Jartz honored at graduation

TV anchor gets Clintonville alumnus award

Grace Kirchner Leader Correspondent

Photo by Grace Kirchner Bill Schmidt tells members of the Clintonville Class of 2018 to find something they are passionate about and pursue it wholeheartedly, “no matter what it is,” at the May 26 high school commencement ceremony.

You might know him as Bill Jartz, news anchor, or as the “Voice of Lambeau Field.” Folks around Clintonville might remember him as Bill Schmidt, salutatorian of the Class of 1976.

Regardless, the man now has another name: Alumnus Honoris 2018, the highest award that can be given to a Clintonville High School graduate.

Schmidt was given the honor at the 133rd annual commencement exercises May 26 at Clintonville High School. In his address to the Class of 2018, Schmidt told the graduates to “find something you love and put your heart into it — no matter what it is.”

Schmidt grew up on a small farm near the Clintonville airport. His father was employed at FWD as a machinist. He recalls his father always telling him to make a difference, help others and leave the world a better place than you found it.

When Schmidt was just 12 years old and in the seventh grade, his father died suddenly.

“I had to grow up in a hurry as I took on more responsibilities to help my mother and my sister, Vicki,” he recalled.

“A boy needs a dad in his life. I give credit to some of the neighbors for helping me and keeping me on the right path,” he said. Some of the positive direction in his life also came from being a member of the Woodland Badger 4-H Club, he said, where he earned a blue ribbon for showing his calf at the Waupaca County Fair.

He also became active in sports — basketball, at first, then football. While Schmidt said his dad had been more of a hunting and fishing kind of a guy, he was grateful for the influence of coaches like Jim Schwentner and Bruce Parkovich, who were positive male role models.

“They taught me to get involved and play the game, meet people and get involved in the community,” he said. “I didn’t know it at the time, but Coach Parkovich was trying to prepare me to maybe get a scholarship. School had not been a big challenge.”

Schmidt was recruited by several colleges, but he decided to attend Northwestern University on a football scholarship. He then graduated with a degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism. Earlier in his lifetime, he had considered being a lawyer, veterinarian or an auctioneer as he remembered Francis O’Connor, of Clintonville, whom he admired.

A couple of weeks after graduation, he landed his first job at television station WSAU (now WSAW) as sports anchor and reporter.

“I interviewed with Mark Zelich of Channel 7, and he remembered me when I made the Channel 7 All-State Football team in 1975. I remember my interview was awful, but I did land the job,” said Schmidt.

Later, in 1983, he started as a weekend sports anchor/reporter with WBAY in Green Bay. Since there already was a local reporter with the last name Schmidt, he had to come up with an alternative. He settled on Bill Jartz because it was his mother’s maiden name, and he thought it sounded good.

Except for the time when he worked as a stockbroker and industrial paper salesman from June 1990 to January 1993, he has spent his professional career at WBAY. Being in sales wasn’t in his comfort zone, he decided, and returned to doing what he loves — sports reporting. In 1998, he made a move to news anchor and has held the seat ever since.

In 2005, Schmidt was named the public address announcer for home games at Lambeau Field. His high school teammate and Clintonville native Andy Thompson works with him in the announcer’s booth, and he considers himself one of the luckiest guys alive.

Keeping his separate names in order is as easy as changing his clothes, he said. “When I get up in the morning, I put on my bibs and work around the place, and then I am Bill Schmidt. But when I get dressed up for my job, I am Bill Jartz.”

Married to wife Mary, whom he met on a blind date, the couple resides in Maribel. They have two dogs and are looking to get a third. When he isn’t on camera, in the Packers booth or volunteering, Schmidt enjoys hunting, fishing and doing physical fitness.

He says he spends his spare time in the two large gardens where he grows potatoes, squash and berries. He plants food for the deer, and they have several fruit trees. Much of their harvest goes to the homeless or an area food pantry.

Giving back to the community is an important lesson instilled in Schmidt by his father, who encouraged him to lend a hand to those in need. To that end, Schmidt has spent countless hours volunteering his time to a variety of nonprofit organizations and helping with fundraisers, golf outings, auctions and capital campaigns.

“If my celebrity can help those less fortunate, then that is a good thing,” Schmidt said.