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Schuetz brings cop experience to Milton administrator post

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
October 28, 2010
— It's just before noon, and Jerry Schuetz's khaki suit has exactly one wrinkle.

He's squared away. Buttoned down. His hair is buzzed short, his handshake firm. He looks and talks like a TV police detective.


As he sits at his new desk at City Hall, it's not hard to believe that Schuetz is the new Milton city administrator.


It's just difficult to imagine that the city's former top cop once signed an employment contract while sitting in a lawn chair in somebody's yard.


This is a guy who calls himself "unequivocally ambitious," someone who rattles off management strategy (communication, collaboration, coordination) while comparing elements of a dust-up at City Hall to a police crime scene. His life philosophy, "It's better to be well respected than to be well liked," sounds like something Winston Churchill or Vince Lombardi would have said.


Schuetz, in a word, is firm.


Still, there's the lawn chair incident—the time in 2008, when, as a newcomer, Schuetz quickly and casually hammered out the terms of his Milton police chief contract in former City Administrator Todd Schmidt's front yard.


"I think there is a very matter-of-fact side of me," Schuetz says.


Schuetz, 37, says matter-of-factness is why he finds Milton, a town of 5,600 people, such a great fit. It's why he decided to apply for the city administrator job when Schmidt announced in August he was resigning to take a post as the village administrator at Waunakee.


"What I appreciate about Milton is that when I was police chief, people would feel comfortable approaching me in my driveway. There's that closeness. People feel connected. It's not like that everywhere," Schuetz says.


Now, Schmidt is out and Schuetz is in. He's forking over his police badge in favor of blueprints and pie charts. Instead of supervising cops, he'll be handling city employees and the Milton City Council.


After 17 years of law enforcement and seven years as a police chief, Schuetz says he's looking forward to stepping outside a cop's world of crisis management.


Now, as city administrator, he gets to create things.


"It'll be exciting to look at a piece of land and envision business there, or to look at an existing void in our community and to collaborate with people to bring new opportunities and services to citizens," Schuetz says.


Having served as interim city administrator in recent weeks, Schuetz says he's become more in tune with the needs of each of the city's departments. He's also started networking with local business organizations and regional city administrator groups to bone up on economic development, which for him is a new ballgame.


"The (city administrator) position is certainly more global, and I'm going to have a lot to learn," Schuetz says.


At city meetings, Schuetz plans to bring the demeanor of a crime scene quarterback. That includes asking questions, offering guidance and listening to people.


"So many of the things I've loved about policing—like interaction with people, being proactive and being innovative—will transcend into the city administrator position," he says.


Still, Schuetz says he'll miss the adrenaline rush that comes with police work.


"I'm a cop," he says. "What's it going to be like the first time I hear sirens wail by and know somebody else is taking care of that? I don't know."


Yet Schuetz isn't wistful for his former job. Instead, he's focused on a horizon loaded with new responsibilities. He's got a city to manage.


Schuetz says watching Schmidt at work has helped him to understand the template for his new job and its rigors.


"I'm thankful for having had the opportunity to see Todd in this chair, to see the amount of energy and enthusiasm he poured in. That's what it takes to fill this role," Schuetz says.


But make no mistake; he's his own Schuetz.


"I'm not a clone of Todd Schmidt. I've got my own personality," Schuetz says.


The city's new administrator says he hopes everyone from developers to residents will appreciate his motto for management:


"In the end, it's not what you've accomplished. It's the way you've made people feel while you were accomplishing it. That's what people remember," Schuetz says.


Meanwhile, don't be surprised if you bump into Schuetz with his wife, Jen, and his children, Colin, 9; Maddy, 6, and Olivia, 3, at a high school football game, on the golf course, or even at one of their favorite local restaurants.


For Schuetz, it's all about lawn chair diplomacy.


"I'm just going to continue to be me—a person who cares very deeply about this community and doing the right things for the people of this community," he says.



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