UNION GROVE — The new face of Union Grove village government should look familiar to many people.
Kerry Bennett, who has been serving as a village treasurer for the past three years, has been named the new village administrator.
Bennett succeeds Mike Hawes, who stepped down in March after three years to take a similar position with a larger community in Milwaukee County.
Bennett has been serving as interim village administrator the past few months.
Village Board members voted to hire Bennett on Monday night, choosing her over four other applicants with experience in local government outside of Union Grove.
Board members said they were happy to find the most qualified candidate already on the village staff.
“She is what we were looking for,” Village Trustee Jennifer Ditscheit said.
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Bennett, 42, said she feels honored to be selected for the job, and she looks forward to working with residents and business owners in the community of about 5,000.
“We all have one common goal,” she said. “It’s to continue to make Union Grove a great place to live, work and play.”
Bennett’s salary as village administrator will start at $85,000 a year. Hawes was getting $93,000 a year when he stepped down.
The other finalists for the job were Will Kolschowsky, a management analyst for Urbana, Illinois; Todd Willis, economic development coordinator for Brookfield; Theresa Loomer, village administrator for Fontana; and Chris Bennett, neighborhood services director for Whitewater.
Chris Bennett is not related to Kerry Bennett.
The Union Grove Village Board Personnel Committee interviewed all five finalists before the Village Board made its choice.
Village Trustee Patrick Brinkman said hiring an insider like Kerry Bennett offers the opportunity for a smooth transition to new leadership.
Brinkman said he was also impressed that Bennett’s years of working in Union Grove had given her a strong understanding of the village’s needs and its future potential.
“It’s the experience of knowing the village,” he said. “The only way you know that is by working in it.”
The Village Board vote to hire Bennett was unanimous.
Ditscheit said she was pleased to learn that Bennett and her family are making plans to relocate from Greenfield in Milwaukee County to a new home in Mount Pleasant in Racine County.
“Kerry has shown a great commitment to the village,” Ditscheit said.
Village President Steve Wicklund said Bennett has the right skill set and experience to lead Union Grove in the village’s top non-elected government position.
“I have found her to have strong leadership, financial, and communication skills,” Wicklund said. “She really has the adaptability and drive to make even the most challenging situation work.”
Before joining the Village of Union Grove, Bennett worked as deputy clerk and treasurer for Big Bend, as a clerk typist and payroll specialist for Greendale and as a finance administrative assistant for Brookfield.
Bennett said her first order of business as administrator will be filling other vacancies on the village staff, including the village clerk position vacated recently by Rebecca Wallendal.
Officials offered the clerk’s job to Michelle Filz, administrative department secretary for the Union Grove-Yorkville Fire Department. Felt turned down the offer for reasons she is declining to discuss.
The other finalists for village clerk include Ashly Ratz, a legal secretary in the Wisconsin Public Defender’s Office in Kenosha; Shai Demers, a customer service representative for the manufacturing firm MTI in Pleasant Prairie; and Jolene Lusha, a customer service manager/plant manager for the manufacturer National Technologies Inc. in Oak Creek.
Bennett, however, said another applicant has since come forward and has been offered the job, but has not yet accepted. Bennett declined to identify the new candidate.
To fill Bennett’s old village treasurer position, officials have promoted deputy treasurer Roberta Campbell to the position of treasurer/court clerk.
Bennett said she does not plan any immediate operational changes as village administrator. She plans to focus on getting back to full staff, then turn her attention to the business of crafting a new village budget for 2023.
She said she will begin to consider new ideas or changes once the budget process is underway.
“I hope next year I can definitely look outward,” Bennett said.
In photos and video: Twisted Ridge is a new stable in Union Grove
Ben Worby, co-owner of Twisted Ridge
Ben Worby is a co-owner of Twisted Ridge Stables. He has been giving riding lessons since 2012.
Indoor horse boarding space
Twisted Ridge Stables is open to boarding about 20 horses in its space, said co-owner Ben Worby.
A collection of saddles and equipment
Twisted Ridge Stables features an outdoor arena for riding competitions, one of the few in Southeastern Wisconsin.
Renegade the horse stands tall at Twisted Ridge Stables on Thursday.
Teaching a horse
Angelita Colin teaches one of the horses at Twisted Ridge Stables on Thursday.
Hay bales inside the indoor arena at Twisted Ridge
Barrel race lessons
Ben Worby, with the word “Cowboy” tattooed on his right forearm, helps an advanced horse rider practice barrel races on Thursday.
Twisted Ridge Stables
Twisted Ridge Stables is located at 5035 69th Drive, Union Grove.
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