Aubinger was 'big presence' in Ashwaubenon, county
ASHWAUBENON - Community leaders throughout the area reacted with shock and sadness Friday to news of the death of Ashwaubenon Village President Michael W. Aubinger.
Aubinger, 63, was village president for the past eight years. He died at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
"Today we mourn the loss of a good man who served his community with distinction and honor," Ashwaubenon Village Clerk Patrick Moynihan said during a formal news conference Friday morning.
Aubinger had been ill with cancer for the past few weeks. He died Thursday night at a rehabilitation center, where he had been for one day, Moynihan said.
Moynihan and others credited Aubinger for playing an instrumental role in the village's economic growth and development, notably the Green Bay Packaging expansion and the early stages of the Titletown District development surrounding Lambeau Field.
"What you'll hear a lot of people say is that Mike cared about you as a human being," said Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach. "He was a strong advocate for the community, a great mentor and just a good man."
Streckenbach said Aubinger would call him out of the blue on Friday afternoons, not to talk politics but just to "chit-chat about life," Streckenbach said. "He'd often call reminding me I need to get home to my lovely wife and kids, just ask how I was doing.
"To me, that spoke volumes about what Mike represented."
Aubinger was a strong advocate for the village and the county, and "it was a great pleasure working with him on bigger topics, whether it was the Titletown District, the Expo Center. It was a great pleasure working with him, and a huge loss to the community," Streckenbach said.
Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy, who worked with Aubinger in the development of the Titletown District, said he'll always think of him as he watches that project unfold.
"I think it's going to be his lasting legacy, but he's done so many great things for the community," Murphy said. "I look around, and so many of the improvements we see in this area are a result of his work. He got things done, too. We always knew when we worked with Mike, if he said something, you could count on it. He was just a great person to work with."
De Pere Mayor Mike Walsh spoke of the personal relationship, as well as the professional one, he'd developed with Aubinger through the years.
"If we hadn't talked for a while, either he or I would just pick up the phone to shoot the breeze or catch up on things," Walsh said. "We'd banter back and forth ... he had that dry sense of humor."
Walsh said he and Aubinger worked well together even when things didn't work out, as in recent attempts to rename Ashland Avenue and to create a multijurisdictional tax incremental financing district.
"We were able to work together really well," Walsh said. "My wife Sue and I send our condolences and thoughts and prayers to Annette and his family, and the citizens certainly lost a good man and an icon."
Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt wasn't available to comment but released a statement, saying: "Mike was a good partner and supported the cooperation of our two communities especially as we worked to revitalize the Titletown District. Mike loved Ashwaubenon and had great respect for Green Bay. I'll miss him."
Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, sent a statement expressing sadness about Aubinger's death and describing him as "a great friend."
"His quick wit and humor will be missed by everyone who knew him. Mike was always easy to work with professionally, and I enjoyed knowing him as a friend," Cowles wrote.
The village board on Tuesday appointed trustee Mary Kardoskee as interim president. She'll continue to hold the position while the board determines whether to try to keep the position filled until the next election or to hold a special election for the job.
The board also will decide on an official recognition for Aubinger, Moynihan said. Blaney Funeral Home is handling the funeral arrangements. A visitation will be held Thursday at Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church, 2270 S. Oneida St., Ashwaubenon.
Aubinger was elected to his third term as village president last year.
"Mike was a big presence," Kardoskee said. "He was at every ribbon cutting, every grand opening."
Aubinger was past president of the Ashwaubenon Historical Society, current president of the Brown County Library Board and a past member of the Ashwaubenon School Board.
He and his wife, Annette, published The Press, a weekly newspaper serving Ashwaubenon, Howard-Suamico and Hobart.