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Milwaukee County increasing wages, stepping up lifeguard recruitment efforts to keep pools, beaches open next summer

Posted at 9:08 PM, Nov 03, 2021

MILWAUKEE — Two hundred lifeguards. That's the ideal number of staff Milwaukee County officials are hoping to recruit for next summer after dealing with a rough season this year.

In 2019, Milwaukee County had 135 lifeguards for the summer. In 2020, the county had between 80 and 100. This year there was less than 100 lifeguards recruited. Officials were left with no choice but to close eight of their 12 county pools and have beaches go unsupervised.

"What we saw in 2021 was probably the most dramatic lifeguard staff shortage that we've ever seen," said Interim Deputy Director for Milwaukee County Parks, Jim Tarantino.

lifeguard staffing
Officials were left with no choice but to close eight of their 12 county pools and have beaches go unsupervised.

That's why Milwaukee County Parks and Rec officials are beginning their recruitment efforts now in order to reach their goal of being fully staffed by next season. Part of that effort includes an increase in pay. Depending on your experience and job status, pay starts at $15 an hour and now goes up to $29. This is compared to the original rates of $12 to $26 an hour.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee County Supervisor Shawn Rolland has created a proposal that would give the parks department $100,000 to increase recruitment efforts.

"I was worried that growing the wage was not enough, that we needed to do more to promote these jobs to make people aware," Rolland said. "My expectation is that the parks department leadership will partner with experts to build a marketing and communications plan, find more applicants so we can hire the talent we need.

"We will be doing everything that we can to work with the school districts and swim clubs to make sure that people who have swim ability, who want to work in the aquatics field, we are recruiting them to come to Milwaukee County," said Tarantino.

Rolland adds that his proposal was approved by the board's finance committee and will now go before the full board of supervisors soon for final approval. He says if all goes well, he hopes that not a single beach or pool will have to close next year.

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