In 1924, a handful of businessmen petitioned to create the village of Sussex to distance themselves from the farm community of Lisbon.
On Sept. 15 of that year, their wish was granted and the area was incorporated, with a population of 387.
Today, the village has grown to nearly 28 times that size — with a 2015 population estimate of 10,753 according to recent U.S. census data — and is flourishing at just as fast a rate.
With easy-access roads to get to nearby municipalities and Interstate 41, a public school system that received a “significantly exceeds expectations” rating on the latest Wisconsin School Report Card and a thriving group of businesses from end to end, Sussex is on the fast track to become one of the fastest-growing communities in Waukesha County.
And it won’t be the first time that has happened. Between 1987 and 1990, the population in Sussex doubled from 4,160 to 8,277, just as the Pauline Haass Library was opening its doors.
Library Director Kathy Klager, who has been with the library since it opened in 1988, remembered how the expanding community called for larger library services.
“Citizen expectations have really increased over the years, and that’s a great thing,” Klager said. “We’ve always tried to be very aware of the needs of the community.”
The library offered e-books before most people even knew what they were, Klager recalled, and has since tailored its services to the diverse community it serves — although with the current growth, she said it might be time for another expansion.
“We’re ready for our next big burst as a community,” Klager said. “It’s not just about checking out books. By providing jobs and education and helping people have a better life, they can make this a better community.”
An expanding community requires expanding residences, and at a Hamilton School Board meeting earlier in the summer, Village President Greg Goetz described the roughly $138.5 million dedicated to residential growth, which is expected to add about $24 million to the tax base.
The village will add new homes where families with children will likely move in, as well as another senior housing space in 2017 and more high-end apartments in years to come.
For those moving into Sussex, they will be met with many opportunities, explained village historian Fred Keller.
“It is the ‘law’ that all subdivisions will be within walking distance of a park,” Keller said. Sussex boasts 13 parks in addition to its stretch of the Bugline trail, the popular recreational path that spans from Menomonee Falls to Merton.
Residents also stay safe with an on-site police station in Sussex and help from the county sheriff’s department, Keller added.
Employment opportunities are skyrocketing with the continued growth of Quad Graphics, which employs 2,000 people, jobs in local grocery stores and retail spaces and small businesses. And the recently opened Meijer Supercenter created dozens of new jobs, as well as adding about $20 million to the tax base, Goetz said.
At that same meeting, retired district superintendent Kathleen Cooke spoke about the growth she has seen in the public schools.
Hamilton High School has its largest enrollment numbers ever, Cooke explained, and it is projected to continue in that direction. More than 2,000 children participated in summer school programs this summer, and the district received a “top workplace” recognition from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Student achievement levels “are at the top-top of the county, and spending levels are at the bottom of the county,” Cooke said. The district was even able to pull off its last facility expansion without calling for a community referendum first.
The next steps for Hamilton schools may include an additional one, likely a middle or elementary school, Cooke added. Numbers are “maxed” at Woodside Elementary, they are getting large at Marcy Elementary and there is “not much more room” at Lannon Elementary, she said.
With projects still to come, like the completion of the new Village Hall, construction on Main Street, a 2017 Village Park Master Plan and many more, Sussex residents will continue to see changes and expansions.
But for Keller, it is still the place he has called home for years — a community of citizens that have always wanted to see the best for their village, no matter what.