Sen. Bob Jauch reflects on his service in Wisconsin
The fall day was picture perfect. As Wisconsin state Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, caught nature's beauty with his camera, he looked back on 32 years as a legislator.
The fall day was picture perfect. As Wisconsin state Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, caught nature’s beauty with his camera, he looked back on 32 years as a legislator.
“I love to shoot reflections in the fall,” Jauch said.
He has been toting around a camera for the past 15 years, often focusing on the landscape of northern Wisconsin.
“Thoreau had it right,” Jauch said of nature. “It’s where you go to discover yourself. It’s that powerful.”
Passing up the over-photographed waterfall at Amnicon Falls State Park, the Poplar legislator was drawn to a different view.
“I like those steps with leaves on them,” Jauch said, framing a shot from the covered bridge. He meandered through the park, stopping to capture moss, water and a cascade of roots.
Leaves in particular called to him, in part because of his affection for Leo Buscaglia’s book, “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf,” which follows a leaf through the changing seasons.
“It’s not the end of a season,” said Jauch, who is retiring at the end of the year. “It’s the beginning of something new.”
Jauch, senator for the 25th District that covers most of Northwestern Wisconsin, is known in Madison for his passion, eloquence and determination as well as his ability to reach across party lines to find common ground.
“Bob expects a lot out of people,” said Rep. Nick Milroy,
D-South Range. “I think Bob expects a lot out of people because he expects a lot out of himself.”
Having Jauch as a mentor over the past six years has been tremendous, Milroy said.
“First and foremost, Bob has been very grounded in fighting for justice for the people of northern Wisconsin,” Milroy said. “He is passionate about the people and area he represents.”
“When I ran for office 32 years ago, I made one pledge and that was to try to make sure northern Wisconsin citizens were treated as equals with the rest of the state,” Jauch said.
The legislator has been a passionate proponent for the environment and education.
Education is vitally important, Jauch said. “It defines our communities; it’s the centerpiece of who we are.” It’s also personal.
“Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I flunked seventh grade,” Jauch said. “I was a good kid, but I was never a good student.”
Jauch’s career has been bookended by controversial issues - Native American spearfishing when he took office and mining in the Penokee Hills as he leaves.
“I haven’t looked back,” Jauch said. “I finish one task and take on another.”
He’s been honored to represent his constituents.
“I don’t apologize for a second of being a politician or for telling it like it is,” Jauch said, but it’s time to step down.
“I’ll be 69 this year,” he said. “That’s not old, but I’ve traveled 750,000 miles in this job and I’ve got the passion, I don’t have the energy. I don’t think I have another 125,000 left in my tank.”
The list of Jauch’s achievements in Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Price, Sawyer and Washburn counties is extensive. Douglas County projects alone include a four-lane U.S. Highway 53, the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, University of Wisconsin-Superior improvements, the veterans outpatient clinic in Superior, the opening of a Department of Natural Resources office in Superior and critical access hospital designation for Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Hospital, as well as money to start summer concerts at Lucius Woods in Solon Springs, and to complete a sanitary sewage treatment project in Poplar.
Statewide, Jauch fought for a bill passed in 1984 that created a community property system for married spouses, allowing women to be treated as equals in the home. He also negotiated a multi-billion-dollar aging schools agreement under then-Gov. Tommy Thompson to bring older, outdated buildings up to code. And he fought for years to ratify the Great Lakes Compact to protect “our greatest resource.”
One of Jauch’s defining moments in office came unexpectedly. He said leaving the state for Illinois in 2011 to prevent passage of Act 10, the bill that limited collective bargaining for public employee unions, was an accident of timing.
“I didn’t know about it until 7:30 that morning,” Jauch said. “(Sen.) Mark Miller called me and said ‘Bring a suitcase.’ ”
Their aim wasn’t to stall so much as to negotiate, he said.
“We thought a little time would make a difference,” Jauch said. They nearly hammered out a deal with Gov. Scott Walker’s staff to keep collective bargaining intact, said Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, but it fell through.
“Bob is really my best friend in the state Senate,” Cullen said. “He made my time in Illinois bearable. He really educated me about the mining issue.”
Cullen traveled to Jauch’s district three times to visit the Penokee Hills and talk to the people who lived there.
“It was fun to watch him with constituents,” Cullen said. “People really know him. He’s been their person in Madison for a long time.”
The Janesville senator also is retiring at the end of this term. He said he’s been impressed by Jauch’s eloquence and ability to coin a phrase on the floor of the Senate.
“I don’t mind having a good argument with somebody who’s arguing the facts but willing to find some middle,” Jauch said. “And the middle’s been lost.”
Jauch served as representative in the Assembly for four years and senator for 28. He’s been a member of the majority as well as the minority.
“He had the highest respect for people on both sides of the aisle,” Milroy said. “He knew everybody and treated everybody with respect. He expected the best out of them.”
Although Jauch has been toting a camera around for the past 15 years, both Milroy and Cullen have escaped being photographed.
“He never took a picture of me because he would rather take pictures of pretty things,” Cullen joked. “I never made the cut.”
But Jauch has spent many hours traveling the back roads of Wisconsin with his wife, Cecelia, catching scenes with his camera.
“It’s amazing how much of Wisconsin life we’ve discovered doing that,” Jauch said. “It’s such a beautiful state.”
Photography is one of his passions, a way to escape the stress and conflict of the job while reconnecting with the values that matter the most. And, Milroy said, “He’s actually pretty good.”
Jauch said he has no definite plans for retirement.
“I enjoy life, take some time for myself and try to do the things I want to do,” he said, “but still contribute to community and society in whatever way I can.”