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A Rock Star from The Start

Posted: 02/19/2021

Author: Julie Anderson

Category: County Board, Departments

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Char Rosenow was always good at math. In the 9th grade she read about a career in finance and accounting and never looked back. Douglas County residents benefitted greatly from that decision. They elected someone who spent her career finding solutions and saving taxpayers money. 

Rosenow has served as the Douglas County Auditor/Treasurer since 2011 and Finance Director since December 2016. Rock Anderson hired her back in July of 1984. It didn’t take him long to recognize her many talents and she rose through the ranks quickly. She will retire at the end of February.

“What I’m proud of is reducing the county’s debt,” said Rosenow. “We once had 10 bonds. Some of them naturally came to an end but some of them I actively looked for ways to pay them off early and therefore saved the taxpayers millions of dollars.”

What makes Rosenow special is she acknowledged anyone, in theory, could have done that, but she took the time to learn how and when it made the best sense to move forward.  A skill she said she learned from listening to others.

“When a person first takes office you kind of go with the status quo, but I developed some really good friendships with people like Shelly Eldridge from Ehlers. She did a presentation on paying off bonds early.  We’d eat meals together at conferences and I’d pick her brain on that. I know the importance of tapping the talents of the people around you and being willing to think outside the box.”

Rosenow has come a long way from the day she was hired. She said she initially had what looked like an army desk – no phone, not even a stapler. But she begged for and got a computer, a cast off from the Parks Department, she remembered and started turning massive, handwritten spreadsheets into manageable data bases. Under Auditor Harvey Tewes, Rock’s replacement, she became Assistant Auditor/Treasurer. Under his successor, Tom Redick, she discovered she could one day hold the top position. “Tom could get you to do things you didn’t know you even wanted,” she recalled. “He was a very good man.”

Reddick knew Rosenow would be good for the county once he retired. Rosenow says Reddick quietly solicited the help of Donna Quandt from Pope County who took Rosenow under her wing and got her comfortable enough with the idea of being Auditor/Treasurer that she came to her own conclusion she could do it. 

When Reddick retired at the end of his term, Rosenow filed and won the election since no one had filed against her. Rosenow has run unopposed since. During her time in office the position of Finance Director was also added to her title. Rosenow helped transition the county to a central finance system. 

“I have been fortunate to have an incredible staff,” said Rosenow. “They have been hard working and supportive and without that finance would never have been successful.”

Rosenow is paying forward the assistance she got from her predecessors. “I train my staff deep and wide because you never know where that talent might lie. You tap their talents and train them to be future leaders. She advises this when someone isn’t quite ready to step to the next level: “Don’t say no, just say not right now.”

Two women who currently work for Rosenow have agreed the time is now. On February 16, the board appointed Vicki Doehling to be Rosenow’s successor as Auditor/Treasurer until the next election. Doehling is currently the Elections & Property Tax Administrator. Jill Frisell will continue in her role as Assistant Auditor/Treasurer/Finance Director. The board also created a new Finance Department at its February 16 meeting. Frisell is eligible to apply for director of that department. As the transition unfolds, Rosenow’s advice to them is to take it one day at a time.

“I’ve told them they know more than they think they know. They’re worried, but they really do know more than they are giving themselves credit for. I believe they can handle it. Have they done all these things? No. But I’m planning to leave good records and guidance documents. The test will be when I’m gone,” she said laughing.

The job is a big one to fill. It includes maintaining the official financial records for the county, working with department heads to prepare a budget, working with cities, townships, and other special taxing districts to compute the tax on each parcel of land for property taxes, send out a Truth in Taxation statement in November, host a Truth in Taxation public meeting, and send the annual tax statement in March. The job also requires overseeing elections and voter registrations, administering Tax Increment Financing Districts and the list goes on and on and on.

Doehling knows how long that list is and said Rosenow led by example. “During Char’s 36-year career with Douglas County, she has exemplified integrity and what it means to truly live by example.  There is nothing that Char would expect from her staff that she wouldn’t expect from herself first.  She also recognizes the individual contributions her staff make to the success of the office and gives them credit for her success.  When making decisions, Char always thought of the taxpayers first.  The knowledge that she’ll be taking with her is going to be hard to replace.  To say that she’ll be greatly missed is an understatement.”  


Rosenow said she plans to declutter her house this spring and then spend her time this summer at a seasonal camping spot she and her husband enjoy on Little Lake Mary. Last summer she spent much of her lake time cooped up in the camper working on distributing Covid-19 funds to local businesses and nonprofits impacted by shutdowns. It was those long days that got her thinking of retirement.

And so, she is ending her position as the elected Auditor/Treasurer/Finance Director.

But Douglas County residents may not want to bet she’s completely riding off into the sunset. 


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