If you happen to be in the neighborhood of West North and Wauwatosa avenues some Tuesday evening around 7:15 – like tonight – you might chance to see a taller-than-average skateboarder navigating the busy intersection.
That would be Bobby Pantuso, alderman for the 5th District on the Wauwatosa Common Council, riding his customized Tosa board.
While plenty of elected officials have ridden bicycles to public meetings, Pantuso has taken to small wheels to raise awareness of the efforts of a Tosa youth group to build a skatepark in Hart Park.
Pantuso skated to committee meetings last Tuesday in sort of a trial run. He said he would repeat tonight for the benefit of the whole Common Council.
Tosa Skateboarders United formed about seven years ago when plans for the expanded Hart Park were being formed and the city put out the call for ideas for amenities citizens wanted to see there.
TSU has hung together ever since, while the stadium was rebuilt, the Rotary Pavilion performance stage was completed, as plans are being finalized for a new children's play area.
Fundraising has continued to be a challenge for the skateboarders, though, and they still have a long way to go to reach their goal of raising $650,000 to realize their dream.
And that's what prompted Pantuso to don a helmet and brave the traffic of North Avenue.
"A while back, I had an opportunity to meet the TSU group and become very aware of their plans," Pantuso said. "I had known of the group for a few years and had even dropped some money in the jar at a few events.
"The first thing that struck me was how dedicated they are to this park. They want it built and for the right reasons."
Pantuso hopes his position as a Tosa elected official will give him and the group a little more attention.
"When you get elected, society gives you a soap-box," he said. "Some choose to use it and some not at all. Up till now, I have used mine to be an advocate for East Tosa, but I feel strongly about getting this project built.
"It's a great addition to Hart Park and an excellent asset for Wauwatosa. I decided that perhaps a guy in his mid-30s going up North Avenue on Tuesday night might turn a few heads and get TSU some more attention.
"I worry that skateboarders can occasionally get a bad rap. You can be a skateboarder and grow up to be an alderman. My oldest son is a great kid, plays the cello, plays baseball – do I have any problems with him skateboarding? Of course not. It's a fun and creative activity he can do with his friends while getting exercise. As a parent that's a win-win."
Pantuso has seen the benefit a controlled environment for skateboarding can have – not just for the kids but for their community.
"I drive all over the state for my day job," he said. "A few weeks ago, I was in Beloit and stopped at the skatepark there to watch for a while. There were skateboarders as young as 3 up to adult age. It was fun to watch. If I had had my board with me I would have dropped in.
"Even today, I went past the skatepark in Delafield. There were easily 20 to 25 skaters and an equal number of adults standing and sitting around watching the fun and talking."
To donate to Tosa Skateboarders United, visit this page.