MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee County officials are calling on the community for help after recent numbers show the number of lifeguards the county will have for the upcoming summer season is not where they should be.
"I am worried about the summer. What are we going to do if we don't have guards?" asked Sheldon Wasserman, a Milwaukee County Board Supervisor.
"In order for us to open up our pools, we need people to apply," said Milwaukee County Executive, David Crowley.
Officials say in years past, they used to have more than 200 lifeguards staffed for the county, but lately, that number has been declining. Taking a closer look, TMJ4 found that in 2019 Milwaukee County had 135 lifeguards for the summer season, and in 2020, 90 lifeguards were recruited before the pandemic hit. In 2021, they only have 52 lifeguards so far.
"Currently, we are on track to have enough lifeguards to open up about four pool facilities," said Jim Tarantino, director of recreation and business services for Milwaukee County Parks.
The county typically has 12 pools that are used in the summer. Alyssa Kompas says she's been a lifeguard for the West Allis-West Milwaukee Rec Department for three years and is now encouraging others to come out and get certified.
"You are really creating those memories for people, ensuring that they are safe and it's a great way to spend the summer," said Kompas.
Out of the 52 lifeguards the county has for the summer so far, officials say none of them are qualified to guard the lakefront - putting places like Bradford Beach in jeopardy of being unable to open.
"Lake guarding experience is a different skill set than guarding a pool, and we just don't have those people on board right now," said Tarantino.
According to job site company Indeed.com, the average pay rate for lifeguards in Wisconsin is $11.14 an hour, which is 8% lower than the national average. That's why in Milwaukee County they've upped the pay rate for their lifeguards to between $12-$18 an hour.
"We really try to create as many incentives as possible to be able to recruit," said Tarantino.
County officials also say another issue contributing to the decrease in lifeguards is the lack of diversity.
"There is a larger majority of white guards teaching swim lessons, getting people exposed, and developing a workforce. That doesn't look exactly like we do right now, is also another critical component," said Wasserman.
If you're interested in applying to become a lifeguard, or you're looking to find training dates to become certified, you can visit the Milwaukee County Parks and Rec departments click here.