I've known you for a few years now, and you seem to be everywhere. What is your official job these days?
I finished 40 years of combined military and private sector work in 2015, that's when I retired. Private sector was investments. Shortly after I retired, the other board members from Reach-A-Child asked if I would move from the board (which was a total volunteer role) to executive director which is a paid position, to lead the organization. So that's my full time job. It was supposed to be 20 hours a week, but it's like 50. That's okay though, it's a really cool job.
Tell me about Reach-A-Child
We have a great relationship with the EMS team here, and (Middleton Fire) Chief Harris. We deliver children's books and backpacks to them. When they are in a situation where there is a car accident or a fire, if there are children that are traumatized they can spend time with the child, go into the backpack, pull out a children's book and read the book to the child. So now the child is comforted and distracted from whatever that bad thing is.
What branch of the military were you in?
I was Army, so I went to UW-Madison and was in the ROTC program. On the day that I received my diploma, I received my commission. A week later I was wearing green and served for three years.
What was your early career like?
My father moved us around the state a bit, because he was in the National Guard. He'd be assigned to the Waupaca National Guard, the Neenah National Guard, the Milwaukee National Guard. He moved us to Madison, and that was the last stop. When I was 15 I went to work, at the Kelly's Hamburgers. It's now the site of Cousin's Subs on East Washington. I was making $1.10 an hour, and feeling pretty good about that, but then Hoffman House Restaurant, offered me $1.65 so I left Kelly's to go to Hoffman House.
I worked these part-time jobs through high school, and I was not really a good student. But I applied to UW-Madison and was accepted. They have this summer orientation program called SOAR, it's day-long program a month before your freshman year and the last thing on this orientation program is your one-on-one with the school counselor. The school counselor looked at my academic records; my ACT scores and East High School transcripts and he said "You know, based on what I see here, Curt, you're probably going to flunk out." I thought to myself that's good information because I can explore some other options and when I do flunk out, I'll have something lined up.
I was with a whole bunch of my buddies from East High School and we met every day for lunch at the original Kollege Klub. We drank beer and went to class, and after the six-week exams all but two of us had flunked out. I was like "holy crap!"
That got me a little more focused, and toward the end of my sophomore year I joined ROTC and things just accelerated. They asked me to be the commander for Army ROTC. Then they asked me to be commander for Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. So now I'm commanding all of these ROTC cadets and I was just like 'wow, this is really cool'. Because of things related to ROTC, they came to me and asked me where I'd like to be stationed. My father had been stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington State and I thought that was really pretty. Then I thought that a Military Intelligence job would be pretty cushy. When I got there, though, they told me I'd be the intelligence officer for the infantry. So Monday through Friday we were out on excursions. I'm glad I did that though, because that was the real army--being with the soldiers.
At the time my wife and I had been married for a year and she was working as a nurse every other weekend. I was in an MBA program that met every third week, and with my military job we'd see each other maybe once a month.
One of the things that taught me was to do literally whatever it takes. I mean we would go out on Monday morning, and return Thursday night or Friday morning. We'd be on night-time reconnaissance excursions that lasted until 2 or 3 am, and then we'd start again at 6 am on three or four hours of sleep, but that's what you had to do.
Coming out of the military I had a number of job offers, and ended up going into investments. That was 37 fabulous years and I've just been tremendously blessed. Now it's really a matter of what can I do to help people and help organizations.
What organizations have you been a part of?
I serve on the US Army Community Advisory Board for Wisconsin, I was the immediate past president of the Financial Planning Association for Wisconsin, the immediate past president of the Middleton Endowment, and the immediate past president of the Middleton Optimists. I've served on the Middleton Board of Review Committee, am the President-Elect of Good Neighbor Festival, and on the Board of Directors for the University of Wisconsin Alumni Association.
Through the Alumni board, I'm connecting with Chancellor Blank regularly and the leadership team at UW-Madison. Now I wish I could go back and be one-on-one with that counselor who told me I'd flunk out and tell him that everything worked out, and it's been a great ride.
What do you find most challenging?
For most of my private sector years it was balance. There was a lot of travel and a lot of commitments. I'm not one of those that regrets things to the point of wishing I could do it over but I tried to be super sensitive to the balance piece and sometimes that worked out and sometimes not so much.
What did you find to be the most fun?
In work I like to say that if you can make the campground better than when you arrived, that's really wonderful.
What are your hobbies?
I have a son and two grandkids, so family is huge. My wife, Barbara and I try to spend as much time outdoors as possible. In the warmer months, I ride a really nice Harley.
Do you have any closing thoughts for Middleton Chamber members?
People in the Middleton Chamber know this, but what we have with the Chamber is something really special. I mean, it's the culture, the environment, the passion, and the connectivity. The comment that I just love came from Jason Gutenberg who was president when I joined. I asked him what kept him up at night. He said 'I think about what are we missing, because it's been going so well for so long that you just don't want to be blind-sided by something.' The fact that the Chamber continues to foster that mind-set means, I think, that they are going to be successful forever.