County Board welcomes new judge

By JAMES KATES / The Capstone

The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors met the county’s new circuit judge on Tuesday, though the jurist is hardly a stranger here.

Robert F. Dehring is joining the Circuit Court as judge of Branch 3 on April 1. He was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker to succeed Judge David Wambach, who has retired.

Dehring, a native of southeast Wisconsin, came to Jefferson County to work in the corporation counsel’s office in 2009. He became a part-time court commissioner in 2010 and later held that job full-time in Waukesha County.

Addressing board members, Dehring said he had traveled throughout the county to meet with elected officials at the town, village and city level.

He and his wife are building a home in Ixonia.

“As a judge it’s my plan to increase access to justice at the courthouse” while controlling costs, he said, assuring board members that “it’s possible to do more with less.”

Dehring began practicing law in 2003. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a law degree from Marquette University.

Strategic Plan consultant

Also on Tuesday, the board reviewed details on a Brookfiled consulting firm that has been chosen to help with the county’s new strategic plan.

The Chamness Group of Brookfield will help write the plan at a cost between $15,000 and $20,000, County Administrator Ben Wehmeier said. The last plan was done in 2010.

The plan is a “big-thinking initiative” that lays out the county’s top priorities in a time of increasing costs and tight limits on any new taxes, County Board Chair Jim Schroeder told reporters before the meeting.

Chamness will be reaching out to county supervisors and staff for their input in the weeks and months ahead, Schroeder added. Public comment also will be sought, with the goal of completing the plan by August.

The Chamness Group has 29 years of planning experience, including recent projects with Calumet County and the Wisconsin Counties Association.

In other action Tuesday, the board:

— Received the resignation of Tim Smith, county supervisor from District 29, which encompasses part of the city of Fort Atkinson. Smith said personal responsibilities had made it impossible for him to continue in the job. Schroeder said three people had applied for the vacancy, and he promised to name a successor by next month, subject to the County Board’s approval.

— Heard the annual report from Staci Hoffman, register of deeds. Hoffman said a robust real-estate market had boosted fee income for handling deeds, and the office was able to contribute more than $305,000 to the county’s general fund in 2016.

— Heard from Barb Frank, the county clerk. Frank told board members that her office had begun online voter registration in 2016. The office oversaw four elections, including the November 2016 presidential contest, and conducted a recount of the presidential ballots in December.

— Received a tally of per-diem payments to County Board members. Total payments have been trending downward since 2011. Board members receive a salary of $55 per month and are paid $55 per meeting attended. Aside from Schroeder, who was paid $13,749.03 in salary and per-diems in 2016, payments to board members ranged from about $2,200 to about $6,500.

— Authorized the use of $85,000 from the Human Services Department budget originally earmarked for a roofing job to be used toward upgrading alarm systems in Human Services buildings. The roof of the main Human Services Building is holding up better than expected and may not need replacing for another five years, officials said.