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WITC chief takes a swing at new role

The new campus administrator at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in New Richmond spent much of his first day on the job at the golf course.

Joseph Huftel wasn't slacking off. It just so happened that last week's annual WITC golf fund raiser landed on that day.

"I'm not a golfer," he said, "but it was a real neat way to start and to meet a lot of people."

Thanks to the event, Huftel said he was able to greet a number of college campus supporters and area movers-and-shakers. It was an opportunity not many new employees get right away.

"I was able to talk to people in a relaxed atmosphere," he said. "Even though I probably won't remember all their names."

By the time Huftel arrived for his first full day in the office, he was able to continue meeting staff and community members and learn the ropes as the new campus administrator.

Huftel comes to New Richmond through Phillips, Wis. where he has served as high school principal since 2003.

Huftel has a master's degree in educational administration from University of Wisconsin-Madison, a bachelor's degree in technology education, and a Vocational-Technical Associate degree in heating/air conditioning technology. He is a 1978 graduate of Menomonie High School, Menomonie, Wis.

His professional work experience includes five years with the Dunn County Highway Department, five years as a technology education teacher, and 13 years (1989-2002) as a teacher and assistant principal at the Rice Lake High School, Rice Lake.

"The learning curve has been steep, and I've already dealt with some issues," Huftel said of his first couple days on campus. "For me it's a whole new role, because it's post-secondary. But the issues are not uncommon to all of education."

The real challenge before him is learning a different system and procedures. He also has to learn a whole new list of acronyms (i.e. PC means "president's cabinet" not "personal computer" at WITC).

"I thought K-12 had cornered the market on acronyms, but there's a whole new language here," he said with a laugh. "Learning the lingo is going to be fun and challenging."

Apart from confusion about small details, Huftel said he's so far been pleasantly surprised by the positive atmosphere within the walls of WITC.

"The staff is really looking forward to rolling up their sleeves and moving on," he said. "It's a neat atmosphere and it's a neat college."

Huftel is excited about one of his roles as promoter of the technical college system, a job that was much more difficult a decade ago when some considered it a second-class educational option.

"Fifteen years ago, a parent would have come across the desk at me if I'd suggested a technical college ... because they wanted their child to go to a university," he explained. "Now, when you talk about technical college, they're on the edge of their seat and listening. We've got parents and students sold."

Because of job placement success and competitive salaries for graduates, Huftel said, technical colleges have an easier sell when recruiting.

"I'm just glad to be part of it," he said.

Huftel is also looking forward to becoming part of the New Richmond community in the near future.

Right now he's commuting from a lake cabin near Rice Lake while he considers where he will move.

"I want to take some time to find the right place," he said.

Huftel replaced John Hackbarth, who has served as interim campus administrator since October 2004.

In the WITC New Richmond campus' 35-year history, Huftel is only the sixth person to serve as campus administrator. Since the merger with the Indianhead District in 1972, the New Richmond Campus administrators include: Warren Leonard - 1972-80; Doug Bolen - 1980-83; Marilyn McCarty - 1983-95; Timothy Schreiner - 1995-2004; and John Hackbarth as interim 2004-06.