Written by Katie Rosenberg
When I sat down with County Board Supervisor Randy Fifrick to learn a little bit more about him, I quickly learned that this is a guy with strong values, but who is also open to life unfurling in an organic way.
If you’ve read the profiles I’ve written about County Board Supervisors Sara Guild, John Robinson, or Jeff Zriny, you know that there is something a little dangerous about letting a philosophy enthusiast like me probe other people’s lives.
Well, this month’s installment is no different.
If you’ve ever wanted to know how some people are able to make fulfilling their life’s purpose look effortless, read on…
Fifrick moved to Marathon County in 2010 to become the Village of Kronenwetter’s first-ever Community Development / Zoning Administrator. The job had previously belonged to someone who was working a dual role as Public Works Director and Zoning Administrator. Fifrick reflected:
“Kronenwetter had gone through tremendous growth. Leaders realized that one person just couldn’t do all of those jobs — and do them well. July 2010, I got the job and moved out here.”
Fifrick grew up in Kiel, Wisconsin. He says his family wasn’t particularly involved in politics, but they helped shape his future.
He was a multi-sport athlete in high school, playing football, basketball, and golf. He continued playing golf at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point (UWSP) while he earned his degree in Land Use Planning from the College of Natural Resources. He picked UWSP in part because his dad had earned a degree in Wildlife Management from UWSP a few decades earlier.
But after graduating from college, he quickly realized that opening that first door to a career was going to take more than merely holding the right degree. In fact, over the years, it seems he’s honed several strategies about unlocking doors — and what to do after walking through them…
Strategy #1: Keep Knocking.
“There aren’t a tremendous amount of introductory planning jobs in the state of Wisconsin. It was a real wakeup call the first time I applied for a job and I got the rejection letter back saying of the 250 applications, you were really good.”
But he kept at it…
“I started applying to different places. I had an interview in Montana. Another one in South Bend, Indiana. I ended up getting a job in Ravalli County, Montana, which is on the far western side, about an hour south of Missoula.”
After packing up and heading out west, Fifrick got his first real taste of what it was like to be a public servant:
“I got a real wakeup call 3 months into the job at a meeting of 80 to 100 upset citizens — and I’m fresh out of college and not confident at all in what I’m doing. But I survived that and just kind of grew. I ended up spending 3 years out there.”
During those 3 years, Fifrick helped execute the 2007 Ravalli County voter mandate to put in countywide zoning.
“The economy was absolutely blowing up out there with people coming into the area from California. When I got out there, they had 60 to 70 active subdivisions. Those ranged anywhere between two lots and 500 to 600 new lots that they were putting down in the community. At that point, they didn’t have countywide zoning. You have all these people coming in and saying, ‘Why don’t we have this? I don’t like what my neighbors are doing.’ So, they decided to enact countywide zoning.”
Strategy #2: Get Through the Threshold & Build.
Fifrick enjoyed living in Montana, working as a zoning pioneer and having great access to hunting, but he decided he wanted to put down roots closer to home.
“My goal was to go out there for 2 years, get the experience I needed and then move back to Wisconsin. It just becomes really difficult to travel back and forth. It was a 23-hour drive from my house out there to my parents’ house.”
After accepting a position in Marathon County, he got to work building community in Kronenwetter.
“It’s a small village, and we’re transitioning from a rural town to a village, really the entire time I’ve been here.”
In addition to working for Kronenwetter, Fifrick is Vice President of the United Way Emerging Leaders of Marathon County. That means that next year, he’ll be moving over to President of the organization. He has also served as Vice President of the Mosinee Area Chamber of Commerce.
“I like working with those types of organizations. Getting down to the grassroots level to organize…. If you invest in the community, you are much more likely to stay.”
Fifrick says his goal with United Way Emerging Leaders is to grow enrolled membership and membership involvement.
“We do a lot of really cool events at the United Way that are completely overlooked. At Emerging Leaders, we have a membership of over 400 people, but your average event has 15 people, maybe. There are a lot of people who just don’t know about it.”
Additionally, Fifrick sees opportunity to grow the community with the right focus:
“You can’t tell someone that’s 21 or 22 that you need to stay in Wausau, nor do I think that’s particularly healthy. If they want to leave, they should. I think we need to focus on what we do very well. We do really well with families with kids that are going to school. We don’t need to be focused on kids that are right out of college. Focus on what you’re good at, and be great at it.”
Strategy #3: Construct on a Solid Foundation.
Fifrick is running unopposed in April’s election, but he said that’s no reason to slack. He’s most excited about having 2 years of solid understanding to build on and being familiar now with how the Board operates. He’s even got some special projects he’s looking to wrap up:
“One of the things I’m working on right now is with the Solid Waste Management Board. The Environmental Repair Fund was money that was just sitting aside for a number of years, and really recreating the Environmental Impact Fund that we just got rid of. Going through the process and seeing what’s involved in that, it’s going to be helpful moving forward.”
Strategy #4: Climb Out the Window Sometimes.
Being involved in local government takes its toll. Between the multiple meetings a month and conversation-driving topics, Fifrick’s loved ones have learned to be flexible.
“I’ll be out fishing and I’ll get a phone call coming in and have a conversation with them for 15 minutes. People think I’m crazy.”
Fifrick said that it’s important to just unplug sometimes. He uses his vacation as a way to get outside.
You can find him hunting in Montana or joining a local fishing tournament in his off time. Last year, he even bested fellow board member Supervisor Matt Bootz in the Anglers Insight Marketing Series.
But autumn in Wisconsin is his favorite time of year:
“In the fall, my work is razor-focused. I need to get this done, this done, and this done, in this amount of time so I can get out the door. I spend a lot of time with family and friends — that’s the highlight of it for me. I bought some land in Marathon County, in the village of Kronenwetter, in my district 4 or 5 years ago. I spend a lot of time out there. For me, it’s just a good way to destress and get away from things, ride the tractor, cut logs, just get away.”
Marathon County Board Supervisor | District 1
Katie Rosenberg is a Marathon County Board Supervisor representing District 1. She is passionate about engaging the community and is active on social media and in organizing neighborhood constituent meetings with her Wausau City Council counterpart, Alderperson Pat Peckham. In her free time, you can find Katie enjoying the outdoors with her husband on bike, on roller skates, and in trail shoes. She also enjoys attending all manner of political events, traveling the world, and cooking up a mean vegetarian soup. Email Katie Rosenberg
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