Written by Chief Deputy Chad Billeb
In 2020, the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office K9 program received national attention. Two police K9 magazine articles were written about our program, and a wealth of shares and views of our program on social media have brought attention to not only the K9 team but also Northcentral Wisconsin.
The focus of one of these articles was the amazing partnerships and community support that we have for K9 teams across Marathon County. The success of these K9 programs has been made possible through community partnerships with local business professionals, the Community Foundation of Northcentral Wisconsin, generous personal donors, and advocates like Amy Zondlo — a Marathon County resident with a passion and respect for the work of these K9 teams.
In 2013, the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office began to examine the need to bring K9 resources back into their office. At this time in our history, Wisconsin was learning to manage a great deal of change due to the direction and policies of leadership at state and local levels. All of this uncertainty appropriately led County Government leadership to direct its managers to maintain a 0% levy increase for all operations. With this direction, how could the Sheriff’s Office possibly ask County Government leaders to fund a new program that would require a significant initial investment with recurring annual expenses?
After being presented with a needs assessment for Marathon County Sheriff’s Office K9s, Sheriff Scott Parks encouraged a team of passionate and driven staff to find a means by which to start a K9 program. Sheriff Parks had only one caveat: The program could not utilize tax levy dollars provided by the County. This in essence meant that the K9 program would have to come from a grassroots effort to raise funds.
Under the leadership of then Lieutenant Gary Schneck (retired), a team of deputies worked with the Community Foundation of Northcentral Wisconsin while a group of citizen partners from various sections of the business community worked to raise money to establish a local K9 program. Borne from this small team was a group called “Paws Enforcing Laws” (PEL). This group engaged local businesses and the greater Marathon County community in efforts to raise money for 1 — and, if possible, 2 — police canines. PEL helped to develop a business plan of sorts and held several fundraisers for the program. In a matter of weeks, through the generosity of many in our community, not only had the team raised enough money to fund 2 dogs, but also the funds raised were substantial enough to ensure other costs associated with the program (veterinary care, food, etc.) would be covered long-term.
In fact, with all of the attention the PEL fundraising effort was getting, generous citizens came forward and offered to make significant personal donations to ensure the success of the program, and even further expand it. The latest example of this is Don and Connie Huehnerfuss, who approached Sheriff Parks to ask for the opportunity to fund a police K9. Knowing that the Sheriff’s Office intended to grow the program with a goal of reaching 4 teams, Sheriff Parks accepted the very generous offer. Don and Connie provided the resources needed to add a fourth canine to the team — Deputy Dan D’Acquisto and his K9 partner Monty.
Don and Connie Huehnerfuss along with Deputy Dan D’Acquisto and his partner Monty. (Photo courtesy of Marathon County Sheriff’s Office.)
What started out as a grassroots effort to raise money for 1 canine has now grown into a law enforcement K9 program with 4 dogs and a fund to support all the dogs well into the future.
What’s more, as the program has grown, the Sheriff’s Office has realized new opportunities…
For example, local resident, Amy Zondlo, approached the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office offering to help raise funds by creating a calendar of local police K9 teams. Working together, we included multiple agencies and counties in the project. This allowed all of the K9 teams from across the region to benefit from one large project. In addition, it was Amy’s advocacy that prompted the 2 magazine articles to be written about our team, which helped promote Marathon County to a larger audience.
K9 calendar fundraising project headed by Amy Zondlo. (Photo courtesy of Amy Zondlo.)
If not for the generosity of so many people like Amy and the Huehnerfusses — as well as the countless people who have given of their time, talents, and treasure — we simply could not have this program.
To all of you, we say THANK YOU!
Chief Deputy | Marathon County Sheriff’s Office
With over 25 years of law enforcement experience, Chad Billeb currently serves as the Chief Deputy at the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office. Early in his career, Chad worked as a police officer at the Rib Lake, Medford, and Colby-Abbotsford Police Departments, as well as a Corrections Officer at the Price County Sheriff’s Office. In late 1999, Chad began his career with the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office. Chad has served as a Patrol Deputy, Narcotics Investigator, Lieutenant (Court Security, Patrol, Administration), and most recently as the Chief Deputy overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office. For approximately 11 years, Chad was an Adjunct Instructor at Northcentral Technical College teaching Firearms, Tactical Skills, Professional Communications, and other law enforcement-related subjects. Email Chad Billeb
You might also like…
- Supervisor William Harris :: Giving to His Community Through Law & Public Office
- I’m Glad You Asked . . . 5 Questions People Ask the Marathon County EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR
- Supervisor Rebecca Buch :: Faith, Family, & Forty Years in Marathon County
Please email our Editorial Board with your comments, suggestions, and article ideas.
And if you spot a typo or an inaccuracy, please contact us so we can fix it. Thanks!