Jauch to Retire After Three Decades in Legislature

Longtime Democratic state Sen. Bob Jauch has announced that he will retire at the end of his term. Jauch was first elected to the Senate in 1986 after serving four years in the Assembly. His Northern Wisconsin district covers all of Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Douglas, Iron, Price and Washburn counties and parts of Burnett, Dunn, Polk, St. Croix, Sawyer and Vilas Counties.

WisconsinEye’s Senior Producer Steve Walters sat down with Sen. Robert Jauch (D-Poplar) at the state Capitol to discuss his decision to not seek re-election in 2014.

Jauch made the following remarks at a press conference announcing his decision:

I am announcing today that I will not seek re-election and therefore will retire at the end of 2014.

This is an emotional and difficult decision to make. For 31 years every day I have dedicated 1,000 per cent of my effort to represent northern Wisconsin and fight for the issues that matter to them. I love the district and have profound respect for the citizens I serve. Beyond words I am grateful for
the confidence and trust that has enabled me to serve in the Wisconsin State Legislature. .

I didn’t make this decision because I am too old. In the past 3 ½ years I have had more sleepless nights than during any time during the first 28 years. After traveling almost 750,000 miles and being involved in most of the of the Legislature’s most contentious issues, including bookends of the violent spear fishing controversy and the volatile mining debate I have reluctantly concluded that I am too tired to sustain my commitment over another five years and achieve the high standard of representation that I have maintained and the citizens have a right to expect.

I don’t have another 125,000 miles in my tank.

I have the same passion as I had on the first day 31 years ago to fight for the issues that matter to the citizens of the north. However, I simply do not have the energy to maintain that commitment in a political landscape where representative democracy is on life support.

Throughout my career my priority has been to work to assure that the citizen voice matters and that their needs and priorities serve the public interest not the special interest.

It isn’t easy representing a district that is geographically and politically isolated from the population of the rest of State. I have had to work harder than most of my colleagues simply to make sure that northern citizens are not ignored simply because they live in a rural area far from the state capitol and think that Wisconsin ends at highway 29.

I have aggressively fought to make sure that citizens of the north are treated as equals with the rest of the state and receive fair funding for schools, health care, economic development and infrastructure improvements that the north can thrive and grow just like more prosperous communities.

I am proud to have been the Senate author of legislation to invest $1.2 billion in school aids to lower property taxes. I am similarly proud that I was able to negotiate with Governor Thompson the Aging Schools reform act in 1984 that made our schools safer and saved local property taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars for new school facility construction. Every budget I have pushed for improvements for our rural schools.

In the past thirty years there were occasional misguided attempts to close the University of Wisconsin Superior campus. I am proud that we resisted those efforts and obtained funds for new facilities, a new student center, a refurbished library and a new academic building that has revitalized that important institution of higher learning that is vital to higher education opportunities for citizens in the north.

There hasn’t been a week that has gone by in which my staff and I haven’t been contacted by uninsured citizen struggling with an illness. I have been privileged to play a role in assuring that our citizens have access to the same affordable and quality health care as those who live in more populated areas. I am proud to have played an important role in expanding rural health clinics throughout the north enabling thousands access to good dental care. As a Viet Nam veteran I am especially proud to have played an important role in the establishment of Federal Veterans Administration health clinics in Superior, Hayward and Rice Lake.

Until these past three years Wisconsin adopted bi-partisan environmental regulations to preserve clean air and clean water. Whether it was Acid Rain legislation to protect our forests, strengthening the air and water quality standards, protecting our wetlands, increasing and sustaining the stewardship program or ratification of the Great Lakes water compact we have found a way to work together to establish fair but firm environmental protections.

I come from a proud Wisconsin political tradition where elected officials felt they had a responsibility to work a way through difficult problems together. I have spent my career reaching out to those with different ideas in search of solutions that are fair and lasting.

It is the tradition where elected officials respect each other. Instead of hammering each other we hammered out differences in order to get something done that is good for all.

It wasn’t that long ago when members of the minority actually had a role to play and a real say in the development of bills, particularly the budget. I recall a budget in which Senator Walter John Chilsen had at least a dozen amendments adopted yet he voted against the budget. We didn’t punish him or his district. We accepted it because we recognized his obligation to serve the needs of his district.

When I came to the Legislature in 1983 there was a fiscal deficit.

Now, 31 years later Wisconsin suffers from something far worse; indifference to the real issues facing the public by a radical agenda pushed by those who seek to conquer for their own good at the expense of general good. .

In both partisan caucuses powerful leaders have stifled the willingness of members to reach across the aisle to find bi-partisan solutions. While passionate about my beliefs I have always been willing to offer an independent voice to break partisan gridlock and get results.

In 1997 Mike Ellis, Joe Wineke and I met secretly for 5 days to produce a resolution to a four month budget impasse. Most recently in 2011 Senator Cullen and I did everything we could to find a compromise on the collective bargaining bill. I am especially proud to have worked in an open fashion for almost two years with Senator Schultz and Senator Cullen on a responsible mining regulatory bill. These were not unique actions but rather underscore efforts throughout my career to solve problems.

Unfortunately, recent efforts to common ground have been rejected by those who act as though compromise is a sin. Lawmakers concerned about a primary, plead to their base and pressure from special interest groups prevent more open dialogue and public input. Moderation that has led to commons sense compromise that serve the common good have been suffocated by those who seek to win at any cost.

It has made good governing almost impossible.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It was as recent as 2008 when a coalition of Democrats and Republicans, along with a Democratic Governor worked together to save the Park Falls Paper mill. It didn’t matter that the owner was a prominent Republican or that he contributed to my opponent’s campaign. What mattered is we knew the human cost of losing 350 jobs and were willing to do what was right to save them. Among many accomplishments in 31 years the dedication of the re-opening of the mill was my proudest day serving in the Legislature.

One of the more important lessons I have learned that in order to be successful in the political process it is necessary to avoid black and white but rather charter whatever the course necessary to achieve what is good and right. Most often there is no definitive road map but it is easy to point the compass in the right direction, maintain a sense of purpose of what is good and just and be willing to fight to get results.

Hopefully, if not a legacy, it is a good lesson to pass on to others.

It is time to step aside and let a new voice speak.

For over 3 decades the public has had ownership and my wife and children have been given visitation rights. I am most grateful to them for all they have sacrificed so that I may use my talents to serve others. They are as responsible as I am for the difference I have been able to make on behalf of the
citizens of northern Wisconsin.

Words are insufficient to express my gratitude for their sacrifice but perhaps being around to shovel following a snowstorm might be a good start.

In January 2015 I will retire, however, I will not give up. In the next 15 months and thereafter I will work just as hard to find responsible solutions to create a better future for our children and their children too.

Jauch joins Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) in deciding not to seek re-election.