Frank Zeidler Center For Public Discussion Honors Its Namesake's Legacy

May 22, 2017

Tuesday night, an organization whose work is tied specifically toward civil discourse, honors the legacy of its namesake.  The Zeidler Legacy event highlights not just the power of facilitated dialogue, but Milwaukee's mayor who served from 1948 to 1960. Frank Zeidler was the last Socialist mayor of a major American city and spent much of his life after leaving office as a mediator of disputes. 

READ: How Did Socialist Mayors Impact Milwaukee?

"He believed that what he was doing was very important, but he was not important," says Zielder's daughter, Anita. "My dad was really quite modest."

Anita says her father's example still inspires people in public service today. She attributes her father's impact with his personal touch and investment in service.

"He always had in his pocket a little notebook," she recalls. "He would make very careful notes about what (a citizen's) problem was, and when he was able, he would have someone take care of it."

Local historian, author, and Zeidler Legacy keynote speaker John Gurda says that the key goal of socialism in Milwaukee was to have the best quality of life for the greatest number of people, especially workers.

Anita Zeidler and John Gurda in the Lake Effect studio.
Credit Mitch Teich

"(Zeidler) was someone who believed very much in government as a vehicle for enriching our common wealth - and those are two words in (his) estimation. We have a wealth and we hold it in common, and it is our duty to make sure we nurture it, grow it, and pass it on to the next generation," he says.

Since Zeidler's death in 2006, the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion has worked to bring people of differing political philosophies together to hear each other out and advance the goal of overall wealth for the community.

"We think that by getting people together to talk about how they feel (and think) about things, about what their perspective is, that we can get people to understand each other and perhaps cooperate," says Anita Zeidler.

Gurda notes that the legacy of the socialists was instilling Milwaukee's civic consciousness with the expectation of "honesty, efficiency, and a government that works and works for you." The legacy of these principles still lives on in practice at the Zeidler Center.