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Vilas County Law Enforcement Working Through Low Recruitment Issues

Ken Anderson

“Eight years ago we had up to 135 applicants for vacant Vilas County deputy sheriff positions and now we only see five to seven that go though the process.”

That was the main issue identified by Wally Obermann, chairman of the civil service commission, in a meeting with the law enforcement committee. Obermann has chaired the commission for the last eight years and indicated the commission has done over 700 interviews in that time.

“We used to have an eligibility list to fill vacant positions and now we have zero for deputies,” he said. “So what happened?”

One reason he felt was the lack of a budget to advertise positions in local papers and another was the salary.

“Other law enforcement agencies are stealing our employees with surrounding counties paying from $4 to $5 more than us. How do we compete? I’m looking for some help.”

Obermann indicated on his own time he visits the high schools serving the county telling seniors that will be graduating “if they don’t have job plans they should look at law enforcement.”

Civil service commission member Bill Hassey also felt salary is probably an issue.

“I don’t think we’re recruiting the best,” Hassey said. “These candidates are interviewing in multiple law enforcement agencies such as the tribal police department and city departments and we need to stay on par with local agencies around us.”

Vilas Chief Deputy Pat Schmidt felt the recruitment landscape has changed from having experienced persons applying to those right out of school looking for a job.

“We used to have those that finished the Nicolet College law course apply and I make presentations to the group,” Schmidt said. “Out of the recent class of 12, we got zero applications.” 

Within the Vilas County Justice Department only deputies have a union after enactment of Act 10 by the Gov. Scott Walker administration; they have a collective bargaining agreement. Tella-communicators and correction officers are not part of the union.

Committee member Tom Maulson felt the county needed to act.

“If law enforcement across our county are not being paid enough, let’s correct it,” Maulson said. “If we need adequate pay and decent wages, let’s get it done.”

Maulson made a motion to obtain funds to advertise locally which was adopted. It was suggested to take some training funds and use it for recruitment advertising.

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