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JUNEAU (WKOW) -- Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls announced his retirement last week, but on Monday he gave a better explanation into his decision.
Nehls began his career with the Department of Corrections in 1979 and was hired by the Dodge County Sheriffs Dept. in 1987. He worked his way up from traffic patrolman, serving as the day shift Corporal, second shift Lieutenant and then elected to the Sheriff's position in 2002.
Sheriff Nehls released the following statement on Monday:
"When one serves 34 years in law enforcement and simultaneously 35 years in the military, it requires a person to make a lot of decisions. Many decisions revolve around life and death, many are very emotional, some keep you up at night and others ridiculed or unfairly critiqued. Not all decisions I have made over my career were the right ones, many were wrong, failure is the first step towards success. So why retirement, why give up the greatest job in the county, why now? The citizens of this county have been so supportive of the department and myself, I owe you a greater explanation than my press release contained.
The timing was important as I reflected back when I won the job in 2002. I recall that election, seven candidates fighting for support both in and out of the department, and it was a nightmare. Those races for an open seat with multiple candidates are not healthy for a department and my leaving mid-term may prevent a repeat of 2002. Secondly, I have accomplished everything I promised you in the 2002 campaign. The job as your Sheriff is the best and I think more people should have an opportunity to sit in the office. A new set of eyes can be good for any organization.
I have a few personal reasons as well. The combination of my two careers has eliminated any and all life outside of uniform. In 2012, I woke up and put on one uniform or another 82% of the days, that's 300/365 days. It's not a complaint! I have stated many times, 'any day in uniform beats a day without.' It has been my life and I have no regrets, I just want to know what life is like knowing a weekend is coming and I can do whatever I want.
Finally, I feel the Office of the Sheriff gets no respect from some on the county board. Including this current term, the Sheriff's position will go eight years with no increase in compensation. No other of the 800 county employees has been treated as such. From 2003 – 2006 elected officials were zeroed out. The term 2007 – 2011 the HR committee completed a study that reflected the county elected officials' wages were lagging behind other county employees as well as other county managers. They proposed an increase at which time the county board slashed the recommendations in half. Then in 2011, when setting the compensation thru 2014, other elected officials received four percent, the Office of Sheriff zero.
State statutes state the compensation for elected officials must be set prior to the date nomination papers can be taken out. Once set, the compensation can not be increased or decreased. In 2006 when county employees received a stipend for health insurance savings, elected officials were not given it due to the statutes. Yet two years ago and again recently, the county has elected to diminish the compensation package of elected officials for the purpose of health insurance contributions. I say you can't have it both ways.
It saddens me that some of the most qualified candidates for the Office of Sheriff will not apply due to the diminished compensation and lack of post-retirement benefits. As Sheriff, you have subordinates making $10k more than you and mid-level managers as much as you, why would one give up the security of those positions to become an elected official? I urge the county board to correct this injustice next April when you establish compensation for the Office of the Sheriff. The office does manage 200 employees and an $18 million budget, the responsibilities are great.
To all the readers, I have thoroughly enjoyed communicating with you since 2003, and have been blessed by your unwavering support of the department. On behalf of my wife Susan, my family, and I, thank you for allowing me to serve as your Sheriff, the greatest job in the world. Thanks for listening, firstname.lastname@example.org."
Nehls' retirement will take effect March 8, 2013. Nehls also serves as a Colonel in the Wisconsin National Guard which, after 35 years of service, he will retire from sometime this summer.
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