JEFFERSON — Just two days after learning of the pending retirement of longtime Jefferson County Judge Jacqueline R. Erwin, Jefferson County officials this morning heard news of the upcoming retirement of county Administrator Gary Petre.
Petre, 61, began his work as administrator with the county Oct. 25, 2005. He succeeded a retiring Willard Hausen.
“I’ve reached the point of having worked a long career and I’m looking for something different to do,” Petre, whose years in the workforce date to 1974, told the Daily Times. “One of those things is spending more time with my family members.”
Petre came to Jefferson County after serving as director of administration for the city of Franklin. Prior to work in Franklin in 2000, Petre was assistant manager for administration with the United States Census Bureau in Muskego. From 1993 to 2002, Petre served with the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors on its board of directors. Before that, he served as director of administration for the Milwaukee County Department of Administration, was acting zoo director at the Milwaukee County Zoo and was deputy director of Milwaukee County Parks, Recreation and Culture.
Petre is a 1973 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, with a bachelor of administration degree and a major in finance. He received continuing education at Marquette University and with the state of Wisconsin as a real estate broker.
At the time he was hired, then-Jefferson County Admin-istrative Search Committee Chairman Ron Buchanan said his committee was sold on Petre when they learned of his overall experience and heard recommendations.
“We had 28 references we checked out and there was nothing negative in any of them,” Buchanan said at the time Petre was hired. “The picture we got from the people of Franklin is that they will miss him dearly.”
Making the final three along with Petre in 2005 were Jefferson County Corporation Counsel Phil Ristow and Diane Gard of the city of Oconomowoc. The search began with 45 candidates.
Petre has lived in Franklin during his career with Jefferson County and said he and his wife Beth have no plans to relocate. The couple has four adult children and six grandchildren between the ages of 6 months and 7 years old.
Petre’s retirement is effective April 1, 2013, because his current employee contract ends March 31, 2013.
The Jefferson County Administration and Rules Committee met this morning with the subject of Petre’s contract renewal on its agenda. After hearing of Petre’s desire to retire in 2013, however, the panel decided against requesting renewal of the employment document.
Petre’s list of accomplishments as county administrator during the past 7 1/2 years include teaming with others to engender a substantial reduction in the amount of tax levy support required by the county’s fair park.
“We have also significantly reduced the level of expenditures in county government and that is related much to the sale of Countryside Home, which reduced the levy by about $3 million per year,” Petre said. “We have undergone some substantial maintenance and repair projects in the county and we have significantly upgraded our technological usage. We managed to gain a consensus on the county board for the location of the main highway shop facility and we were able to achieve county board approval for funding of a new security entrance for the courthouse — something we began discussing four years ago.”
Petre said the county has undergone a classification and compensation study this year, a document that will go before the county board at its December meeting.
“We also lived through significant changes in public sector employee relations as a result of Wisconsin Act 10,” he said. “That has had a significant impact on employee management and the changes in union representation at the county level. A lot of veteran employees left, and we have worked very hard to make sure county employees can continue to be treated fairly and equitably, regardless of whether they are represented by a bargaining unit or not.”
He said he is pleased with the fact the county was able to develop a strategic plan for the county.
“This plan has given us a vision on where the county needs to go in the future,” he said. “Citizen input has helped us prioritize services and we were able to come up with some ideas to improve internal communications and external communications with the public.”
Petre said he believes a lot was accomplished in county government during his time as administrator, but work remains to be done.
“I think there is always room for improvement and I’m sure there will be improvements made to county government after I leave,” he said.
Petre said he leaves the county with a few items of unfinished business.
“The building of a new highway department main facility is something I wish I could have seen,” he said, adding he will miss the personal relationships he has with county board members, department heads and staff.
Among the highlights of his time with Jefferson County, Petre said, was helping coordinate the transition of Countryside Home from a public facility to a privately owned operation.
“I think we did the best job we possibly could in the way we were able to make that transition — not only from a management perspective, but for the employees,” he said.
Petre and his wife have travel plans in the making for his retirement. He also said work for him is really never done because his family views him as their own, personal handyman.
“One of my main responsibilities will be to function as the in-house repairman for my family. They look to me to help them with their home repairs and I think I will be taking on even more of a role as that in-house handyman,” he said. “I have several projects at home that I look forward to getting to, now that I will have the time.”
Petre said he appreciates the support and encouragement he has received from county board members and department heads over the years.
“They have certainly made my job a lot easier,” he said, “and I feel as though I am leaving Jefferson County government knowing it is a well-run organization.”