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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Interim chief of UW Extension named

MADISON - An interim chancellor was named today for the University of Wisconsin Extension service and the two-year colleges.  Aaron Brower has been the interim provost and vice chancellor for the Extension.  He'll now serve in the post held by chancellor Ray Cross, who will become the new president of the UW System.  

Brower will assume his new duties on February 15th, pending approval by the Board of Regents.  The board is working on a search procedure for Cross's replacement -- and until that person is hired, Brower will fill the post.  Brower's been with the Extension since mid-2012.  He previously served as a vice provost at the Madison campus.  


A Dodge County Board member is free on a signature bond, after he was charged today with two misdemeanor counts in the beating of his wife.  The attorney for 83-year-old Donald Gunderson entered innocent pleas to battery and disorderly conduct.  A mental exam was ordered to determine if Gunderson is competent to help with his defense.  He was arrested last night at his home, after the victim's son called authorities.  The woman told officers that her husband was quote, "out of control" -- and she was afraid he would kill her.  According to investigators, Gunderson told his wife to come to bed -- and when she didn't, he told her to "quit belly-aching" and he struck her, apparently in the head and shoulder.  The board member's wife was said to be in the early stages of Alzheimer's.  His daughter reportedly told officers that he had his own "dementia incident" last July.  Gunderson said he didn't need to make a statement to officers about the alleged assault, and he reportedly said he quote, "knew the sheriff."  A prosecutor from neighboring Washington County is handling the case to avoid any conflict-of-interest.  Gunderson represents the Lomira area on the Dodge County Board.  He decided not to run for re-election in April, and he's stepping down after 40 years as a county supervisor.  


A former Army Reservist from northwest Wisconsin has been found innocent to stealing night vision and gun-sighting equipment from Fort McCoy.  22-year-old Justin Waterhouse was charged in federal court in Madison with taking over a dozen night vision items worth almost $3,500 each.  Prosecutors said he sold some of the items, and gave away others.  Earlier this week, a jury returned verdicts that freed Waterhouse.  Jurors were told that Waterhouse believed the items were being thrown out, because they were located near a dumpster by other military personnel who were rushing to leave the area to go watch the Super Bowl in February of 2012. 


The head of the state Democratic Party had kind words for Kathleen Vinehout, after she announced today she would not run for governor this fall.  Mike Tate said the state senator from Alma remains a "vital force" in the party.  He said Democrats look forward to quote, "hearing her strong progressive voice around the state as she continues her recovery."  Vinehout said she could not wage a winning campaign for governor, as she continues to recover from a splintered arm bone suffered in a snowy traffic crash last month.  Her decision leaves a clear path for former Trek Bicycle executive Mary Burke to run against Republican Governor Scott Walker in November.  Many Democrats consider her the most viable candidate, in part because she could spend part of her personal wealth on the race.  Since announcing her bid in early October, Burke's campaign said she has spent about $400,000 of her own money -- part of about one-point-eight million dollars she raised by the end of last year.  Vinehout is in her eighth year in the Senate, representing far western Wisconsin.  She could run for a third term in that post in November.  


A former Kohler Company employee will be sentenced late this afternoon for embezzling $117,000 to buy escort services based in Las Vegas.  47-year-old Kirk Riddle pleaded no contest last month to a felony theft charge in Sheboygan County.  Nine others were dropped in a plea deal.  Kohler said Riddle had worked in communications for exhibits-and-displays when he was arrested.  The firm tried freezing his assets, but the suit was later dropped.  Prosecutors said Riddle flew women from the Vegas escort services to Milwaukee, where he managed their business.  He was also accused of stealing two expensive toilets and a generator from Kohler.  In addition, Riddle was charged in late December with 10 counts, after he allegedly wrote checks to himself from a friend's account, and struck a vehicle with his SUV before slamming into a snow-bank.  Riddle was later arrested at his home.  He's scheduled to go on trial April 23rd on charges of identity theft, forgery, hit-and-run, eluding an officer, burglary, and five bail jumping charges.


The search for a La Crosse man missing in the Mississippi River for 12 days may soon come to an end for now.  The sheriff of Winona County, Minnesota, Dave Brand, says search teams have not found any trace of 29-year-old Andrew Kingsbury.  Now, Brand says safety problems have come up.  For the second time, a volunteer searcher fell through the ice in cold water that was waist-high.  That person had to be rescued on Wednesday.  Brand says he's evaluating the search on a day-to-day basis, and it might have to be called off until the spring.  Kingsbury was among four people in an SUV that drove into the river after veering from a curve in Winona on Jan. 5  Two victims were in the vehicle when it was pulled from the water.  A third body was found the next day.  


Appleton officials are not happy with an alderman's proposal to suspend efforts to help relocate 75 refugees from Iraq, the Congo, and Myanmar.  Alderman Jeff Jirschele says the refugees have not been quote, "vetted."  He's drafted a resolution calling on Appleton officials to back away from the relocations by the World Relief-Fox Valley group, until the impact of their arrivals are known.  Jirschele tells the Appleton Post-Crescent he's worried about the social safety net's ability to deal with the foreign newcomers. In his words, "We have no room to flounder on housing or medical care, despite the best intentions of the groups involved."  This is the third year that World Relief has led a resettlement effort.  About 175 refugees previously moved to the Fox Valley, mostly from Burma.  Group director Myriam Mwizerwa says the group works hard to find jobs for the adult refugees.  Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna said the resolution sends the wrong message.  Hanna said there are quote, "undertones that make assumptions about these people being poor, or a drain on us, but quite the opposite."  The mayor said they represent the types of diverse people he wants for Appleton.  He said he spoke for all city departments in criticizing both the content and the tone of Jirschele's resolution -- which is on its way to a city committee.


A conservative Wisconsin lawmaker is calling it quits.  Assembly Republican Dan LeMahieu of Sheboygan County said today he will not run for a seventh two-year term this fall.  The 67-year-old LeMahieu said he wants to travel more with his wife, and enjoy more time with his grandchildren.  LeMahieu, of Cascade, was first elected to the Assembly in 2002.  He's been on the Legislature's most powerful committee, Joint Finance, for the last four years.  LeMahieu has been one of the Assembly's most outspoken pro-life supporters.  He has also worked to cut state spending-and-taxes, and served as an advocate for sporting enthusiasts.  As a co-chairman of the administrative rules panel, LeMahieu led a complex effort to simply the state's large number of bureaucratic rules.  He said public service can be a quote, "thankless job," but he's grateful for the family-and-friends who've supported him. 


Sheriff's officers near Tomah followed foot-prints in the snow to find a man walking naked in sub-freezing temperatures.  Monroe County officers received a 911 call about the man late afternoon.  State DNR personnel and Oakdale fire-fighters helped in the search.  They found his bare footprints -- and when they saw him, they noticed he was bleeding.  Officials said they took him to a Tomah hospital with life-threatening injuries.