A Life Remembered: Nawrocki helped launch downtown vision, Highway 14 improvements | Local News

MANKATO — Long before the city of Mankato’s Envision 2020 blueprint for the future, there was the ACT 2000 plan. Long before the Highway 14 Partnership, there was a loose-knit group of Chamber of Commerce members pushing to upgrade the highway.

Jack Nawrocki was a key figure in both early efforts.

Kathy Sheran, who served for many years with Nawrocki on the City Council, said he helped formulate early plans to create a vision for the downtown through his keen analysis.

“Jack was so thoughtful and measured. He’d ask really important questions that would gather information for us to make decisions as a council. He was always prepared. He was a smart questioner,” Sheran said.

Jacob “Jack” Nawrocki died Sunday at age 75 from ALS.

Former council member Anne Ganey served with Nawrocki for a couple of years, as she was starting and he was ending his tenure on the council.

“I learned a lot from Jack. He was a generous mentor. The city was lucky to have him on the council.”

She said that when there were disagreements on the council, Nawrocki was a steadying force. “When we disagreed, Jack was always so respectful,” Ganey said.

ACT 2000 was fashioned in the early 1990s in response to a downtown being devastated by a loss of retail business. “It had fallen into a lot of vacancies and we were really worried about the deterioration that could occur,” Sheran said.

The council and then-City Manager Bill Bassett developed the plans that would include construction of the civic center and arena, funded through a local sales tax. Sheran said the city was one of the first to be granted permission by the Legislature to enact a local sales tax. The taxing authority was granted, she said, because the city, businesses and other leaders presented a united front in seeking it.

Sheran, who helped in the formation of the Highway 14 Partnership that sought to make the road a four-lane from Rochester to New Ulm, said Nawrocki was working on the issue years before. He worked with the Chamber of Commerce and others to push for an upgraded highway.

“A leader understands what the fundamental infrastructure is that needs to be invested in now for whatever comes in the future,” Sheran said.

Besides his eight years on the council, Nawrocki served as president of the Mankato Area Chamber of Commerce.

Nawrocki grew up on a farm in Martin County and married Linda Miller in 1967. The next year he enlisted in the Air Force and received his training as a Morse code intercept operator.

He — along with Linda — was stationed in Crete, Greece, and then near London, where their two sons were born.

“Here were two kids in their 20s from Martin County dropped in another country in the ‘60s. It was so much fun,” Linda said. “We were well accepted in both countries.”

After he was discharged in 1972, the couple returned to Minnesota. Nawrocki eventually joined Piper Jaffray (now Stifel) as a financial planner.

Linda said he was an avid reader, loved rock and roll music, travel and the outdoors. He and his grown sons restored habitat on the family farm Nawrocki grew up on.

“About 15 years ago they started planting trees and developing it. It’s very nice. He loved the wildlife aspect of it.”

She said Nawrocki’s personality made him a great public servant, husband and dad.

“He seemed to always listen and observe and then he’d sit back and think about it and make a decision.”

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