In the wake of a law career spanning nearly three decades, including 24 years serving Lincoln County residents, District Attorney Don Dunphy is “calling it a day” after filing official notice of non-candidacy with the state’s Government Accountability Board in May.
“It’s just time,” the 64-year-old prosecutor said. “I considered retiring before running for my current term in 2012, but at that time we had two high-profile homicide cases pending (2014 prosecutions of Mark Bucki and Ashley Baumann) and I wanted to see those through. In this job you always have cases come up,” he adds with a chuckle. “That’s how the job works, but after those cases were finished I knew this would be my last term. Now it’s time to call it a day and start enjoying life.”
A native of Wrightstown, Wis, Dunphy attended UW-Stevens Point where he completed his undergrad work before proceeding on to Marquette University Law School. Following five years of private practice in the Fox Cities area, Dunphy was selected for a position in the county’s corporation counsel office and relocated to the Gleason area in 1992.
“I was interested in working in the public sector and happened to come across the corporation counsel opening,” he said. “My wife Ruth Ann and I have always enjoyed the northwoods and this would be a start in working in the public sector, so it seemed like a great fit for us.”
Then in 2004, Dunphy’s crosshairs came to rest on another possible career advancement; running for the county’s District Attorney seat.
“I had my eye on the DA seat for a while,” he explains. “It was another job in the public sector and it’s a job where you feel as if you’re doing important work. So when the opportunity presented itself in 2004, I threw my hat in the ring and defeated Shawn Mutter who was the DA at the time.”
Since then, Dunphy also ran twice for Lincoln County Circuit Court bench seats.
When asked of what he considers the biggest challenge for the winner of August’s District Attorney primary, Dunphy cites the unique job duties and case load of the Lincoln County DA seat, compared to others in the state.
“There will certainly be a learning curve, there always is,” he explains. “He will have to ride the wave as there is a lot to learn and a lot of work to be done here. Here in Lincoln County we have additional case load and authority which many other counties don’t. One example is that of Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake Schools. Those are the the only juvenile institutions in the entire state and they happen to be in our county. Lincoln Hills generates an awful lot of referrals, mostly Felony-Battery by Prisoner cases but there is an occasional sexual assault case as well.
“On that same note, our DA’s office is also responsible for prosecuting all juvenile cases, not just those from the correctional institutions. Anyone who comes into this office must understand they will be very busy, which will include a lot of weekends. That’s just how it is.”
Upon his exit in January, Dunphy admits there is no set retirement plan in place, but has plenty of options for spending his time.
“I would really like to finish learning how to speak Spanish,” he adds with a grin and a chuckle. “It’s been about 40 years, having taken courses in high school and college. I’ve never given up on it, but I guess it’s gotten pushed aside. I am a Karate instructor at the Center for Creative Wellness on Main Street and that is something I have really come to enjoy. I fully intend to continue teaching and catch up on some lost time fishing and hunting. We are Wisconsin natives and love the northwoods so we certainly aren’t going anywhere permanently.”
Sidney Brubacher of Wausau and Galen Bayne-Allison of Lake Tomahawk, both running as Democrats, have stepped forward to vie for Dunphy’s seat in the Aug. 9 primary. The new DA will take office Jan. 3.