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State Legislature Now With Two Oak Creek Alums

John Jagler, class of 1987, won his first election bid in November to join Mark Honadel as one of two Oak Creek High School graduates in the state Assembly.

As initiations to state politics go, it's hard to think of a more chaotic way to enter than as a staffer for Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald during the 2011 Capitol protests.

But that's exactly how it was for Oak Creek High School graduate and former radio host John Jagler, who became communications director for Fitzgerald right before the controversial Act 10 was introduced.

With Fitzgerald one of the faces of the legislation, which put limits on collective bargaining for many public employees, Jagler and other staffers were often yelled at, threatened and followed to their cars. By the time it was over, Jagler came to know some of the thousands of protesters that descended on Madison by name.

Even for Capitol veterans, the scene was unheard of.

"If I had a dollar for every time somebody said, 'I've never seen this before,' I would never have to work again," Jagler said. "It was a very tense, interesting, amazing personal experience to go through."

Two years later, Jagler finds himself in an elevated role at the Capitol. After surviving a 5-way Republican primary, he was elected to represent the Assembly's 37th District, which includes parts of Columbia, Dane, Dodge and Jefferson counties.

A 1987 graduate of Oak Creek High School, Jagler is the second Oak Creek alum holding an Assembly seat. Republican Mark Honadel, class of 1974, has represented Oak Creek and South Milwaukee in the Legislature for the past 10 years.

"I'm very fond of the community," said Jagler, who now lives in Watertown with his wife and three kids. "A lot of good friends and good memories."

After graduating from Oak Creek, Jagler's path led him to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and then broadcast school.

For 16 years, Jagler hosted WTMJ's morning show, waking up at 1 a.m. each day to make the drive to the station.

He began thinking about a career change about 2010, as the format for the morning show changed and those 1 a.m. wake-ups got a little old. He knew Fitzgerald from covering the news and had a friend in the speaker's office.

One day, he called the office and said he was ready to make the switch to politics, and told them to keep him in mind if they needed someone with good communication skills.

He was hired on that same phone call.

After the tumultuous session that followed, an open seat was created through redistricting. Jagler said he got encouragement from a number of people, including Fitzgerald, to run.

As Fitzgerald vacated his Assembly seat and embarked on a campaign for the U.S. Senate, Jagler decided to move from behind the scenes to out in front, and dove into an Assembly campaign.

He knocked on more than 10,000 doors in the course of the campaign and picked up several endorsements, including key Republican leaders.

Election results are often unpredictable with a low turnout, and even more so with five candidates in the race. But the Aug. 14 primary saw Jagler pick up 52 percent of the vote and earn a decisive victory.

He went on to beat his Democratic opponent in the general election in November. Even though the district is largely Republican, he still got nervous as results rolled in on Election Night.

"It was a night where it was not a good night nationally for Republicans, and certainly not in the state for Tommy Thompson," Jagler said. "I had some nervous moments on Election Night too, but ... I had my family with me. We were in it together."

Jagler is no ordinary Assembly freshman — after spending the last two years "practicing with the team," as he said, he felt ready to go on Day 1.

"The joke around here is that I may be a freshman, but I'm more like a redshirt freshman," Jagler said. "I have a really good handle on how the process works and what it's going to be."

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