Jauch retiresPassionate, outspoken, a builder of bipartisan bridges — that’s how people who know Sen. Bob Jauch described the Poplar Democrat this week. After 31 years in the Wisconsin Legislature, Jauch announced Wednesday he won’t seek re-election in 2014.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Passionate, outspoken, a builder of bipartisan bridges — that’s how people who know Sen. Bob Jauch described the Poplar Democrat this week.
After 31 years in the Wisconsin Legislature, Jauch announced Wednesday he won’t seek re-election in 2014.
“This is an emotional and difficult decision to make,” Jauch said during a press conference in Madison. “For 31 years, every day I have dedicated 1,000 percent 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.”
Since 1986, Jauch has served the 25th Senate District, representing Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Douglas, Iron, Price and Washburn counties, along with parts of Burnett, Dunn, Polk, St. Croix, Sawyer and Vilas counties. That service started four years earlier as the representative of the 75th Assembly District, and a decade earlier when Jauch served as former Congressman Dave Obey’s northern field representative.
Throughout his tenure, Jauch has been a passionate advocate for education, health and human services, and his northern district.
“I didn’t make this decision because I am too old,” Jauch said. “In the past 3½ years, I have had more sleepless nights than during any time during the first 28 years … 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 simply do not have the energy to maintain that commitment in a political landscape where representative democracy is on life support.
“Common sense, compromise has been suffocated by those who want to win at any cost. I have been fortunate to represent people who want to work together as public servants, not as political hacks.”
Representing the north
Filling Jauch’s shoes won’t be easy, Milroy said in an interview with the Superior Telegram. After all, the Legislature is losing decades of institutional knowledge and someone with a level of commitment and a willingness to work tirelessly for the people he represents, the 75th Assembly District representative said.
“Bob’s biggest legacy is his ability to get things done when others couldn’t connect the dots,” said Milroy, who acknowledged he’s been inspired by Jauch’s commitment to improving the lives of all Wisconsin citizens.
“I could not have asked for a better mentor,” Milroy said.
“He knows this district inside and out,” said Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen, a friend since the early 1970s, when Jauch represented Obey.
Hagen said while he and Jauch haven’t always agreed politically, they have been able to work together to get things done, and he considers Jauch a friend of his administration — today and during Hagen’s first stint as mayor from 1975 to 1987.
“We’re going to miss his experience, his energy,” Finn said. Whether advocating for the partnership that brought the Twin Ports Outpatient Veterans Clinic to Superior in the late 1980s or getting the state involved in efforts to bring Kestrel Aircraft Co., to Superior, Finn said Jauch has long been an advocate for the people of northern Wisconsin.
Jauch was always outspoken, Finn said. It may not have been what people wanted Jauch to say, but it was usually right for the state, he said.
A loss for the state
Jauch’s decision not to run is the right one for him and his family, said Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center.
Schultz and Jauch worked together for mining legislation to protect the environment and citizens’ rights.
“No one can fault him for wanting to step down, but from a purely selfish basis, for myself, for the state of Wisconsin, it’s an enormous loss of someone who has worked very hard to build bipartisan bridges in his career,” Schultz said.
Schultz said it’s been refreshing to hear the true passion Jauch has for people in his district.
“He truly loves the people he’s had the honor and privilege of representing,” Schultz said. “You just don’t see people be that expressive or that emotional or passionate about the job they have, the district they have, and most of all, the people.
Jauch’s decision is not only a loss for the 25th District, but the whole state, said Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, who announced last month he wouldn’t be seeking re-election next year either.
“His family gains from his decision, but democracy in Wisconsin loses,” said Cullen, one of 14 Democratic senators, including Jauch, who fled to Illinois to stall passage of a budget bill that stripped most public employees of collective bargaining rights in 2011.
“His never-ending optimism in the face of today’s ‘take no prisoners’ politics has been very helpful to me,” Cullen said. “We now have our last 15 months in office to continue to push Wisconsin’s political process back toward logic and progress.
Jauch estimates he logged almost 750,000 miles representing the people of Wisconsin’s northernmost senate district. And he’s been involved in most of the of the Legislature’s most contentious issues — from the spear fishing controversy of the 1980s and ’90s to the ongoing debate over mining in the Penokee Range.
“I think one of the most important lessons I have learned is in order to be successful in the political process, it’s necessary to avoid black and white, to follow the course to achieve what is good and right,” Jauch said. “There’s never a road map, but if you point the compass in the right direction you’ll find a sense of what is good and just.”
However, for three decades, Jauch said the public has had ownership over him, while his wife and children only had visitation rights.
“They are as responsible as I am for the difference I’ve been able to make,” Jauch said of his family’s sacrifice. “Maybe if I can be around to shovel some snow following a snowstorm, it’ll be a good start.”
While he is planning to step down at the end of 2014, Jauch said he will be involved, encouraging others to engage their government, and using his photography to open people’s eyes to the beauty of Wisconsin.