To enhance the quality of life, health, safety, and trust of all citizens by providing top quality public services through a creative and responsive team committed to excellence, integrity, accountability, and respect.
Honesty - Integrity – Respect
SERVICE to the public is our fundamental reason for being. We strive to treat citizens with courtesy and as valued customers who deserve nothing less.
COOPERATION among our staff and departments creates a smooth running organization. These collaborative attitudes and efforts are reflected in our working relationships with other public entities, the business community, nonprofit organizations, and citizens.
DILIGENCE is the foundation of our work ethic. We challenge and inspire all staff to be efficient and effective in carrying out day-to-day tasks and activities.
ACCOUNTABILITY is vital to maintaining public trust. We ensure accountability for our actions by adopting and enforcing policies, procedures, and processes that withstand the test of public review and scrutiny.
FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY is fundamental to the way we conduct business. We maximize our human, physical, and financial resources in order to provide effective stewardship of public funds.
COMMUNICATION and an informed citizenry are essential to the democratic process. We are committed to providing citizens with relevant, accurate, and timely information about our goals, services, and the decisions that will affect the public.
INNOVATION and creativity shape our future. We encourage staff to challenge the status quo and discover new ideas or better methods. We foster staff development in order to respond to changing needs in our community.
SAFETY is critical to a high standard of living. We protect the citizenry through prevention, early intervention, treatment services, and enforcement of the law.
ENVIRONMENT is central to our community. Preservation of our natural environment ensures that generations to come will enjoy the resources we value and preserve. Caring for our social environment ensures that community remains a vital part of our culture.
Rock County is located in the south-central portion of the State of Wisconsin, forming a portion of the State’s southern boundary, approximately equidistant from Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. The County’s population was estimated at 160,331 in 2010 and the County is projected to have approximately 26,000 additional residents by 2035. The County covers 721 square miles, containing six Cities, three Villages, and 20 Towns, and multiple unincorporated hamlets. The County’s Cities include Janesville, Beloit, Edgerton, Milton, Evansville, and Brodhead. The City of Janesville serves as the County seat, is located in the County’s central portion, and is the largest municipality in the County with a population estimated at over 63,575 in 2010. The County’s Villages include Clinton, Orfordville, and Footville.
The County is surrounded by vibrant rural communities and burgeoning urban areas. The County is bordered by Wisconsin counties, Dane and Jefferson to the north, Green to the west, and Walworth to the east, and Illinois’ Counties Boone and Winnebago to the south. The rapidly growing Wisconsin State capital the City of Madison, is 30 miles to the County’s northwest. Wisconsin’s largest city, Milwaukee, lies 70 miles east of the County and Rockford, Illinois’ third largest city is 30 miles south. Additionally, Chicago, Illinois, the country’s third largest metropolitan area, is 80 miles to the County’s south. The County is connected to these urban areas and other regional, State, and national locations by a vast road network, including U.S. Interstates 90/39 and 43, and U.S. Highways 51 and 14.
The County’s physical geography is varied. The County’s main waterway, the Rock River, bisects the County from north to south, running from Lake Koshkonong in the north-central portion of the County, through the Cities of Janesville and Beloit. The County is located in twelve base watersheds, all components of the Lower Rock Basin, which in turn is part of the Mississippi River Basin. The County’s defining geologic feature is the end moraine, a remnant of the last glacial advance (Wisconsin Glaciation) approximately 10,000 years ago. The County’s glacially formed kettle-moraine landscape is characterized by varying topography and drainage patterns, and uneven hills and ridges.
The County’s Cities and urban areas are home to diverse and unique commercial and industrial sectors, historic and cultural attractions, natural resources, and public and residential areas. The Cities of Janesville and Beloit both house substantial industrial sectors. Health care service entities, including Mercy Health System Corporation of Janesville, St. Mary's Hospital/DeanCare Services and Beloit Memorial Hospital Incorporated, also employ a large segment of the County’s labor force, as do various forms of government, including the County and the City of Janesville and Beloit school districts.
The County’s many historic and cultural attractions include the City of Evansville historic district, Beloit College (an acclaimed liberal arts institution located in the City of Beloit) and the City of Janesville’s Rotary Botanical Gardens and Tallman House (an exceptional example of Italian villa style architecture from the mid 1850’s). Additionally, the Cities of Janesville and Beloit have a combined symphony orchestra, as well as individual performing arts centers. Beloit and Janesville both have extensive park and open space networks, including portions of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, a Statewide trail commemorating the State’s geologic history. Additionally, the Rock River runs through these Cities, offering opportunities for recreation, land preservation, and highly-valued residential, commercial, and industrial development. Historic and modern neighborhoods, comprising single and multi-family residences, are interspersed throughout the County’s Cities and urban areas.
