Sheboygan, WI 2019

Join us in the City of Sheboygan, the Spirit on the Lake, for the 2019 Annual Conference.

Each year, during our Annual Conference, we tackle issues and obstacles that face the health and conservation of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River and their communities. It is our mission not only to educate and protect our member mayors from threats that arise from water pollution and damaging weather events but also to defend the greatest source of freshwater in the world from invasive species, pollution and depletion.  Our conference theme this year is Living Blue: Transforming Waterfronts and the three pillars of the conference are social and community engagement, economic growth and sustainable strength in waterfront communities.


Check out all that Sheboygan has to offer – from fine dining and local breweries to fun and exciting activities on the lake – by exploring their visitor guide. See guide HERE.

Please contact or (312) 201-4518 with any questions regarding this year's Annual Conference.


Early Bird Registration now open until April 1, 2019!



**Contact with any questions.

Delegate Program Agenda

Download the Draft Agenda

Draft Agenda
Last drafted April 18, 2019

Wednesday, June 5 at the Blue Harbor Convention Center


7:00 am – 8:00 am


Registration check-in

7:00 am – 3:00 pm


Opening Ceremonies

8:00 am – 9:00 am


Panel 1: Creating Healthier Communities through Waterfront Access

9:15 am – 10:00 am

Waterfronts provide much needed space to refresh and renew. This panel will highlight new ways to bring people to the waterfront by providing trails, swimming piers, clean beaches, entertainment and engaging spaces that help contribute to healthier lifestyles. Having waterfronts that are clean, green and connected, attract people and employers to your community. What are the best ways to bring people to the water? How can we learn new methods to manage growth and conflict among waterfront users? Come hear from Mayors and municipal leaders the latest ideas on healthy waterfronts to put to use in your community.


  1. Mayor Paul Dyster, Niagara Falls, New York
  2. Liz Silver, Associate Principal of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates & Tim Dekker, President of LimnoTech
  3. Marlaine Koehler, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail
  4. Mayor Shaun Collier, Ajax, Ontario


Panel 2: Untapped Potential: Waterfront Economic Development

10:15 am – 11:00 am

Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Communities understand best the potential of waterfronts. After all, the region grew on the backbone of working waterfronts and industries that relied on an abundance of freshwater and access to shipping. How can communities today harness their waterfronts to continue economic growth and development while balancing the need for sustainability, accessibility, and resiliency. Join us for this panel to learn from communities, agencies and experts working on waterfront economic development in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River region.


  1. Mayor Mike Vandersteen, Sheboygan, Wisconsin
  2. Cathy Stepp, Region 5 Administrator of the EPA
  3. Bruce Burrows, President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce
  4. Mairesse Maud Allaire, Contrecoeur, Québec


Sheboygan River Clean Up Project introduction

11:00 – 11:15 am

Chad Pelishek, Director of Planning & Development Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Sheboygan, will introduce the Sheboygan River Clean-Up Project in preparation for the 12:30 Tour. Read more about the project HERE.


Brat Fry

11:15 am – 12:15 pm

Sheboygan is the Bratwurst Capital of the World, and they take it seriously! After battling Bucyrus, Ohio in 1970 for the title, Sheboygan has been sharing their rich tradition with the rest of the Midwest and the rest of the world. Therefore, what better way to celebrate Sheboygan than to have a traditional brat fry! Enjoy a Johnsonville bratwurst the Sheboygan way during the brat fry – fryed on a grill, placed in a round bun and topped with mustard and onions. YUM!
Interested in the history of brat frys and what it means to be the Bratwurst Capital of the World? Read more HERE.

For the non-meat eaters, fret not, vegetarian food options will be available.


Sheboygan River Clean Up Tour

12:30 pm – 2:15 pm

Led by Chad Pelishek,  Director of Planning & Development Sustainability Coordinator


Member Meeting**

2:30 pm – 5:30 pm

Members will receive a detailed agenda for the member meeting closer to the date.


