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January 14, 2014 | 02:34 PMELKHORN — To use a sports analogy, Walworth County just secured one of its key players to a long-term contract.
During the December board meeting, the county extended the contract for David Bretl, the county administrator and corporation counsel, until the end of 2016. The contract was scheduled to end in December 2014.
However, like the sports world, the contract can be broken fairly easily, and either Bretl or the county could part ways before the agreement expires at the end of 2016.
For 2012, Bretl's contract had a base salary of $142,376 for county administrator and $23,000 for corporation counsel. As long as he receives favorable reviews from the board, he will receive a 2-percent raise in 2013 and 2014. In 2015 and 2016 he will receive a 1.9 percent raise. Assuming he receives favorable reviews, his salary for 2016 will be $153,809 for county administrator and $24,846 for corporation counsel. According to county records, Bretls salary was the same from 2010 to 2012.
"I honestly think he is worth a lot more than we are paying him," County Board Chairwoman Nancy Russell said. "Because he is invaluable."
Russell joked that Bretl "walks on water," before talking about why the county extended his contract.
"David is always looking forward and thinking of ways to make the county more efficiently run," Russell said. "Before he came on board, we didn't have ordinances. People used their memory to try to recall what we did the last time."
Supervisor Daniel Kilkenny said the county's tax levy has been frozen for several years, which he said was a credit to Bretl.
"We have won awards for fiscal responsibility and transparency. Things are running smoothly," Kilkenny said.
Kilkenny also said Bretl works well with different board members, regardless of their politics.
"He is very easy to work with, he provides support to all the committees," Kilkenny said. "He is transparent and gives us all the sides to consider."
Russell and Bretl started at around the same time in 2002.
"He is a lawyer, and he is a good lawyer. He attends almost every committee meeting to provide his expertise, so that we don't get into legal trouble," Russell said. "Believe me that has really paid off."
Kilkenny and Russell both said Bretl never tries to insert his opinion when it comes to county issues.
"He understands the clear line between setting policy and administrating policy. He tries to convey that to all his managers," Russell said.
Russell also credits Bretl for keeping county residents informed about county government. Bretl regularly writes a column regarding county government that appears in the Regional News and other newspapers.
"I think a lot of people would be tempted to at least gloss over things that aren't the best news," Russell said. "Dave doesn't do that."
Russell added that Bretl is always striving to improve county government.
"He hires good people," Russell said. "If someone is not doing the job, he is not afraid to make a change. A lot of people just stick with someone who is incompetent because they don't want to make changes."
As the county administrator, Bretl is the highest ranked, nonelected official in county government. He oversees all of the county departments and works directly with department heads and the county board. As corporation counsel, he oversees the county's legal matters.
He came to the county in 2002, and had contracts that ranged in length from one month to several years.
Prior to coming to Walworth County, Bretl worked as the city attorney for Wauwatosa.
Bretl said working in Walworth County provides him a unique experience. He isn't limited to just practing law or developing policies. He likes that he faces new challenges on a regular basis. He said other jobs would provide him with a less diverse workload.
"It is always changing and always a challenge," Bretl said.
Since he joined the county, Bretl has watched the board shrink from 35 to 25 members.
After the most recent downsizing, he is now working with 11 board members.