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Jan Doonan says good-bye to City Hall

Jan Doonan shows off a bouquet of roses given to her by Hudson Mayor Alan Burchill, the sixth mayor she has worked for. (Hudson Star-Observer photos by Randy Hanson)1 / 3
Jan Doonan’s work area is between the clerk’s office and the city administrator’s office at the back of the main floor of City Hall. City Clerk Nancy Korson, right, is looking through some of the paper records kept there.2 / 3
Jan Doonan examines a photo of herself with five past Hudson mayors, plus current Mayor Alan Burchill, while holding another photo of four former mayors.3 / 3

Jan Doonan enjoyed her job.

She liked it well enough that when she reached the age that qualified her for full Social Security benefits, she kept going.

But now, after 24-plus years as executive secretary for the city of Hudson, Doonan is calling it quits.

“It’s time,” she said.

The job is getting in the way of her life.

She’s active with The Phipps Center for the Arts as a house manager, usher and tour guide. She sings with the Praise Company Choir at St. Patrick Church, and is the social committee chairperson for The River City Chorale.

And she has a scrapbooking hobby that she wants to devote more time to.

Doonan also is going to get a new computer and Internet service at her home on Perch Lake Drive in the town of St. Joseph, and do a lot of cleaning and organizing, she said.

“It’s been fun,” said Doonan, now the city’s oldest employee, but it’s time to concentrate on other things.

Her last day at work will be Friday, Nov. 1. A reception in her honor will be held at City Hall from 3 to 4:30 p.m. that day. When City Hall closes, friends are invited to join her at Pier 500 restaurant for drinks and dinner.

“It’s been a fun time. Only fun people are invited to my party,” she said with a laugh.

Much change

Hudson has grown greatly since Doonan joined the City Hall staff on April 4, 1989.

Then, the city’s population was about 6,400 and Dave Holt Ford was the only business on the south side of Interstate 94.

Records were composed on typewriters and stored in file cabinets. There was no word-processing system or computer storage of data.

The technological advances are what have allowed the city staff to keep up with the added workload that has come with a population now twice the size (13,187 in 2013) and all the commercial, industrial and residential development south of the freeway.

Doonan has served six mayors -- Tom Redner (twice), Dave Dueholm, Bob Angleson, Jack Breault, Dean Knudson and Alan Burchill -- and three city clerks -- Jerry Berning, Pat Dotseth and Nancy Korson.

She also has worked with the only two city administrators that Hudson has had -- Brian Gramentz and Devin Willi.

Doonan still counts the controversy surrounding the approval of the St. Croix Meadows dog track as the most momentous period of her service to the city.

The political fighting was under way when she went to work at City Hall and led to the recall of then-mayor Redner in late 1989.

Doonan still defends Redner and points out that the handbook for municipal officials published by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities refers to his case, saying the grounds on which he was recalled were false. Opponents said he didn’t have the right to replace a member of the Plan Commission, but he did, according to Doonan.

While dog track opponents might not like to hear it, the track provided the city with much of the infrastructure -- including the Carmichael Road interchange -- that led to the development south of I-94, Doonan said.

“All of that was a benefit from the dog track, because they paid big money for that intersection to go in, and they knew that would spur development along the way. And it did,” she said.

The attorneys’ demands for depositions and records during that period were “just outlandish,” Doonan said.

Job description

The job description for Doonan’s eventual replacement is three pages long.

In general, the new administrative assistant will perform a variety of clerical and administrative tasks under the supervision of the city clerk, it says. The individual will serve as a confidential employee and provide support to the mayor, city administrator, finance officer, City Council and various committees.

“I just work with Nancy (City Clerk Nancy Korson) on lots of things,” Doonan said. “Everything that the council says to get done, you have to see that it gets done.”

She writes mayoral proclamations; sees that ordinances and council resolutions and public notices get published in the newspaper; prepares letters, memos, reports and forms; and takes the minutes at ad hoc committee meetings -- among a multitude of other tasks.

“It’s clerical work support where it is needed -- just all kinds of little odd things,” Doonan said.

“In government work, you hardly ever hear praise from anyone, especially the public. The public only gives you a gripe or a complaint,” she said. “But you just kind of deal with that. That’s the way it is. It’s the employees around you that make it tolerable.”

Her pet peeve is poor spelling and grammar in city reports and documents.

“To me, that’s a reflection on the city, and everything should look professional,” she said.

Korson said Doonan has been an exceptional city employee.

“I wish we had half a dozen more like her,” Korson said. “She’s ahead of everything. By the time you think of it, she’s already got it taken care of.”

City Administrator Devin Willi said Doonan could always be counted on to help out where she was needed.

He added that he will miss her historical knowledge of the city.

“She knows where things are and she can reference back to things that have happened 15, 20 years ago,” Willi said.

A Hudson native

Doonan moved with her parents to North Hudson in 1956, and graduated from Hudson High School in 1961. Her father, Leonard Skalicky, was the chief engineer at Nor-Lake for 30 some years.

After high school, she worked for the state of Minnesota for five years, as secretary to the commissioner of banks.

After marrying her late husband, Dennis, she stayed home to raise their three sons -- Steve, Jeff and Charlie.

In 1978, she and Dennis, along with Joyce and Bill Harwell, built the Valley House supper club on Hwy. 35 in the town of St. Joseph.

When her marriage to Dennis ended in 1986, she went back to school at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College for training in communications and computers, which led to her job with the city of Hudson.

Her sons all live in the area, along with three grandchildren -- Abby, Haley and Hunter. Haley is Miss Hammond.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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