Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
April 2007
Ron Buchholz Retiring After 34 Years in Safety & Buildings
Ron Buchholz
Ron Buchholz

There is nothing retiring about retiring Commerce Safety & Buildings Deputy Administrator Ron Buchholz. Indeed, it's a wonder that the affable gentleman, who has worked for the division for 34 years, ever had time for work. Between his and wife Mary's family, church, hobby and volunteer commitments, the Buchholzes scarcely have time to come up for air. But that, it is evident, is how Ron likes it. He's a "never enough hours in the day" kind of guy.

Growing up in Milwaukee, Ron notes that he had two goals for himself in life. The first was to become an architect. Asked by his sixth grade teacher to help draw up some conceptual plans for an addition to his school, he says he was "hooked" from that moment on. He made that dream a reality in 1972, when he received his BS in Architecture and Urban Planning from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM).

His second goal was established the day he watched John F. Kennedy being sworn-in as the 35 president of the United States. JFK's Inaugural address challenged Americans to give of themselves through public service, and Ron took it to heart. He has strived ever since in both his personal and professional lives to do just that, and has demonstrated it in spades, time and time again.

Perhaps Ron's first foray into public service came when joined the Boy Scouts. His dad, a milkman who moved indoors as an accountant at Sealtest Dairy when home delivery milk routes went out of fashion, was his first Scout troop leader. (Ron's mother was a homemaker and part-time waitress. His one older sister, a nurse, preceded him in retirement three years ago.) Ron credits working with his father, and earning his Eagle Scout badge in 1965 as the firm foundation on which he built the rest of his life.

"I still use the leadership skills I learned in Scouting," says Ron, who is still a volunteer Scout leader even though his children are long grown. "They still guide me today."

However, the Eagle Scout was not all work and no play – although it was at work at the old Capitol Court Kohl's grocery store where he met his future wife, Mary, also an employee. He was still in high school (at Milwaukee's Rufus King); she was an "older" woman – already in college – yet somewhere between the produce department (where she worked) and the stock room (where he worked), sparks flew.
The couple dated for five years before tying the knot in May 1972, a  seven months before Ron graduated from UWM in December 1972.
Ron's first  professional full-time job in the private sector was his first one out of college. He worked as an architectural appraiser for American Appraisal in Milwaukee, specializing in healthcare and education buildings. "I spent most of my time traveling," he recalls. "I was in 26 states in 11 months." During month 12, November of 1973, he applied for a job with the State of Wisconsin – and got it.

Ron's career with the state began as a commercial building plan reviewer in the Safety & Buildings  Division at the Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations - DILHR (now the Department of Workforce Development).
Their first son Lauren . was born in 1974, and son Geoffrey followed in 1976, the same year Ron was licensed as an architect and moved into code development, where he spent 13 years until he was promoted to Deputy Division Administrator in 1989, the position he will be retiring from on April 20, 2007.

However, it was not career advancement that was on Ron's mind in the 1980's – it was Mary's health. Diagnosed with cancer in 1980, which she beat, the couple made a very conscious decision to "focus on our kids and family," first and foremost.

Ron and Mary both got involved in Scouting, and Ron became a Cubmaster in 1982 when Lauren was old enough to join the Cub Scouts and was Scoutmaster to both sons, who, incidentally, earned Eagle Scout and Religious awards.

The Buchholzes made their children's school and their church priorities as well. Ron was the president of the Home and School Association, and coached youth soccer and basketball while Mary edited the school newsletter and served as a Room Mother. Both he and Mary sang in the choir and became Eucharistic ministers.

Ron remembers traveling with his sons and their Scout troop as a definite life highlights – particularly the "High Adventure trips" to such places as the Quetico Wilderness Park in Canada, Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, and the Appalachian Trail and the 1989 National Scout Jamboree in Virginia was something he "only dreamed of as a city kid" who thought the Boy Scout Camp off of I-94 near Milwaukee was wilderness. 

Between work and volunteer commitments, Ron found time to return to school to become a Certified Public Manager®, obtaining his certification in 1995, a year before the formation of the Department of Commerce, the new home of Safety & Buildings.

He then joined, and eventually became president of, both the Wisconsin Society of Certified Public Managers® (WSCPM) and the American Academy of Certified Public Managers® (AACPM). In 2005, Ron received the latter's highest honor, the Henning Award, named for the founder of the AACPM, Kenneth Henning.

While the boys were growing up, Mary taught piano in their home When they were older, she returned to work as an accountant, and plans to retire from her career on the same day that Ron bids adieu to Commerce.

When that day finally arrives the couple plans to take a "Three times postponed" trip to Europe, where their itinerary includes stops at Mary's ancestral Stockhausen Castle and Ron's family's namesake town, Buchholz, both in Germany.

At some point they plan to visit the seven remaining states that Ron has yet to see (Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Idaho and Texas), as well as son Lauren, who works in the computer industry in Seattle. (Geoffrey is an accountant in Madison.) 

Meanwhile, Ron still has a week left at a job that he says has "been an honor and a privilege." Serving the public for 34 years, Ron muses that he has seen seven Governors, 16 Department Secretaries and nine Division Administrators come and go. Yet something that never changed, he says, is the high level of services that the Safety & Buildings Division provide to the citizens of Wisconsin – despite administration changes and budget cuts.

"We have a very dedicated group of employees," says Ron "who have the opportunity to touch peoples' lives every day, where they live, work, and recreate." He adds that "I stayed all these years because I feel what we do is important and essential."

However, come April 20, Ron's staff will have to keep peddling without him while he pursues is hobbies of photography, woodworking and his interest in the Civil War – particularly the Wisconsin Iron Brigade.

He has also signed on for another year at the helm of the AACPM and will continue as a lector and commentator at St. Mary Goretti, as a Scout leader and, well, you get the picture.

For Ron Buchholz, even after retirement, there will never be enough hours in the day.

-- Barbro McGinn

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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