Legislative Night Reception

5:35 pm – 6:35 pm


Member Reception and Awards Dinner**

6:30 pm – 7:00 pm

Awards Ceremony

7:00 pm –  8:00 pm


8:00 pm – 9:00 pm


Thursday, June 6 at the Blue Harbor Convention Center


7:00 am – 8:00 am



7:00 am – 12:00 pm


Welcome to Day 2

8:00 am – 8:30 am


In Conversation with Dr. Don Wuebbles

Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Basin and How to Move Forward

8:30 am – 9:30 am

Learn more about Dr. Wuebbles
Donald J. Wuebbles is the Harry E. Preble Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Illinois and is an expert in atmospheric physics and chemistry. As an award winning, world renowned climate scientist with over 500 scientific publications and research on the Great Lakes, he brings a unique and important perspective to waterfront communities especially surrounding the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. He has co-authored a number of international and national scientific assessments, including several international climate assessments led by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for which IPCC was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He co-led the first volume of the 4th U.S. National Climate Assessment published in November 2017 that assesses the science of climate change, and co-authored Volume II published in November 2018. Dr. Wuebbles worked with 17 scientists and other experts in producing the 2019 Assessment of the Impacts of Climate Change on the Great Lakes. Dr. Wuebbles has received a number of major awards, including the Cleveland Abbe Award from the American Meteorological Society, the Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the 2018 Bert Bolin Global Environmental Change Award from the American Geophysical Union. He is a Fellow of three major professional science societies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Meteorological Society.

A preview from Don
Climate change is causing significant and far-reaching impacts on the Great Lakes and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region. As part of getting at the these solutions, the Center for Urban Resilience and Environmental Sustainability (CURES) at the University of Illinois is aimed at using our extensive expertise in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, business, and design to help cities with their environmental and sustainability issues — and to help cities prepare for and address the many stresses, including climate change, they are facing now and over the coming decades. Our aim is to also have a number of local partners (policymakers, universities, industry, and other stakeholders) in the cities we aim to help, both big and small, in the United States and around the world.


Press Conference

9:45 am – 10:45 am

Speaker Presentation

11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Speakers TBA



12:15 am – 1:00 pm


Panel 3: Planning for the Future: Keeping Waterfronts Resilient and Sustainable

1:15 pm – 2:00 pm

The challenges presented by climate change create the need for transformational leadership. This panel will present communities that have seized this opportunity to demonstrate that leadership through action on their waterfronts. Presentations will address resilience to the unavoidable impacts of climate change, by enhancing ecological services from wetlands and other green infrastructure, along with outreach and engagement opportunities presented by waterfronts.


  1. Deputy Mayor Michelle Morin-Doyle, Québec City, Québec
  2. Zachary Bengtsson, BostonCenter Lead of the NASA DEVELOP National Program
  3. Kevin Shafer, Executive Director of Milwaukee Metropolital Sewarage District (MSSD)
  4. Mayor Cathy Poirier, Percé, Québec

Networking Coffee/ Exhibitor Break

2:00 pm – 2:30 pm


Round Table Sessions

2:30 pm – 4:00 pm

Attend our Round Table sessions and engage in discussions and debates with fellow delegates regarding 3 topics, which will be announced soon. The moderator of each Round Table session will facilitate conversation between experts and the delegates. Come ready with questions and stories relating to the 3 topics. Not only is this a chance learn from experts in their field, but it is also an opportunity to share best practices. The discussion sections will be open and delegates will be able to choose which section(s) they wish to attend.

The three Round Tables will be


  1. Building blocks for a successful waterfront development – how do you create public engagement, find funding and manage conflicting visions to create a successful waterfront development and maintain resiliency?
  2. Reducing microplastics – how can municipal governments play a role in reducing microplastics in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River?
  3. The highs and lows of water management – how to manage and utilize technology for flooding, erosion, wastewater and their effects in your community?


Round Table Wrap-Up and Solutions Sharing

4:00 pm – 4:30 pm


Gala Dinner at the American Club

6:00 pm -7:00 pm

Cocktail Hour

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Dinner and Entertainment


Friday, June 7 “Showing off Sheboygan”

River Clean-Up Volunteer Opportunity

Time TBA


Exciting Family Fun Activities

Stay in Sheboygan for the day or for the weekend! Mayor Vandersteen and the City of Sheboygan have cooked up some activities – relaxing and adventurous – for the delegates and accompanying families!

Powerboat cruise

Take a powerboat cruise up the Sheboygan River and along the lakefront to learn about new developments including the proposed Innovation District. The duration of the cruise is 1 hour, each cruise accommodates up to 15 passengers. This event is offered for no fee to attendees of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative Annual Conference.



Go sailing !

Take in a 1-hour sailing experience on Lake Michigan. The sailboat accommodates up to 6 passengers. This event is offered for no fee to attendees of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative Annual Conference.


