GREEN BAY — Each weeknight, Bill Jartz slips on a suit coat, adjusts his matching tie and broadcasts live to thousands of people in northeast Wisconsin as a TV news anchor.
Thousands more hear him during Green Bay Packers games as the public address announcer at Lambeau Field.
But what truly invigorates Jartz can’t be found in the spotlight of TV studios and glitz and glamour of NFL showdowns.
He’s most proud of his rural Wisconsin roots — growing up on a small farm outside Clintonville in Waupaca County and, for the past 24 years, living with his wife, Mary, in a log cabin tucked away on 60 acres near Maribel in Manitowoc County.
“Everybody always assumes I’m going to be dressed in a coat and tie wherever I go. It’s not like that at all,” said Jartz, who proudly owns 10 John Deere tractors. “I’m pretty much a country bumpkin. I spend my days wearing vertical-striped blue and white bib overalls. That’s what I wear. That’s what I’m comfortable in. Because that’s who I am.
“It really takes me back to being a kid on the farm. I have a lot of wonderful memories. And that’s a big part of why I appreciate so much the hard-working people in agriculture. I’ve come to know so many farmers, and they’re amazing people.”
Jartz, whose legal surname is Schmidt but is widely known by his TV last name, fondly recalls his upbringing on a hobby farm with cows, pigs, chickens and rabbits. He also enjoyed growing fruits and vegetables.
Jartz carried that work ethic into sports, earning all-state football honors at Clintonville High School. He received an athletic scholarship to Northwestern University and graduated with a journalism degree in 1980.
That same year, Jartz stepped into the spotlight as a sports anchor at WSAW in Wausau. Three years later he transitioned to WBAY in Green Bay and — following a brief stint as a stockbroker — for the past 20 years he has been a popular news anchor for the Channel 2 station.
Meanwhile, his announcing days at Lambeau Field began in 2005.
Through it all, however, Jartz’s rural roots never wavered.
“With Bill, what you see is what you get,” said Mary, his wife of 34 years. “A lot of people might think a TV anchorman would be an egomaniac, but nothing is further from the truth.
“He is just a small-town boy from Wisconsin — and that’s a good thing. He respects people who work hard for a living, he takes pride in the values learned on a family farm, and I think that’s evident when he meets people and talks to them.”
Jartz has plenty to talk about, especially when it comes to tractors and farming.
During his youth, Jartz’s family had Allis-Chalmers and John Deere tractors. One incident still elicits a nervous grin.
Jartz was driving the family’s John Deere and “I gave it some gas and the right wheel fell off,” he said. “I was devastated. Here’s my dad’s pride and joy — we loved this tractor — and there’s the wheel sitting over there.”
Jartz, who was 12 years old when his father died, remained loyal to John Deere tractors by collecting 10 over the years. And he’s hasn’t been afraid to get them dirty.
“As for the tractors, I’m not sure I’ll ever really get this obsession with two-cylinder Johnnys,” Mary said of her husband. “He can’t figure out why I need multiple pairs of black shoes, so I guess we’re even.
“I will say that the tractors really are a thing of beauty when they’re all shined up and in the field — I’ve even learned to drive a few of them. And, if tractors make him happy, then I’m happy.”
Those tractors get put to good use, Jartz said.
“I think I’m kind of a frustrated farmer,” he said. “I have a lot of gardens. I just love growing things. I truly do. For me, when you see spring come around and you see things start to pop out of the ground ... For me, it’s just the joy of seeing things grow.”
Jartz’s agricultural roots run deep. In addition to his childhood on a farm and current rural home, Jartz has been known to help at a friend’s dairy farm. He also served as emcee for the 70th Alice in Dairyland competition, held at Lambeau Field in 2017. And he announced the 2018 Dairy Cares Kickin’ It With The Cows Run/Walk, held in De Pere to benefit Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
Several times Jartz has emceed Breakfast on the Farm events during June Dairy Month and assisted at county fairs, not to mention various charitable endeavors. He also addressed the Waupaca County-based Woodland Badgers 4-H Club, of which he used to be a member. Recently he spoke at Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center in Manitowoc County as the inaugural presenter for its Breakfast at the Barn program.
And as a youngster Jartz showed cattle at the Waupaca County Fair, winning a blue ribbon with a Guernsey named Daisy.
Through it all, Jartz has noticed a common trait with people in agriculture.
“More than anything, they’re inherently optimistic,” he said. “I don’t think you can be in farming without being optimistic. Let’s face it, right now these aren’t real good times in the ag market. Commodities are down, you’ve got the tariff issues, the political issues. And even though you have better technology, better seeds, better genetics, there’s still so much they can’t control. Yet here they are, some of the most positive people around.”
It didn’t take long for Mary to notice that too. Although she grew up near Milwaukee with no agricultural background, she quickly developed an appreciation for farming.
That interest factored heavily into the couple’s decision to move to Maribel, a rural community about 25 minutes southeast of Green Bay.
“When we looked for a place in the country, it was important to both of us to find a community that was still actively farming,” she said. “The traditions and values of family farms are the backbone of our state, and Bill shares that hard-working, community-focused attitude.
“Bill was able to really get back to his roots and garden with a passion, have room for his tractors, and be a steward of the land. As for me, I love flower gardening, so we work those blooms in between the rows of beets and potatoes.”
Jartz sees another characteristic common among those in agriculture.
“The neat thing about agriculture, and I knew this very early in my life, is the teamwork that’s involved,” he said, recollecting when the Clintonville community united in the wake of a barn fire. “Everybody came together out there and pounded boards and took care of the cattle and helped with the hay while all this stuff was going on. It was like teamwork in sports.
“That’s the great thing about agriculture — how people come together.”