Mayor's Biography

Mayor Nickels

While elected the City of Manitowoc’s youngest mayor at the age of twenty-two, Mayor Nickels is not unlike the community he was elected to lead. Both Mayor Nickels and the City of Manitowoc are vibrant, energetic, forward thinking and have a tremendous amount of community pride that is rooted in the understanding of Manitowoc’s deep history and tradition.

Mayor Nickels was born and raised in Manitowoc as was most of his family on both his mother’s and father’s side. Like most of Manitowoc’s citizens, Mayor Nickels grew up in a working class family with an affinity for helping those around them. Mayor Nickels saw the venue of government and public discourse - with its capacity for neighbors and strangers to come together for the collective benefit of everyone - as the perfect place to continue acting on this affinity.

This led Mayor Nickels to enter politics and government at a young age - working on campaigns and debating public policy since the age of nine. In 2005, at the age of eighteen and still in high school, Mayor Nickels beat the odds and defied the critics when he was elected to serve on the Common Council, defeating a 16-year incumbent to represent Manitowoc’s Second Aldermanic District.

During Mayor Nickels’ time on the Council, he remained steadfast in his commitment to listen first and act second to ensure he was acting according to the will of those he represented - a commitment that he has brought with him to the Mayor’s Office. Mayor Nickels served as the council’s leading advocate for fiscal responsibility, with the mantra that, “We must prioritize our needs over our wants,” a mantra that he has also brought with him to the Mayor’s Office.

On the Council, Mayor Nickels served on numerous committees, including Finance, as well as Personnel, where he served four years as chairperson. Mayor Nickels served as Common Council President from April 2007 through April 2008. He was re-elected to the council in 2007 and served a total of four years in that capacity.

On May 23, 2008, Mayor Nickels announced his candidacy for mayor of the City of Manitowoc. There would be a five-way primary between three Common Council members (Mayor Nickels being one of them), the County Clerk, and a local business owner. On February 10, 2009, Mayor Nickels won 9 of 10 districts to finish first in the primary to go onto the General Election in April.

On April 7, 2009, Justin M. Nickels was elected Manitowoc’s 27th mayor - its youngest mayor ever, succeeding Manitowoc’s longest consecutive serving mayor, Kevin Crawford. It proved to be a difficult decision for voters, as Mayor Nickels won by 17 votes out of almost 10,000 ballots cast.

On April 2, 2013, Mayor Nickels was re-elected to a second term with 84% of the vote.

On April 4, 2017, Mayor Nickels was re-elected to a third term with 65% of the vote.

Function of the Mayor

The Mayor is the chief executive officer and the chief elected official of the City and is responsible for the administration and management of the City. The Mayor appoints and supervises department heads; appoints members to boards and committees; provides legislative research support; addresses constituents concerns; prepares and submits the annual City budget to the Common Council for review and approval; represents the interests of the City at the local, state and federal level; and promotes the City through professional representation at community events.

Mayor's Office Responsibilities:


  • Responsible for supervising a work force of approximately 350 city officers and employees
  • Management of city government functions such as the City Charter Law, Municipal Borrowing, Taxation, Health, Traffic, Open Meeting Law, Police, Fire, Public Works, Zoning, Housing, Redevelopment, Manitowoc Public Utilities, Planning, etc
  • Overseeing the City of Manitowoc Common Council meetings the 3rd Monday of every month


  • Provides leadership to further city development and growth
  • Administers programs for city development


  • Responsible for $75 million dollar budget and all fiscal matters in connection with taxation and operation


  • Prepares and delivers proclamations, recognitions, and other ceremonial functions
  • Resolves constituent complaints
  • Organizes employee events


  • Appoints various members to City Boards, Commission, and Committees
  • Appoints members to Standing Committees of the City Council