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The Third Branch

Voelker named deputy secretary of ETF

A. John Voelker

A. John Voelker

Former Director of State Courts A. John Voelker left the court system July 25 to become deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF).

Voelker worked for the courts for 22 years, including the last 11 years as the director of state courts. He previously served as executive assistant to Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson and as a senior policy analyst in the Office of Court Operations. Before that, he worked for the Legislative Audit Bureau.

During his tenure as director, Voelker helped move the Wisconsin court system ahead in many areas, including implementation of evidence-based practices and the use of new technology, said Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson.

"Along with the entire Wisconsin Court system, I appreciate the work John has done over the years, and the dedication he has shown to the judges and employees of the judiciary. He and his work will be missed," said Abrahamson.

As director, Voelker worked closely with Abrahamson, the Supreme Court, the committee of chief judges, deputy administrators and district court administrators to oversee administrative functions of the entire state court system. He also served on or led many committees responsible for developing policy and guiding the court system.

Voelker was called on at times to temporarily serve as acting department head when vacancies occurred. He served stints as acting clerk of Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, working with Theresa Owens, then executive assistant the Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson and former deputy clerk of the Supreme Court. Voelker also worked with the Board of Bar Examiners while the director's position was vacant in that office.

Although his ability to "switch-hit" in administrative duties was valuable to the court system, the avid baseball fan said he won't necessarily miss that aspect of his job. Voelker said he will miss working with many people crucial to effectiveness of the court system, including the counties, clerks of circuit court, registers in probate, court reporters, the State Bar of Wisconsin and other justice system partners.

"I liked building coalitions with anybody who was interested in improving the court system, and that included all those folks," Voelker said.

His expertise also was recognized outside the court system: Voelker was chosen last year to head the evidence-based project planning team of the Statewide Criminal Justice Coordinating Council convened by Gov. Scott Walker. The number of county-based criminal justice coordinating councils grew from less than five to about 30 during his tenure. Voelker also was a member of the Conference of State Court Administrators and served a three-year term on its board of directors.

Voelker worked to improve court system management through the use of technology, such as the Consolidated Court Automation Program's (CCAP's) judicial dashboard tool for judges and an eFiling system, which is slowly expanding. Another significant achievement through technology and court operations involved transitioning the court system to its own payroll and human resources management computer system. ETF and the state are working towards implementing their own system by learning from the court system's experience.

Voelker also became recognized as an expert on court security issues and worked collaboratively with the Fox Valley Technical College to provide court security training and educational opportunities for court staff and law enforcement.

Earlier in his career, while serving as a policy analyst in support of the Planning and Policy Advisory Committee (PPAC), he helped develop the court system's first formal strategic plan. He also helped develop rules that were eventually adopted by the Supreme Court regarding court facilities and security and the use of circuit court commissioners.

In recent months Voelker had taken to the road to promote understanding of court system funding and the potential effects of underfunding the courts. 

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