The County’s rural areas, including its Towns and Villages, are home to a wide variety of natural resources, historic and cultural attractions, and public and residential areas as well. The County’s rural land base and its rich soils are predominately utilized for agriculture production. As the County’s urban area industries drive regional economic growth, so to does the County’s rural agriculture production, providing diversification and balance. Various crops are cultivated in the County’s rural areas, including corn and soybeans. Milk cattle, hogs, sheep, and goats are predominant livestock types reared in the County. County parks, including Magnolia Bluff, home to a unique scenic overlook, scattered woodlands, Lake Koshkonong, the Rock River, and various other waterways provide the County’s rural areas with recreation, and land preservation and development opportunities.
Rock County has a rich history. The Lake Koshkonong area, in the County’s north-central portion, had been inhabited for thousands of years by various Native American groups, including the mound building societies and later the Winnebago, Potawotomi, Sauk, Fox, and Menominee tribes. The Winnebago, in particular, figure prominently in the history of the area. The name Koshkonong is Winnebago meaning, "the lake we live on" and the largest Native American settlement in the State of Wisconsin in the early 19th century was a Winnebago settlement on the western side of the Lake, just northwest of the County’s north-central border. The Europeans first exposure to the area likely came in 1778 when French fur trader Charles Gautier de Verville passed through. In the next decade, French traders settled in the area now known as Charley Bluff, on the southern end of the Lake in the present-day Town of Milton.
Settlement of the area that was to become Rock County began in earnest in the 1830’s, spurred on by two major events. Initially, the Federal Public Land Survey was completed in the area between 1833 and 1836. Additionally, U.S. soldiers returning from the Black Hawk War of 1832, which drove the great Winnebago chief Black Hawk westward through the lands that were to become the County, raved of the beauty and fertility of the Rock River Valley, peaking the curiosity of restless souls eastward. The County’s early settlers were greeted by a gently undulating landscape teeming with prairie grasses and wildflowers. Rock Prairie, the largest in the State, occupied nearly half the County, extending from the Rock River eastward. Early settlers found extremely productive agricultural soils, particularly in the Rock River Valley, and soon large swaths of the County were under cultivation.
The County’s urban areas, particularly the Cities of Janesville and Beloit, both settled in the early 1830’s, developed quickly due to the productive hinterlands that surrounded them, their geography (both on the Rock River and in close proximity to the larger urban areas of Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison), and emerging rail technology. The Rock River, in particular, given its capacity for energy generation, transportation, and agricultural production, figured prominently in the development of these Cities. So too did rail, with lines coming to the County in the early 1850’s, linking the County’s farms to its urban areas, and its urban areas to larger regional urban centers. The Milwaukee and Mississippi Rail Road passed through the northern part of the County, containing a branch from Milton to Janesville that was eventually continued west to the Mississippi River as the Wisconsin Southern. The Rock River Valley Rail Road ran up the Rock River, from the Wisconsin-Illinois border, originating in Beloit and terminating in Madison. Lines also ran from Racine, on Lake Michigan, to Beloit, and from Janesville to Kenosha, also on the Lake. The Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Northwestern Railway would later emerge, consolidating many of the rail lines in the County.
The County’s population surpassed 30,000 by 1850. The County, with its balance of rural agricultural production and urban industry, continued to grow throughout the 19th century, spurred by innovation in both sectors. Prominent manufacturers in the County’s early days included Beloit Reaper and Sickle Works, Merrill and Houston Iron Works, Rock River Paper Company, D.W. Dake's Creamery, and Beloit Plough and Wagon Works. Agricultural staples in the County’s early days included wheat, corn, oats, and barley, and to a lesser extent wool, potatoes, pork, butter, and fruits.
The County emerged as a regional industrial center in the early 20th century. The Cities of Beloit and Janesville became centers of diversified industry, attracting immigrant workers. Parker Pen Company, a global pen manufacturer, was founded in the City of Janesville in 1891 and remained a staple of the County’s economy into the century’s second half. General Motors Corporation opened one of its first automobile assembly plants in the City of Janesville in 1919, providing the region with an industrial identity throughout the 20th century.
Stagnated population and economic growth was evident in the County in the late 20th century, coinciding with a national decline in domestic manufacturing and industry. Similarly, 2009 witnessed the closure of the General Motors plant, in turn affecting many other dependent industries in the County. Recent economic diversification, including an emerging health services sector, continued agricultural production, and the County’s favorable geography have provided stability to the region though, and the County continues to grow and develop at a steady rate.
Rock County operates under the Board/Administrator form of county government.
Legislative: The elected County Board of Supervisors is the legislative authority with power, for example, to enact ordinances and adopt budgets. The Board of Supervisors appoints a professional administrator who serves at its pleasure. The Board has 29 Members, who are elected bi-annually (in even numbered years). The Board elects one of its members to serve as County Board Chair.
Administrative: The administrator serves as the County’s Chief Administrative Officer with a range of responsibilities including authority to hire and supervise appointed department heads and recommend an annual budget to the County Board. Certain County officials are constitutional officers and elected department heads, including the Sheriff, District Attorney, Clerk of the Circuit Courts, County Clerk, County Treasurer, and Register of Deeds.
Judiciary: The Rock County Court System includes 7 branches of the Circuit Court and each is presided over by a Circuit Court Judge. Judges are elected to 6 year terms.