While elected the City of Manitowoc’s youngest Mayor at the age of twenty-two, Mayor Nickels is not unlike the community he was elected to lead. Both Mayor Nickels and the City of Manitowoc are vibrant, energetic, forward thinking and have a tremendous amount of community pride that is rooted in the understanding of Manitowoc’s deep history and tradition.
Like most of Manitowoc’s citizens, Mayor Nickels grew up in a working class family with an affinity for helping those around them. Mayor Nickels saw the venue of government and public discourse - with its capacity for neighbors and strangers to come together for the collective benefit of everyone - as the perfect place to continue acting on this affinity.
This led Mayor Nickels to enter politics and government at a young age - working on campaigns and debating public policy since the age of nine. In 2005, at the age of eighteen and still in high school, Mayor Nickels beat the odds and defied the critics when he was elected to serve on the Common Council, defeating a sixteen year incumbent to represent Manitowoc’s Second Aldermanic District.
During Mayor Nickels’ time on the Council, he remained steadfast in his commitment to listen first and act second to ensure he was acting according to the will of those he represented - a commitment that he has brought with him to the Mayor’s office. Mayor Nickels served as the Council’s leading advocate for fiscal responsibility, with the mantra that, “We must prioritize our needs over our wants,” a mantra that he has also brought with him to the Mayor’s office.
On the Council, Mayor Nickels served on numerous committees, including Finance, as well as Personnel, where he served four years as Chairperson. Mayor Nickels served as City Council President from April 2007 through April 2008. He was re-elected to the Council in 2007 and 2009.
On April 7, 2009, Justin M. Nickels was elected Manitowoc’s twenty-seventh Mayor - its youngest Mayor ever, succeeding Manitowoc’s longest serving mayor, Kevin Crawford. Mayor Nickels defeated challenger Dave Soeldner with 50.1% of the vote, only a 17-vote difference with almost 10,000 citizens voting.
During Mayor Nickels’ time as Mayor, he has focused on fiscal responsibility, debt reduction, investments in revitalizing downtown and the industrial park, parks/beach improvements, and creating a strong quality of life for citizens and visitors alike.
Under Mayor Nickels’ leadership, the city has reduced its debt every year, has established financial policies to protect the city long-term, and a plan to address future budgets.
Downtown has seen a strong resurgence, especially after the purchase of the CN peninsula, a 20+ acre parcel of property adjacent to the Manitowoc River and downtown. Now the River Point District, there is development and excitement.
Mayor Nickels is currently serving in his fourth term as Mayor of Manitowoc, a term that expires on Tuesday, April 22, 2025.
On April 2, 2013, Mayor Nickels was re-elected to a second-term with 83.7% of the vote against challenger Tony Burgarino.
On April 4, 2017, Mayor Nickels was re-elected to a third-term with 65.4% of the vote against challenger Barry Nelson.
On April 6, 2021, Mayor Nickels was re-elected to a fourth-term with 68.3% of the vote against challenger Chris Able.
Function of the Mayor
The Mayor is the chief executive officer and the chief elected official of the City and is responsible for the day-to-day administration and management of the City overseeing a workforce of 350 full-time employees. The Mayor appoints and supervises department heads; appoints members to boards and committees; provides legislative research support; addresses constituents concerns; prepares and submits the annual City budget to the Common Council for review and approval; represents the interests of the City at the local, state and federal level; and promotes the City through professional representation at community events.
Mayor's Office Responsibilities:
- Responsible for supervising a work force of approximately 350 city officers and employees
- Management of city government functions such as the City Charter Law, Municipal Borrowing, Taxation, Health, Traffic, Open Meeting Law, Police, Fire, Public Works, Zoning, Housing, Redevelopment, Manitowoc Public Utilities, Planning, etc
- Overseeing the City of Manitowoc Common Council meetings the 3rd Monday of every month
- Provides leadership to further city development and growth
- Administers programs for city development
- Responsible for $65 million dollar budget and all fiscal matters in connection with taxation and operation
PUBLIC RELATIONS COORDINATION:
- Prepares and delivers proclamations, recognitions, and other ceremonial functions
- Resolves constituent complaints
- Organizes employee events
- Appoints various members to City Boards, Commission, and Committees
- Appoints members to Standing Committees of the City Council