Sonnleitner steps down, takes on new role

Jessica Johnson

UW Oshkosh’s Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services Tom Sonnleitner is stepping down from day-to-day operations after 16 years as of March 1, 2016. Sonnleitner said he will be joining the Office of the Chancellor to continue working on projects he helped develop, and plans on retiring in “no more than two years.” “Essentially we will see how it goes,” Sonnleitner said. “I think [working with the Chancellor’s Office] will work well, and allow me to focus in a different way. That is kind of the plan at this point, and I think it’s an opportunity to help this university be successful while working towards a smooth transition into retirement.” Sonnleitner said the four main areas he handled as part of his daily responsibilities include finance, facilities, human resource and information technology. Additionally, sustainability, the Head Start program and parking, among other things, were part of his portfolio. According to Sonnleitner, something he is proud of when thinking about his favorite aspects of the job was developing the sustainability and carbon footprint focus at UWO. Sonnleitner said he is pleased with the work done within the sustainability focus because he believes it led to a large part of the current engineering technology programs, focused curriculum for environmental students and engaged the foundation in sponsoring the funding. “We are actually selling electricity to the grid,” Sonnleitner said. “We are displacing the fossil fuels here, so that is a real satisfaction.” Chancellor Andrew Leavitt, in a campus announcement, commented on the long and successful career Sonnleitner had at UWO and with the UW System. “The physical expansion and modernization of the University campus has taken place under the vision and direction of Tom,” Leavitt said. “Since 2000, UW Oshkosh enhanced facilities by planning, completing and slating for completion approximately $320 million in construction projects, with some still being completed.” Sonnleitner said communication and the power of sharing knowledge with those around him are some of the biggest lessons he has learned over the years. “It is seeing people progress in their careers which makes me pleased, and hopefully I’ve had a role in mentoring them,” Sonnleitner said. “[The] lesson is that it is our job to mentor our employees, to take our skills and hopefully transfer those and see them become successful.” After 16 years in his current position, and more than 50 years in the business, Sonnleitner said a good piece of advice is to follow the old saying “it takes a village.” “You can’t do this alone,” Sonnleitner said. “It takes working with the cabinet, the Chancellor, the Vice Chancellors, looking at the top leadership of the institution and making sure everybody understands it is not the Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services saying something, it is really the campus that is bringing the message.” According to Sonnleitner, as he steps away from his day-to-day responsibilities and begins his new duties, he will focus on three main areas. The three main areas include continuing help with the development of the campus, managing property developments, and maintaining key relationships with companies such as the Viessmann Group from Germany, Johnson Controls, and also a budding relationship with the U.S. Navy. In addition to these areas, Sonnleitner will continue to be the University’s representative on the Foundation Board as well as on the Executive Board of Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation. Lori Worm, current associate of the vice chancellor of administrative services, has been named the interim vice chancellor of administrative services and will begin her duties starting March 1. Worm said she is very gracious to Sonnleitner’s mentoring over the past 16 years, and has learned a lot from him, including communication and relationship building, which will help ease her transition into this new position. According to Worm she is excited about the service portion of the division and also thinks being more involved in the capital side of the budget planning process will be a great learning opportunity for her as she takes on the new role. According to Leavitt and Sonnleitner, there has not been a specific timeline set to search for a new candidate for the position. “The goal is to hire a vice chancellor of administrative services which will be done as soon as the job description has been thought through and improved,” Sonnleitner said.