7 Notable Men Who Helped Women “Break the Gender Barrier” in Marathon County Law Enforcement in the 1980s

Written by Brad Karger

To be a pioneer, you have to be tough and you have to be good. When you go up against a culture, the culture will certainly push back.

As great a player as he was all on his own, Jackie Robinson didn’t break the color barrier in baseball in the 1940s without the support of a handful of white team members who had the courage to challenge a culture of racism.


As great as some female police officers in Marathon County were in the 1980s, they didn’t break the gender barrier in law enforcement without the support of a handful of male officers who had the strength of character to challenge a culture of sexism.

Today, I want to shine a light on 7 honorable male officers in Marathon County who made it possible for Diane Lotter to be a pioneer as a female Sheriff’s Deputy — and later as a Captain of Investigations.

These men of integrity supported her through tough times and helped to advance her career to senior leadership positions, even when it often meant facing peer disapproval and other negative social consequences.

I met Diane (Krebsbach) Lotter in 1988 when I was the Human Resource Director and she was a Sheriff’s Deputy assigned to Patrol. As I reflect on my 30 years working in Marathon County government, I can say that Diane was one of the toughest, most determined people I’ve ever met. And she had to be — she was a woman entering what we would call today a “hostile work environment.”

Diane at recruit range training.

Women haven’t always been well represented in law enforcement. In fact, they’re not well represented even now. However, several important gains have been made over the years:

  • In 1910 in Los Angeles, Alice Stebbis Wells became the first female police officer.
  • By the early 1960s, about 2,400 women were serving as police officers in the United States.
  • In 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 99,000 female police officers of approximately 884,000 total officers — 11% of police staff.

Even so, as recent as a 1993 poll in Law and Order magazine showed:

  • Only 9% of male officers openly accepted women in law enforcement.
  • A whopping 38% of male officers had a problem with women entering law enforcement.

But the beginnings of a cultural shift were in the works in the late ’80s and early ’90s…

I had heard about Diane long before I ever met her. You see, as the Human Resources Director of Marathon County, I was conducting internal investigations of sex discrimination claims made by other women employed by the Marathon County Sheriff’s Department. These women were serving in clerical roles or as jailers. At that time, Diane was the only woman who was a sworn police officer with the power of arrest.

Diane in uniform.

While Diane never filed any formal complaints with me, I had heard enough through the grapevine to know that she was facing a great deal of hostility simply trying to do her job. For example, while on duty, her car got keyed, the air was let out of her tires, she had to endure men sniffing her hair in an attempt to make her uncomfortable, and the list goes on…  

What’s more, one of her peers circulated a petition asking the Sheriff to remove her from her position, stating that women had no place in law enforcement — and to Diane’s dismay, several of her work associates had signed it.

In law enforcement, more than other professions, peer acceptance is vital. Peer rejection can be utterly demoralizing. But the Diane I met was not only far from demoralized, she was optimistic and firmly committed to staying in her chosen profession.

I remember asking myself:

How does she do it?

Now, there are certainly a lot of answers to that question…

But one I’d like to focus on here are the male officers who openly supported Diane and who made it possible for her to rise from a Reserve Deputy in 1982 to the Captain of Investigations in 2001.


When I recently talked with Diane about the male officers who supported her along the way, she spoke of more than 7 men, but I decided to focus on the ones who seemed to have the most impact at critical periods in her career…

7 Notable Men Who Helped Women “Break the Gender Barrier” in Marathon County Law Enforcement


1. Louis Gianoli

This Marathon County Sheriff gave Diane her start. Diane was not, in fact, the first female hired as a Deputy Sheriff by Sheriff Gianoli. The first woman police officer left for reasons unknown, but I heard stories about her being treated badly by peers. Sheriff Gianoli had to be keenly aware that a substantial percentage of the officers felt that there was no place for women in law enforcement, yet he stood his ground and helped launch Diane’s career, first as a Reserve Deputy and then as a Regular Deputy Sheriff.


2. Dale Marshall

Dale was best known as the person who equipped and repaired department vehicles, but he was also a Reserve Deputy. Dale took Diane under his wing in the early years and helped her with the technical aspects of the job. More importantly, he helped Diane better understand the “politics” of the department, including whom she might want to steer clear of, when possible. Dale encouraged Diane to persevere, and he treated her like an equal.


