WBAY-TV in Green Bay reports:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has asked state lawmakers to pass a bill naming a new interchange after a late state senator from Neenah.
The newly constructed 1-41/US 10/WIS 441 Interchange would be named in honor of Michael G. Ellis.
“Mike Ellis was a larger-than-life personality who loved Wisconsin and passionately served the people for more than 45 years,” Governor Walker said. “Today, as we gather in Neenah to celebrate Mike’s life, I am announcing that I will include in our budget, or will sign a bill drafted by the Legislature, naming the brand new I-41/U.S. 10/WIS 441 Interchange in his honor—whichever comes first. It would be a fitting tribute for a man who contributed so much to his community and his state.”
Ellis passed away July 20 at the age of 77. Flags in Wisconsin are flying half-staff Tuesday in his honor.
Ellis made a name for himself on the Neenah Common Council in the late 1960s and 1970s. He was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1970.
Ellis was elected to the State Senate in 1982. He was named President of the State Senate in 2011. He’d serve in that role until his final days in office in 2015.
Ellis told us he was most proud of his work to get Wisconsin public schools more than $400 million in funding, and the transformation of Highway 41 in the Fox Cities. He called it the “Main Street” of the Valley.
That was what Ellis and former U.S Rep. Tom Petri (R–Fond du Lac) were doing while Wisconsin’s two Democratic U.S. senators of the time, Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, were accomplishing nothing for the state.
There is, however, an irony to this. When that interchange opened in it’s original design, it was known locally as the Polish Connection, ostensibly because of all the Polish people who lived in Menasha, but more likely because of the interchange’s original design, which included an off-ramp and an on-ramp using the same pavement, one part of the interchange leading to a dead end since U.S. 10 wasn’t extended west of 41 (10 used to be Wisconsin Avenue in Appleton), and even after 10 opened west of 41, drivers could not go from northbound 41 to westbound 10 from that interchange.
The other thing is that, as far as I know, Ellis wasn’t Polish. “Michal” is “Michael” in Polish, for those who care.