Milwaukee, Wisconsin Mayor Henry W. Maier Administration, Records


Henry W. Maier was born on February 7, 1918 in Dayton, Ohio, to Charles and Marie Nelke. His father died when Maier was eleven months old, and Henry took his stepfather's surname upon entering the University of Wisconsin. Maier's maternal grandparents raised him in Springfield, Ohio.

Maier attended the University of Wisconsin Extension in Milwaukee from 1936 to 1938 and received a B.A from the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1940. After college, Maier worked for several insurance companies. A First Lieutenant (USNR) during World War II, Maier served as a supply officer on a destroyer in the Pacific. Following the war Maier returned to the insurance business and opened his own general agency, which he operated throughout his years in the legislature. He received an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1964.

Maier's grandparents, supporters of Franklin Roosevelt, kindled his interest in politics and encouraged him to enter public life. He became active in the Roosevelt for President Club at the UW Extension in 1936, and also in local Progressive and Socialist groups and the League for Liberal Action. For a period in 1940, Maier was a member of the Willkie for President Club, based on his anti-war feelings, but he eventually voted for Roosevelt.

Following his return from World War II, Maier became increasingly active in Milwaukee politics. He ran for mayor in 1948, at the age of twenty-eight, and finished sixth of fifteen candidates. Maier became chairman of the First Ward Democratic Club and worked extensively with Andy Biemiller, Vi Lomoe, Dan Hoan, and others to strengthen the local Democratic Party. He was elected to the state legislature in 1950. Through the 1950s, Maier was active in developing the Democratic Party, fighting reapportionment, and assisting in creating the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He won his first mayoral election in 1960, defeating Henry Reuss.


The Charter of the City of Milwaukee established the mayor's office and duties (chapter 2, section 2; chapter 3, sections 2 and 13; chapter 4, section 1). In 1874 and again in 1882, the Wisconsin State legislature amended the legal status of the mayor's office (Chapter 324, section 2, Laws of Wisconsin, 1882). The 1882 legislation, also found in the current (1992) City Ordinances (Chapter 3, section 1) remains the statutory authority for the mayor's office. The text of the city ordinance reads:

The mayor shall take care that the laws of the state and the ordinances of the city are duly observed and enforced; and that all officers of the city discharge their respective duties. He shall from time to time give the common council such information and recommend such measures as he may deem advantageous to the city. The mayor shall be the chief executive officer, and the head of the fire department and of the police of the city, and in case of a riot or other disturbance, or whenever he and the chief of police shall deem it necessary for the preservation of the public peace and the good order of the city, they may appoint as many special or temporary policemen as they may deem necessary.