The Third Branch
Udell exemplifies dedication of court staff
By Patrick Brummond, District Seven Court Administrator
It is often said that an organization is only as good as its people. My 19 years as a Wisconsin court administrator have uniquely positioned me with many opportunities to witness excellence and dedication among administrators, clerks, court staff, judges and justices throughout our court system. At a time when fiscal constraints and attacks on public sector employees and institutions are common, I contend that excellence and dedication are the rule in the Wisconsin courts and not the exception.
My most recent example of court system excellence and dedication centers on the retirement of Grant County's Chief Deputy Clerk of Court Jan Udell after 33 years of court service. While impressive, her 33 years of service to the citizens of Grant County and the state are not the pinnacle of her dedication, but the past few years are. You see, Jan contemplated retirement in 2010 when her boss at that time, and for most of her career, Clerk of Circuit Court Diane Perkins, retired. Jan ultimately decided to stick around and assist with the transition of a new clerk of court. That transition occurred seamlessly and the new clerk, Kim Kohn, wisely convinced Jan to stay on as her chief deputy.
Jan Udell (right) celebrates her retirement from the Grant County Clerk of Courts office with Brian Kohn (left), whose wife, former Grant County Clerk of Court Kim Kohn, passed away in December 2012.
After a few years, Jan announced her retirement set for January 2013. Tragically, Kim was diagnosed with leukemia in December of 2012. Jan stepped up and postponed her retirement to "help Kim through her illness." Again, the clerk's office continued to function effectively and efficiently. Unfortunately, Kim lost her battle with cancer in June of 2013. Deeply saddened, Jan was faced with another transition to a new boss. This time Clerk of Circuit Court Tina McDonald was the beneficiary of Jan's dedication and experience in the office. Working together with Jan, Tina quickly got up to speed on her role and responsibilities as the new leader of the clerk's office and Jan's retirement got back on the calendar for January of 2014.
In the 17 years Tina has worked with Jan, she found that Jan's dedication and willingness to mentor and train others that have passed through the office has been unsurpassed. Her wealth of knowledge, work ethic, and leadership will be deeply missed by not only her "family" in the clerk's office but by all those in the court system.
At the recent retirement celebration for Jan, I had the opportunity to ask her why she selflessly postponed her retirement for the court system and she responded "one word…..Love." How can anyone argue with a response like that? However, I will argue that people like Jan Udell are represented throughout our court system in every office at every level because I've seen them. I challenge each of us to look around, identify our "Jans" and recognize them for their excellence and dedication. These are the people who define our organization. Give them praise because they will not seek it.