Ozaukee’s longtime environmental champion to retire

Fellow officials praise work of Holschbach that includes key role in Lion’s Den purchase, leading healthy soil movement

ANDY HOLSCHBACH, Ozaukee County’s longtime director of the Land and Water Management Department, is retiring Aug. 19 after almost 40 years with the county. Holschbach has worked closely with area farmers to undertake initiatives to improve water quality in the area, and his latest efforts are aimed at improving soil health. Press file photo
Ozaukee Press staff

Andy Holschbach has spent decades helping Ozaukee County farmers implement environmentally friendly practices, improving soil health and water quality throughout the county.

But that’s about to end. Holschbach, who has been director of the county’s Land and Water Management Department for the last 37 years, is retiring Friday, Aug. 19.

His impact on the county has been immeasurable, officials said.

“Ozaukee County would be a lot better place if there were 10 more Andy Holschbachs on staff,” County Administrator Jason Dzwinel told the Executive Committee Monday.

Dzwinel called Holschbach “the soul of the Land and Water Department, and we are incredibly better off due to his work.”

While others are quick to give Holschbach credit for the work he has done, Holschbach tends to brush it off, instead praising others — the farmers he has worked with, the officials who supported him and his co-workers.

“It’s been an honor to work here,” he said. “We have a really good crew here. I’ve always had a lot of good support from the County Board and officials. And we have a lot of good partners.

“Everyone working together to get things done — that’s the goal.”

Holschbach said there are three projects in particular that he has worked on through the years that stick out in his mind.

He was pivotal in the effort to acquire Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve in the Town of Grafton, serving as a liaison between the county and Ghulam Jeelani Dhar, who owned the 73-acre parcel and its 3,600 feet of Lake Michigan shoreland.

He recalled the day he presented the county’s offer to purchase to Dahr, saying he offered a simple prayer before he left.

“I said, ‘Andy, don’t screw this up,’” Holschbach said. He didn’t, and the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust purchased the land in 2002, then turned it over to the county as a park.

He also cited work to create the six-acre River Oaks County Park in the Town of Grafton.

Using state and federal funds, the county bought six properties along the Milwaukee River u that were prone to flooding, he said. On four of those sites, it has razed the houses and restored the land — it will do so on the other two properties later this year.

The landowners willingly participated, Holschbach said, and now the land is protected and preserved and the river has benefited. He is also proud of his work on soil health and the Clean Farm Families group, an effort that uses natural means such as no-till farming and cover crops to benefit the land that’s been damaged by years of conventional farming practices.

“It’s more about mimicking nature,” Holschbach said. “It sets the stage for the future.”

He credits the Clean Farm Families with the program’s success, but Town of Belgium farmer Matt Winker, vice president of the group, said Holschbach is the driving force behind the program.

“If it wasn’t for Andy, this program never would have gotten off the ground,” he said.

Holschbach, Winker said, can relay information about programs like this to others in a way they understand.

“He is an excellent leader. He’s very educated, and his passion for the environment, for cleaning up our water, for farming in general is unbelievable. He can teach and motivate,” Winker said.

Town of Fredonia farmer Mike Paulus, the group’s president, said Holschbach’s legacy can be seen in the many fields that once lay fallow but now are planted with cover crops to increase soil health.

Holschbach is so dedicated to the soil health movement that he has accepted a part-time position with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District to work on soil health along the Milwaukee River watershed in his retirement.

He’s also thinking about teaching an introduction to soils class at Lakeshore Technical College.

“I really believe that’s the future,” Holschbach said of the movement.

County Board Chairman Lee Schlenvogt, who has worked with Holschbach as a farmer and county official, noted that Holschbach convinced him to install buffer strips on his land along Sauk Creek, a program he still participates in today.

“With the buffer strips alone, he did a marvelous job in cleaning the creek,” Schlenvogt said. “He was so easy to work with. He was never demanding. He always explained things until you understood them.”

The fact he has a background in farming helped as well, Schlenvogt said, noting it allows him to relate to those he worked with.

Dzwinel said Holschbach is the “epitome of what I call Ozaukee County people ... the employees who selflessly move the organization forward. They are the backbone of what we want to accomplish. They work to find results for staff and the public within the framework vs. using the framework as a reason we cannot progress.”

Dzwinel said the county is seeking Holschbach’s successor and hopes to announce that person this fall.



Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login