3. Andy Kleppe

Andy is well known in the community as a Criminal Justice instructor at Northcentral Technical College (NTC). But before he worked at NTC, Andy was a Marathon County Sheriff’s Deputy and a peer of Diane’s who often worked the same shift as she did. Andy had integrity. He stood up for fair play for Diane and spoke up for female officers in general, as he knew that they would bring a distinction that would strengthen the team, not diminish it.


4. Scott Parks

Scott is in many ways like Andy Kleppe: progressive in his thinking, fair minded, and not willing to give into peer pressure. He was the first — and, for a long time, the only — deputy who was willing to be seen having a break or taking a lunch with Diane. (Remember, Scott wasn’t always the Sheriff… He’s only been Sheriff since May of 2013.) As a Sheriff’s Deputy, Scott told the Patrol Sergeant that he didn’t have a problem patrolling in the same area of the County as Diane, when other officers objected and claimed they feared she couldn’t provide adequate backup for them. Later in Scott’s career, he was supervised by Diane. Scott always treated Diane with respect and has a full appreciation of what it took for her to succeed in law enforcement. Like me, Scott often wonders how she achieved such success in the face of so much active and unrelenting opposition.  


5. Frank Hanousek, Sr.

Frank was a Patrol Sergeant when Diane started, and at times, her shift supervisor. This calm, evenhanded man wasn’t afraid to actively campaign for Diane’s acceptance. Frank acted as a mentor to Diane, and she reports that he was “the first person to give her a pat on the back when earned and a kick in the pants when deserved.” Frank encouraged Diane to take a position in the Detective Bureau. Diane spoke very highly of Frank, noting that working under his direction was a pivotal point in her career and that without Frank’s guidance, support, and encouragement, she may have walked away.


6. Elwood Mason

Elwood was the Captain of the Detective Bureau. The unit had long been regarded as an elite unit in local law enforcement. Diane’s investigation of the high-profile Dairy Princess homicide (including tracking a rental car to a suspect in the case) led Elwood to name Diane as the lead investigator on the high-profile homicide investigation. This appointment signaled to others his confidence in Diane’s abilities and gave her the distinction of being the first female officer in Marathon County to be promoted to the rank of Detective at that time in history.


7. Randy Hoenisch

Randy was Diane’s supervisor or commander for most of her career. He provided her with several opportunities for promotions along the way. When Randy was promoted to Lieutenant of the Investigations Division, he promoted Diane to Sergeant to fill his vacancy in the Juvenile Bureau. It had only been 1 year since her promotion to Detective. She then became the first sworn female officer to be promoted to a supervisory role within the department (which remains true to this day). When Randy was elected Sheriff, he promoted Diane to Captain of Investigations, making her the first and only sworn female officer to be promoted to a managerial role in the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office’s history. Randy broke new ground with that promotion: He signaled his confidence in Diane to lead and manage the division independently. He trusted in her knowledge and abilities to direct operations and to set priorities, policies, and practices in her roles in both the Investigations and Administration Divisions. This allowed Diane’s career to come full circle — from the part-time Reserve Deputy Sheriff to a coveted command staff role of Captain.

Diane Lotter receiving the Wisconsin State Crime Stoppers Service Award.

* * *

On behalf of the community, I want to publicly thank these 7 men of courage and character, who answered the call — with little reward — to enhance the culture of the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office by making it possible for a pioneering woman with grit and determination to not only enter but to succeed in local law enforcement.

Thank you:

  • Louis Gianoli
  • Dale Marshall
  • Andy Kleppe
  • Scott Parks
  • Frank Hanousek, Sr.
  • Elwood Mason
  • Randy Hoenisch

And thank you, Diane Lotter, for breaking the gender barrier in law enforcement in Marathon County and paving the way for the female officers of today — and tomorrow.

Diane Lotter retired from the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office in April of 2013.

Brad Karger - Marathon County AdministratorBrad Karger

Marathon County Administrator

In his Administrator role, Brad Karger leads an organization with 700+ employees and an annual budget of more than $165 million. Brad has been in leadership positions with Marathon County for the past 30 years. He is known statewide for generating innovative ideas and solutions to problems, openness and transparency, and a commitment to community service that extends well beyond the normal workday.  Email Brad Karger.

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