HUDSON -- Former St. Croix County Assistant Administrator Ken Witt is now the county’s administrator, the second since the position was created.
Witt replaces Pat Thompson, who retired in 2020. Witt served as interim administrator while the county conducted the hiring process,. and the board approved his formal appointment Jan. 5.
The new role is a natural career progression for Witt.
“I have 25 years of government experience, which is just over half my lifetime now that I’ve been in government,” he said.
Witt first came to St. Croix County in 2016. Before that he worked at the city level.
“Moving up to a larger organization like the county, I started off as assistant county administrator in order to learn the differences between county government and city government,” he said. “Pat Thompson was a great teacher.”
Involvement as assistant county administrator helped the transition into the interim administrator role during a year full of unique challenges.
“The prior county administrator and I were working closely on those issues, so it really seemed like a fairly seamless transition for me, though, to step in and start making those decisions,” he said.
COVID-19-related issues will remain at the forefront as Witt officially steps into the new role this month. He’s anticipating another six months of the county’s emergency responses.
“We need to get through to the point where society gets back to normal. So we’re still managing that,” Witt said.
He knows people are divided on the issue of the public health ordinance, and emphasized that he is neutral.
“I’m here to serve both sides,” he said. “My job isn’t to decide whether we have the ordinance or not. My job is to help the process through so that the elected officials can make those decisions. And part of doing that is providing both sides of an argument.”
A broadband expansion project will also be a focus in 2021, as well as strategic planning in the new year. That planning was supposed to start this year, but was put on hold due to the pandemic.
“But as soon as we can get people back together, I want to work on strategic planning,” Witt said.
Financial issues will continue to be a challenge for all Wisconsin counties, including St. Croix, which is one of the fastest growing counties in the state.
“The larger the population gets, the larger our service demand gets,” Witt said.
This creates a demand for additional staff, he said, but the revenue limitations from the state can make it difficult to match the growth of resources with that population growth.
“That’s the biggest challenge that we face, and will continue to face probably for years to come,” he said.
Witt said he enjoys the budget side of things, as he started off his career in accounting, but also likes the variety of his role in government. It has an openness that the private sector does not.
“So I can talk about, share and help people with whatever the issue may be. That’s the part that I find rewarding is helping people and finding solutions,” he said.