Written by Jenna Flynn
County Board Supervisor Matthew (Matt) Bootz is what’d I call a true hometown hero. His story is one sprinkled with adventure, a focus on family, a commitment to service, and unfortunately a tragedy to overcome that most of us can’t even imagine.
Being raised in the Town of Texas (a half-mile from Trapp River Golf Course) has made Bootz an excellent candidate to serve the constituents of that area later in life. For nearly 7 years now, he’s proudly represented District 13 on the Marathon County Board of Supervisors — the same district his grandfather represented as a Board Member for 20+ years.
In fact, some folks even refer to the area where he lives as “Bootzville.” His grandparents’ farm that was built in the 1800s is still there, and Supervisor Bootz lives just down the road from his parents and several other relatives. It’s clear from speaking with Bootz that family is one of his highest regarded values:
“Where we live feels like it’s close to the Northwoods, but also not far from the cities. I had a good childhood. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, spent much time with family, and I wanted that experience for my children.”
The value of community service that Bootz was brought up with inspired him to give back to his community. His father served during the Vietnam War in the U.S. Navy. And, in addition to Bootz’s grandfather serving as a Marathon County Board Supervisor, he also served as Town Chairman of Texas for 20 years and was a World War II veteran.
Bootz’s mother and grandmother were always involved in community work, as well. His mom immersed herself in volunteering at school functions and worked as a school teacher, and his grandmother was active in various charitable efforts in her local community as well.
Having already served as Texas’s Town Chair for 10 years, Matt seems to be following in his grandfather’s footsteps. When I asked if he was on his way to a 20-year commitment to that position or to the County Board, Matt shared:
“I do think term limits are important, but those first 2 years, you are getting acclimated to what’s actually going on. The real work gets done at the committee levels. I don’t know about 20 years, but it goes fast….
It can be taxing, hard on personal life, hard on family life.”
His objective perspective on politics while serving on the County Board was something I greatly appreciated hearing — given the political polarization I believe many of us have been feeling lately.
When I asked him about how he makes decisions for the County Board, he offered these insights:
“When you are elected to the position, you are representing that district. Your job is to represent the thousands of people in your district. There are times [when] I think, ‘I don’t agree with this, but I know for a fact that my constituents would….’ It can be tricky if it goes against my own values….
This being said, I often play out the scenario if I could have a conversation with my constituents, would they vote for or against if they had all the facts and info on the actionable item? An example of this was the therapy pool for NCHC [North Central Health Care]. The constituents in District 13 typically might not be for it, but after the benefits to our community and to the vulnerable populations were explained, the support was overwhelming.
In reference to how he makes decisions in his various government roles, he elaborated:
“Partisanship in local government is not our job function. If someone is pushing hard from a political standpoint without a policy in mind, I don’t even want to vote for it.”
When I asked Matt about the most meaningful work he’d done so far on the board, he offered the following:
“There’s been a lot — the [NCHC] pool was a big one. It’s the little things, like working closely with the departments, efforts with the jail like working on non-punitive alternatives, the Sheriff’s Department wants to do things well for the community. There’s a lot of good things happening.”
Matt is a lifelong learner and a Master Electrician. He received his Associate’s Degree in Fire Science and lived in Madison for a few years to complete that degree. Later, he switched gears and went through a 5-year apprentice program to become an electrician and spent roughly 11 years in the International Brothers of Electrical Union Local 388.
He no longer does hands-on electrical work. He’s spent more time in years past on the road doing outreach work to customers. He’s currently an Account Executive at Complete Control, Inc., in Wisconin Rapids. Still, he says he dabbles a bit as a silent partner at Bokar Mechanical, which is a residential heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning [HVAC] and electrical company. Bootz joked:
“I don’t work much with the tools nowadays. I just push the paper.”
He did share that he enjoys this new way of working. He took many electrical, HVAC, supervisory, and leadership classes through Northcentral Technical College over the years to learn as much as he could about his field. Bootz emphasizes the value of higher education to his own children, too, citing:
“When you have that education and degree, no one can take that away from you. It’s yours.”
Bootz has other commitments in addition to his full-time job and his work with the Marathon County Board, such as parenting with his partner of 4 years, Tammy Schoepke, to what some may refer to as the “Brady Bunch.” Together, they parent 7 children. Tammy’s kids are Jake (12), Jedidiah (15), and Josie (18). Matt has Bailey (19), Marri (16), Bowen (14), and Sophia (8).
With all of their kids, Bootz says that he and Tammy are running around the county from John Muir on the west side of Wausau to Horace Mann (which includes Montessori) on the east side, and from Wausau West High School to Wausau East High School. There’s little rest for these two.
Matt is also dad to Paige Bootz, who would have turned 23 this year. In 2015, at only 17 years old, she passed away in a tragic car accident. This loss was heartbreaking to the entire community, and Bootz made a point to emphasize how supportive his fellow County Board colleagues were during this difficult time for him. To honor Paige’s memory, the Bootz family started a scholarship fund and now — Matt and Tammy, together with Jamie Lodholz Bootz (Paige’s mom) and her boyfriend Mike — put on the Paige Bootz Memorial Golf Tournament at the same golf course that Matt grew up near, Trapp River Golf Course. According to Supervisor Bootz:
“This year was the biggest year! We take all that money and give it back to an area school. Kids can send in an application. We give 16 to 20 scholarships per year. It’s a pretty substantial amount. It’s something to keep her memory alive. We look for kids that maybe don’t have as much. We want to hear their story. If they want to go to college and they’re trying… we like an underdog story, as Paige was like that. She was always helping others, too, and was a Mama Bear. We use some of the funds to give to some charities, too.”
Matt shared that it’s a fun day and a hard day, too, but it’s important to honor his daughter in this way and he enjoys giving back to his local community while doing so.
Even though life clearly is busy for Matt and Tammy, they prioritize fun and adventure. Their family lives in the country, and they take advantage of all the outdoor activities that Marathon County has to offer, including snowmobiling (except this year), using season passes for Granite Peak, hunting, fishing, and more:
“We enjoy traveling often, but in Central Wisconsin, there’s a lot of things to do and there’s lakes everywhere. Granite Peak is right in our backyard. If you like the outdoors, there’s lots of options.”
In fact, Bootz is an avid fisher and even participates in the summer pro-walleye tour, claiming that’s where he spends most of his vacation time. He’s fished tournaments in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Dakotas and hopes to fish in the National Walleye Tour this summer.
While Matt is a self-admitted “small-town guy,” his values of service, family, and lifelong learning are larger than Marathon County itself. The people of Marathon County, especially those in District 13, should be proud to have him serve on the Marathon County Board, especially understanding just how heartfelt Supervisor Bootz’s motivations are to serve as an elected official — given his generations-deep family roots in community service and his passion for living and playing right here in Marathon County.
Public Health Educator | Marathon County Health Department
Tobacco Control Coordinator | Central Wisconsin Tobacco Free Coalition
Jenna Flynn is a Public Health Educator with the Marathon County Health Department and serves as the Tobacco Control Coordinator for the Central Wisconsin Tobacco Free Coalition. Jenna holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a master’s degree in Public Health. She grew up in Northern Wisconsin and is proud to serve the central region. In her free time, Jenna enjoys coaching and playing volleyball, cooking, and participating in the many outdoor activities that Wisconsin has to offer. Email Jenna Flynn.
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