November 24, 2019 – Washington Co., WI – Washington County Circuit Court, Branch 4 Judge Andrew Gonring will be retiring March 28, 2020.
“My wife and I always talked about me retiring in that time frame,” said Gonring during a one-on-one interview. “She’s gone and I promised her I’d retire at the end of March and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Gonring’s wife Patti, 67, died October 10, 2019 following a 10-year battle with cancer.
Gonring said he had no idea what he would do in retirement. “I’m just going to take some time off, regroup and figure out where I want to go and what I’m going to do,” he said.
“The decision to retire was difficult from the standpoint of my wife passing and did it make sense to stay or do I keep my promise to her and I decided I’d keep my promise.”
Gonring was first elected April 4, 2000. He ran unopposed and replaced retiring Judge Leo F. Schlaefer.
Gonring won re-election in 2006, 2012 and April 2018. His current six-year term would expire in 2024.
Gonring went to school with his wife Patti at St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI. He earned his undergraduate degree and then his Juris Doctor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Gonring worked as an attorney for Bell, Metzner, & Gierhardt from 1977-79 before becoming a partner at the firm of O’Meara, Eckert, Pouros & Gonring in West Bend in 1979.
Locally Gonring served on the West Bend School Board, the West Bend Police and Fire Commission and West Bend Economic Development Commission.
Gonring was also a familiar presence on the local theater scene. He recently performed as the narrator for Benjamin Britten’s A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra as part of the season opening performance of the Kettle Moraine Symphony.
Gonring was also the celebrity narrator at the KMS November 11, 2018 concert featuring Copland’s Lincoln Portrait.
Gonring also performed with Musical Masquers and the History Center of Washington County. He was also a familiar sight at summer picnics in West Bend, donning dark sunglasses and singing Roy Orbison’s, “Oh, Pretty Woman.”
Gonring said he will be 68 years old when he retires. Gonring filed his letter to Gov. Evers this past Wednesday, Nov. 20. He also filed copies to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Director of State Courts, his Chief Judge and his District Court Administrator.
“I can recommend a replacement to the Governor,” said Gonring. “If I have strong feelings about one of the final candidates I suppose I could voice that to the Governor… likely I won’t do that, but I could.”
Gonring suspected there would be several qualified candidates that would throw their name in as his replacement. “I suspect the process will start pretty soon,” he said.
During Wednesday’s meeting of the local Bar Association, Gonring made an announcement about his retirement. “The group was somewhat shocked; they didn’t see that one coming,” he said.
State Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler worked alongside Judge Gonring for seven year on Washington County Circuit Court. “Judge Gonring brought a great deal of experience to the bench from his many years in private practice and he earned a reputation for being a jurist of the utmost integrity,” said Ziegler. “His keen legal mind and dedication to public service will be missed.”
Over his 19 years on the bench in Washington County, Judge Gonring has presided over 160 jury trials. “Nothing really stands out in my mind. You get it done and move onto the next one,” he said.
“The nature of the cases we handle now has changed compared to 20 years ago. The drug cases just exploded and they’re reflective in everything we do. I can remember my first cocaine case,” he said. “I had about two years on the bench and I had a cocaine case and I was kind of stunned we had cocaine in Washington County and now we have dozens and dozens of heroin cases with people dying. It’s changed quite a bit.”
In February 2018, Judge Gonring swore in Assembly Rep. Rick Gundrum.
Questioned whether he would stay in the area following retirement, Gonring said he just needs time to regroup.
“I will definitely stay in the area,” he said “I just need to step back and reevaluate what I want to do. I’m sure I will keep busy one way or another.”
Photo courtesy Wisconsin Law Journal.