Putting down roots
West Bend’s new economic development manager returns to the area after taking a winding road

By RALPH CHAPOCO - Daily News

Dec. 3, 2017

Gitter smiles as he talks about his journey to West Bend.
John Ehlke/Daily News

Adam Gitter’s life has been comprised of different paths, learning skills from those experiences that ultimately led him to a career opportunity in the area.

He was hired as the economic development manager for the city during October, overseeing multiple aspects of the city’s business outreach operations. The position represents more than that to him, however. For Gitter it is an opportunity to continue his passion in public service.

“We decided it would be smarter for us to own a home,” he said when he and his spouse were living in Milwaukee at the time. “Where was the happiest we had ever been? It was West Bend. The downtown area up as part of the conversation when we were deciding where we were going to set our roots and where we were going to build our family.”

Gitter grew up in Kewaskum and enrolled at the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater for his first year at college before transferring to the University of Wisconsin-Washington County. He earned his associate’s degree from the school and decided to enlist in the Army.

“I guess there was always a lot of reasons to do it,” Gitter said about his decision to enlist. “I have been asked that a lot. I don’t have really have a solid answer for it. It was 2005 when I joined, but I left for basic in 2006. Sure, it was going to help out for school, but I have always been a patriotic guy.”

He was assigned to a military police reserve unit and was deployed to Afghanistan. His unit would patrol the area, perform customs duties and man checkpoints in the area.

Even in a conflict zone, he reminisces about times spent with his friends. He spoke of moments when they played video games together.

“The stories I like to tell are, we would take a Wii and set it up and project it on the side of a semitruck,” Gitter said. “We would play golf while in the middle of Afghanistan, like the Tiger Woods golf game, that is the type of fun we had when we over there.”

The army afforded him the chance to enroll in college and earn his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He later earned a graduate degree from the same institution.

Upon graduating, he began another career in the nonprofit sector, working as a case manager for an organization in Kenosha. He dealt with people going through the court system, speaking with others and assisting with issues within their lives.

“I liked to listen to what other people have going on, help them problem solve,” Gitter said. “If they need different resources, that was one thing I would always make sure I would have available or present in a great way to them.”

An American flag folded and displayed above the desk of
Economical Development Manager for the city of West Bend

John Ehlke/Daily News

After 10 months, he was promoted to a manage an offsite location and eventually became an assistant program director, ensuring that reports were provided to those who funded the organization’s mission.

“I really liked the organizational aspect of it all,” he said. “From there, I decided to go back in 2014 and get my master’s in public administration.”

He said he was always interested in the public sector and opted to specialize in economic development.

“Economic development was the most fun I could have, studying that,” Gitter said. “The projects, the puzzles, everything that goes into what the city could do for a business, what are the things that a city should do to help grow, all of that. It is a great puzzle. It was fun.”

His education would eventually lead him to the position he has with the city.

“It is just a lot of fun,” Gitter said.