Companion Program Agenda

Download the Agenda


Wednesday, June 5

~ Discover the Whimsical and Wonderful Hidden Gems of Sheboygan! ~



7:00 am – 8:00 am



7:00 am – 3:00 pm


Depart Blue Harbor Conference Center

9:45 am 


Bookworm Gardens 

10:00 am – 11:45 am 

Begin your morning with a guided tour through Bookworm Gardens. This whimsical storybook garden takes your favorite children’s book, adds in the vibrant colors and texture of nature and creates a one-of-kind, come-to-life setting. Climb aboard the horse-drawn wagon and walk through the cabin at the Little House on the Prairie story. Sit in the over-sized chairs and see the playful bears with Goldilocks. Climb into the tree with Winnie the Pooh. You will experience stories like never before. The amount of loving detail brought to life is magical for all ages!


Fresh Meals on Wheels Lunch/Tour

12:00 am – 2:00 pm

Then, off to lunch at Fresh Meals on Wheels for a mouth-watering, home-cooked meal showcasing local foods. Afterwards, tour this gem of the community. This local site is not your average “make food, deliver it to shut-ins” facility. This state-of-the-art center is the model that many in the US are trying to duplicate. With the latest technology in safety features, a top-of- the-line kitchen set up, health guidelines that are hospital grade and a staff of volunteers that is top
notch – the community is in good hands with this service.


Return Blue Harbor Conference Center

2:15 pm


Thursday, June 6

~ Explore the Kohler Art & Design Center ~


7:00 am – 8:00 am



7:00 am – 8:15 pm


Depart Blue Harbor Conference Center

9:45 am 


Tour & Lunch at Arts Center

10:00 am – 12:45 pm

When you hear the name “Kohler”, you may think of bathroom and kitchen fixtures, but there is so much more to the name. Begin your morning at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, a contemporary art museum in the heart of downtown Sheboygan. A docent-led tour showcases this gem of a museum with the latest art display and unique exhibits throughout. Don’t forget to check out the Art Center’s famous restrooms, where every surface is a canvas. A light lunch buffet is served in the gallery after the tour.


Kohler Design Center/Free Time

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Take a short drive to the quaint village of Kohler where the community pride is evident in the meticulous landscape, the colorful blooms and the old-world architecture. You are on your own to explore the Kohler Design Center, a three-level showcase of innovative product design and technology. A fusion of old and new, the space offers a comprehensive representation of the Kohler Company and their state-of-the-art products and stunning examples of interior design. If you feel up to stretching your legs a bit, visit the American Club®, the Midwest’s only AAA Five Diamond resort hotel, or take in some retail therapy at The Shops at Woodlake.


Return Blue Harbor Conference Center

2:15 pm

Friday Fun Activities in Sheboygan

Stay in Sheboygan after the conference and enjoy some exciting, fun activities for you and the whole family.


Take a powerboat cruise up the Sheboygan River and along the lakefront to learn about new developments including the proposed Innovation District. The duration of the cruise is 1 hour, each cruise accommodates up to 15 passengers. This event is offered for no fee to attendees of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative Annual Conference.




Take in a 1-hour sailing experience on Lake Michigan. The sailboat accommodates up to 6 passengers. This event is offered for no fee to attendees of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative Annual Conference.


Hotel and Transportation

Book your hotel room!

We encourage you to stay at the Blue Harbor Resort where there is a room block reserved for Conference attendees. Rooms in the reserved block are offered at a discounted rate of $157/night, tax included. To book your room, visit, click to the “Reservations” or “Book now” page, and then enter the dates, number of guests and the group code: 7AY0ZG to get the discounted rate. Or you can call Blue Harbor at (920) 452-2900 and use the same code.



To Sheboygan: The closest airport is Mitchell International Airport (MKE) in Milwaukee, WI. Sheboygan, WI is an hour north of Milwaukee via car. We suggest renting a car from MKE to drive to Sheboygan Blue Harbor (725 Blue Harbor Drive, Sheboygan WI). If you would like a shuttle to and from MKE Airport to the Blue Harbor Conference Center and Hotel, please consult the Go Riteway website HERE. Use the MKE Amtrak station stop and Blue Harbor’s address (725 Blue Harbor Drive Sheboygan, WI) when looking for a shuttle service that best fits you.

GO Riteway offers a couple of different shuttle options to chose from. For examples please see the photo below.

During the conference: Transportation during the conference, for conference events and activities, will be provided free of cost to the Conference attendees.


If you have any questions, please reach out to Jane Eagleton at