JEFFERSON — The Jefferson County Fair Park is without a director for the time being.

David Diestler, who has served in the post since June 12, 2012, submitted written notice of his retirement to Jefferson County administrators on Aug. 9.

“We just had a conversation and he looked at where he was at,” Jefferson County Administrator Ben Wehmeier said. “We mutually agreed that it was time for a retirement to take place.”

According to an email from Wehmeier to the members of the Jefferson County Administration and Rules Committee and the Jefferson County Fair Park Committee, Diestler’s last date of work was July 31, 2017. The email, dated Aug. 11, also stated that Wehmeier and Diestler had met about three weeks prior, after which point Diestler gave verbal intent that he would be retiring.

“There’s no immediate plans at this point in time (to fill the position),” Wehmeier said. “I’m working with the existing staff from an operational standpoint right now. We’re reviewing the current job responsibilities before we look at posting that position again.”

He explained that they currently are working through a severance package for Diestler. By ordinance, a retiree is entitled to certain things such as unused vacation time and a percentage of unused sick time.

When any county department has a vacancy, it is typical to review the job description, the skill sets needed, what has changed and what level the position needs to be filled in, Wehmeier explained. Also, officials look at the respective committee’s future goals and those of the Jefferson County Bord of Supervisors.

The county administrator said he is taking a similar tactic with the position of Fair Park director.

“There’s always been a desire to change and grow the operation, not just during fair week, but the entire Fair Park operations,” Wehmeier said. “We started talking about the strategy earlier this year. We did have the evaluation come in to look at what we were doing well, opportunities for improvement.

“Just like everything, there’s always those opportunities to improve, from an operation standpoint,” he continued. “Part of this is looking at how we can better engage with our partners in terms of sponsors, key stakeholders and community groups that utilize the facility as well.”

An interim director will not be named, Wehmeier said. Instead, Fair Park staff — including Roger Kylmanen, supervisor; Amy Listle, marketing and administrative assistant; Renee Busshardt, marketing and administrative assistant; and other support staff — have been working together, taking on various duties based on individual skillsets.

“They’re finishing up some fair wrap-up operations,” he noted. “It was a great fair this year. The numbers look very good from initial indications. We do have some bigger events still coming through this year that are traditional, like a car show coming up, the Sheep and Wool Festival, and our participation with the Harry Potter Festival.

“Part of it’s going to be reaching out to sponsors and start looking at renewals and those kind of things too,” Wehmeier added. “I think we’ve got a good group that’s going to help us through the interim as we go through this operational review.”

Listle agreed, citing several of the same events on which the staff is working.

“So we’re just finishing up collecting information on how the fair was and we’re already starting to plan for next year, so things are going good,” she said. “We’re just busy and keep moving forward.”

Jefferson County Board of Supervisors District 6 Supervisor Ron Buchanan, a member of the Fair Park Committee, meanwhile, described “retiring” and “resigning” as the “same thing.”

“I would say the best thing for me to say is he wasn’t qualified for the job,” Buchanan said of Diestler. “That’s an understatement.”

Prior to being hired as the Fair Park director, Diestler served as vice president/owner of Intrigue Marketing Inc. from 1987 to 2008. He then became executive director of the American Red Cross for South-Central Wisconsin.

He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Things have changed at the county level concerning personnel, Buchanan said.

“It used to be the committee would be talked to before they hired somebody over a department,” he explained. “The last fellow that was hired, HR (human resources) took applications and then they narrowed it down and then the committee got involved.

“In (Diestler’s) case, the committee was told that this person had been hired,” Buchanan continued. “It had no committee involvement and what HR knows about running a fair is beyond me.”

According to Buchanan, there only have been two Fair Park directors: Paul Novitzke and Diestler.

Novitzke resigned after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of fraudulent use of a county credit card.

Buchanan questioned having the position in the first place.

“In my mind, we don’t need one,” Buchanan said of a Fair Park director.

“It’s a different world. Where would you find somebody with experience running a fair or fairgrounds? It’s a year-round operation. It’s not just the fair. The fair’s only one week. There’s a million things going on out (at the Fair Park).”

District 25 Supervisor Mat­thew Foelker, also a member of the Fair Park Committee, said he really does not know much about what happened with Diestler and declined to share his thoughts.

Other members of the Fair Park Committee were unable to be reached for comment.

“David worked very hard in trying to get some goals accomplished and he made a determination that the best course was retirement,” Wehmeier said in response to comments about the former fair park director’s qualifications. “I think it was the best position to move forward, so that’s what he was looking at.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday at 7 p.m., an open forum for review of the 2017 Jefferson County Fair will be held at the Jefferson County Fair Park Activity Center. The forum is free to attend and open to the public.

There also is an online survey at: https://www.surveymonkey­.com/r/SP8BDZY?platform=hootsuite.

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