John Mielke leaves lasting legacy
Co-founder of Ruekert & Mielke had great impact on Waukesha County’s growth

By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

Jan. 9, 2018

John Mielke, left, and Frank Ruekert are seen surveying a job site in this photo from the late 1940s. Ruekert retired from the firm in 1974. Mielke followed 15 years later.
Dave Fidlin/Special to The Freeman.

CITY OF PEWAUKEE — Most of his work took place behind the public eye, but many of John Mielke’s accomplishments are readily recognizable.

As the co-founder of Ruekert & Mielke, a venerable, 72-year-old engineering firm, Mielke played a role in establishing a number of municipalities across Waukesha County. He also was credited with using state-of-the-art technology to help develop Brookfield Square in the 1960s. But Mielke, who died Jan. 1 at age 99, has local roots that stretch back much further. He was born in Waukesha, graduated from Waukesha High School and, briefly, worked for the city of Waukesha. His accomplishments at City Hall included overseeing a board that developed the municipal building code.

In 1946, after serving in the U.S. Army, Mielke and business partner Frank Ruekert developed their namesake engineering firm, which was initially housed out of a two-room upstairs space at 203 N. Grand Ave. in Waukesha.

Today, the company is housed in an office complex in the City of Pewaukee.

“He was my mentor and my trainer,” said Mielke’s son, William Mielke, the company’s board chairman, president and chief executive officer. “He was very ethical and set a very high bar for his profession. I had very big shoes to fill.”

Ruekert & Mielke’s different office sites over the years, following the company’s growth.
Dave Fidlin/Special to The Freeman.

William Mielke said he was inspired by his father’s work ethic from a young age.

“He was a great father,” he said. “His influence helped drive me, and it helped make me a better, more successful engineer.” With their engineering prowess, Mielke and Ruekert played a pivotal part in developing a number of Waukesha County communities. They developed the infrastructure needed to compliment the incorporations of the cities of Brookfield, Muskego, New Berlin and Pewaukee and the village of Oconomowoc Lake.

“He developed all of these as cities and a village when they were just towns, mostly with farms,” William Mielke said. “He has played an important part in Waukesha County’s history.”

As a Feb. 22, 1957 article from The Freeman’s archives attests, Mielke’s interest in engineering began at Waukesha High School. In an interview with the newspaper at the time, he credited school advisors and teachers with helping him enter the profession.

“In college, I was able to make it in a straight four years because I was well prepared in high school,” Mielke told The Freeman that year.

 

John Mielke

See John Mielke’s full obituary

John H. Mielke

In the article, Mielke said the village of Pewaukee gave his then-infant firm “a really big break” when the municipality hired he and Ruekert to design a sewage treatment plant in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

The article stated Ruekert & Mielke employed eight engineers as it surpassed its decade anniversary. Today, William Mielke said the company’s team of engineers is around 100 professionals.

While much of the company’s legacy is traced to the growth of area municipalities, Ruekert-Mielke’s stamp is also on an assortment of private developments across the county.

The company developed a complex water system, for instance, as Brookfield Square was being developed. The company’s credits also are traced to sewer and water infrastructure at a sprawling industrial park in New Berlin.

Mielke and wife Lois (nee Trakel) had four children: Linda Melham (John), William (Barbara), Cherry [correct spelling] Finck (Doug) and Jill May (Ron). They further had eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Lois preceded John Mielke in death in 2016.