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Henry Traxler, legendary city manager
In 1922 the citizens of Janesville set out to revamp their municipal government. They were looking for a man who would take the pettiness out of politics, “the politics out of city government.” They found Henry Traxler.
Traxler’s administrative accomplishments helped develop Janseville’s civic infrastructure. The police department received modern patrol cars and crime detection equipment. The fire department was centralized in one station and its firefighters dressed with up-to-date firefighting equipment, none over ten years old. The health department was also centralized and adopted a sanitary inspection department, fluorine treatment of drinking water, a school health program, twice-monthly well-baby clinics, and immunization and vaccination services. In 1950, after 27 years of city management, Traxler and Janesville could boast of having the lowest taxes in Wisconsin for a city of its size.
It would be impossible to reflect on Traxler’s career without mentioning the 1937 Sit Down Strike. Arguably, the strike would not have been resolved as peacefully as it was had it not been for Henry Traxler. Traxler served as mediator between General Motors company officials and the sit-down strikers. It was in his offices where General Motors company officials agreed to discontinue production at the Chevrolet and Fisher Body plants if the sit-down strikers would leave the two local facilities. Traxler first announced the agreement in the lobby of the main Chevrolet office. Upon hearing the agreement, Chevrolet strikers’ conceded to leaving the plant only if the Fisher Body men did so too. Traxler presented the agreement to the Fisher strikers, informed them of their counterparts acclamation, and they too agreed to leave their respective plant. The Chevrolet and Fisher men returned home that evening, feeling that they had accomplished what they had set out to do: close the two plants.
Between 1923 and 1951 Henry Traxler, Janesville’s first city manager, oversaw the development of the Janesville community. Janesville was administered like a corporation, allowing Traxler to undertake a wide variety of civic improvements without dragging Janesville into debt. Among his most notable accomplishments is the development of Riverside Park; four hundred and fifty acres were added to the 95-acre park. Various public works, such as the construction of Monterey and Racine Street bridges, modern downtown street lighting, municipal parking and the establishment of the sewage treatment plant, are but a few of Traxler’s municipal projects.