Cathy Tschumper is the shop crew leader at the La Crosse County Highway Department, coordinating the team that keeps the county's vehicles and equipment in working order.
Cathy Tschumper’s team maintains excavators, chainsaws, dozens of snowplows, heavy-duty trucks, four wheelers, patrol vehicles for the sheriff’s department, and even the occasional boat.
“I think that anyone who has an image of lazy county workers would change their mind if they spent a day in the shop with my team,” she says.
Tschumper works as the shop crew leader at the La Crosse County Highway Department and is a semi-professional pool player.
At the highway shop in West Salem, her team of six mechanics and two other staff is responsible for maintaining around 600 pieces of equipment. The shop crew also handles the ordering and management of parts.
On weekends, you’ll often find Tschumper with a cue stick in her hands, sizing up the options on the pool table. She plays on the WPBA (Women’s Professional Billiard’s Association) circuit, participating in professional tournaments around the country.
Back at her day job, Tschumper is currently the only woman who works for the highway department at the shop or out on the roads. She’s worked for the department for 13 years.
“When I started, some of the older guys had never worked with a woman before,” she says. “I had to crack quite a few jokes before some of them would break down a little bit.”
Attitudes have improved significantly since then, Tschumper notes, and she hopes to see more women come to work with her.
“Even though I would have to share the locker-room I would encourage women to apply for jobs at the highway department,” she jokes.
A graduate of Central High School in La Crosse, Tschumper worked for Mathy Construction for a decade before joining the county. During her time at Mathy she completed a 6,000-hour operator’s apprenticeship with the Operating Engineers Local 139.
She initially joined the highway department to work as a patrolman, patching potholes and cutting trees across the southside of La Crosse County. Tschumper then worked as a laborer and a heavy equipment operator before joining the shop crew and eventually becoming the team’s leader.
Her day usually starts at 5:30 a.m. with a management meeting to discuss a schedule for repairs, parts that need to be ordered, oil changes, and how the team can juggle various other equipment jobs. The work is varied and challenging, but Tschumper enjoys being on her feet.
“I like that I’m constantly having to use my brain, that I’m constantly moving and learning new things,” she says.
When she’s not in the shop or playing pool, you might also find Tschumper paddling down a local river. She’s a longtime member of the La Crosse Paddling Club and coach’s dragon boating. Long-term, Tschumper wants to continue learning and staying busy, and hopes to work at the highway department until she retires.
“I have a really great team here and I’m proud to work for La Crosse County because I think we put in an effort to do the best we can for the public,” she says.