who doesn’t?” Milcarek said. “We have a lot of work to do to ensure there are more opportunities for more people, but we’re in a strong place for this region, and I look forward to making us stronger.”