Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, October 12, 2009

Sparkman serves on police, fire commission

As alum Wes Sparkman serves on the city of Madison's Police and Fire Commission, he finds his training in public personnel administration comes to mind as the commission considers promotions and disciplinary actions.

Wes Sparkman

The 2000 La Follette School graduate served as president of the public body from 2009-11. The mayor first appointed Sparkman in 2007 to finish someone's term and reappointed him in 2009 to a full five-year term.

"I enjoy being on the commission," Sparkman says. "It is a great opportunity to work with commissioners, who are all esteemed members of the community and appointed by the mayor to serve. It's a great experience."

He also appreciates working with the fire chief and chief of police, especially because they are so supportive of their employees. "The methods that they use in giving commendations is notable, and anytime you encounter that kind of positive support, it is good to be around." Sparkman says. "Other areas of public personnel could benefit from using methods like that to reinforce positive behavior and activity."

The Police and Fire Commission appoints the chief of each department. The commission approves or disapproves promotions. It supervises each department's hiring process, certifies the list of eligible job candidates and approves the people who are finally hired. It also holds hearings on disciplinary matters and imposes discipline if appropriate.

"Participating firsthand in hearings with citizens and complainants has also been rewarding in its own way," Sparkman says.

When weighing in as a commissioner, Sparkman draws on classes he took from Dennis Dresang on advanced public administration and public personnel administration "Just seeing the way that the different departments try to improve morale and keep a positive attitude in the things they deal with in challenging circumstances is a big part of public personnel administration," Sparkman says.

Wes Sparkman, right, dines with Karl Gutknecht at a Rotary luncheon. Sparkman's presidency of the Downtown Madison Rotary Club was featured in the Capital Times.

In his day job, Sparkman administers the civil rights compliance and targeted business programs for Dane County, the second largest county in Wisconsin. He helps county contractors comply with personnel regulations related to demographics and equity. As contract compliance officer, he coordinates countywide strategies among all Dane County officials and department heads for the Business Development Program. He serves as a key liaison to the county executive on business development and civil rights compliance.

Prior to graduating from La Follette in 2000, Sparkman worked for the State of Wisconsin as an employment specialist with the Department of Workforce Development and as an equal opportunities specialist with the Department of Health and Social Services. He owns a human resources consulting business and is vice president of an investment club.

Community service is important to Sparkman. In July 2012, the 500 members of the Downtown Madison Rotary Club elected him president, and he joined the SSM Health Care of Wisconsin Board in 2012. Sparkman earlier served on the board for the Madison Children's Museum and helped with reviewing its budget and planning its new building near the Capitol.

"Civic engagement is a crucial part of local government," he says, "and everyone has a part to play."

— updated August 6, 2012