The Milwaukee RiverWalk District will hold its annual meeting on February 13, and honor three individuals with a 2018 Gertie Award for their vision and determination to improve the district.

Each year since 1994, the Milwaukee Riverwalk District has bestowed its Gertie Award to recipients from both the private and public sectors for their characteristics that are likened to that of Gertie the Duck. The Gertie Award is named for the famed duck who survived on the Milwaukee River beneath Wisconsin Avenue against all odds.

In 1945, the mallard was perched on top of river pilings in her nest, protecting her eggs. As she waited for her eggs to hatch, she gained attention from Milwaukeeans. Her popularity garnered her a personal guard, she received thousands of Mother’s Day postcards and letters and was visited by more than 100,000 people.

Gertie Award Winners are nominated and chosen by the Milwaukee RiverWalk District Board of Directors and are presented annually. Past winners include Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett; Steve Costello, President of Bradley Center; Russ and Jim Klisch of Lakefront Brewery; Dr. Eckhart Grohmann of the Milwaukee School of Engineering and Grohmann Museum, and Barry Mandel of The Mandel Group.

The three individuals who will each receive a Gertie Award are Captain Scott Cassavant, captain of the Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Milwaukee River skimmer; William Bott, Milwaukee Rowing Club Outreach Coordinator and Boys Coach; and Alderman Jim Bohl, Fifth District, City of Milwaukee.

Captain Scott Cassavant is the captain of Lynyrd Skynyrd, a 50-foot long debris collection vessel which sails the Milwaukee and Menomonee Rivers in search of floating debris. In 2017, he and his crew picked up a record 1,545 cubic yards or approximately 330 tons of floating debris which is both a nuisance and a safety issue. Captain Scott is known for his dedication and for consistently going out of his way to tackle difficult items found within the river. Without Captain Scott, Milwaukee’s rivers would not be the booming epicenter of recreational activity they have quickly become. His work significantly enhances the river-centric businesses and the experiences of property owners and visitors would be very different.

William Bott is the outreach coordinator and coach for the Milwaukee Rowing Club. Originally a Rowing Club athlete himself, he saw the benefit of this sport and helped to launch the Milwaukee Rowing Club’s Middle School program in 2013. Since it began, the team has grown immensely due to Will’s dedication to the athletes. He has developed a diverse, engaged and thriving team and has addressed many obstacles to get to this point. With the help of his mother, he transports the students to practices and, ensuring their safety, also transports and provides them with swim instruction. This program continues to evolve under Will’s leadership and brings a positive team environment and experience to the Milwaukee River.

Alderman Jim Bohl is the chair of the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhood, and Development Committee for the City of Milwaukee. He has been a RiverWalk supporter for many years, having taken the time to understand the funding mechanism for the public/private Riverwalk system and engaged in learning the important, financial details in order to assess the impact on the city and tax payers. As ZND Chair, Alderman Bohl has seen numerous tax incremental financing district creation and amendment files, which have served as the primary Riverwalk funding source since 2000. Without the unwavering support from Alderman Bohl and the Common Council, it would have been incredibly difficult to see the property values along the river increase at the rate they have over the past 30 years.

The Milwaukee Riverwalk District is a not-for-profit corporation of Wisconsin whose membership consists of property owners, businesses, organizations and individuals within the District.

© Photo

Cathy Stanley-Erickson