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"Waukesha" has almost become a swear word on this site. Waukesha County, the reddest county in Wisconsin, came through with an extra 7,000 votes for Supreme Court Justice David Prosser 2 days after the polls closed. Scott Walker received more votes in Waukesha County than in any other county in the state during the 2010 governor's race.

I understand the hostility. But I live here, and all is not what it seems.

Waukesha (pronounced WALK-eh-SHAW. "Wauk" means water in the Objibwe language, as in Mil-WAUK-ee, and WAUK-egan) is both a city and a county about 15 miles west of Milwaukee.

The county has become a suburban sprawl, hence its red character.

The city of Waukesha, though, is a place that this dyed in the wool liberal is not ashamed to call home.

Waukesha was once a completely distinct city, separated by sparsely settled farmland from Milwaukee.

It was once world-famous for its drinking water, from natural springs which still exist in the city;  there are more than a few local businesses with "Spring City" in their name. The Chicago World's Fair in 1893 wanted nothing but the best. So they had to have genuine Waukesha water. The public, though, was not too happy with city officials when they learned that the World's Fair would take virtually every drop of water produced in Waukesha. A train carrying World's Fair officials sent to finalize the contract was turned away by an angry mob of locals.

Waukesha is still known for it's crazy maze of downtown one-way streets. The downtown area is not without charm. It features a pleasant mix of local businesses, coffee shops, restaurants, and apartment buildings, all located along the Fox River. The river is gracefully incorporated into downtown with an excellent river walk with many bridges and fountains.

Waukesha's most famous citizens include Les Paul, the inventor of the electric guitar, and Paul Hamm, Olympic gymnastic gold medalist (Paul and his brother Morgan were friends with a boy who lived next door to us. At a birthday party, they played on our swing-set in the adjoining backyard - my brush with immortality).

The city of Waukesha has a large and prominent Hispanic population. The city is by no means lily white. My daughters attended Waukesha South High School, the most diverse of the three city high schools. They got an excellent education, but Waukesha South ain't the Beverly Hills Academy, that's for sure.

Politically, I will never feel at home in Waukesha County. But the city of Waukesha is my home, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Originally posted to orymartin on Wed Apr 27, 2011 at 06:12 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive.

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