Thomas Farley came into the role of Waukesha County Corporation Counsel just as the county seated its first county executive. Appointed in 1991, Farley was the county’s lead attorney as Dan Finley moved into the newly created role of county executive. Finley held that position until he moved on and Dan Vrakas succeeded him.
“I was the attorney for the first county executive in Waukesha County,” Farley said. “After we got through the transition, we’ve had a pretty good relationship, and that keeps the county running well.”
Farley, a 1978 Marquette University Law School graduate, heads up a department with 10 attorneys and 40 support staff. The agency serves as civil attorney for the county, handling mental commitments, guardianships, zoning enforcement and non-delinquency juvenile work for the county. Farley spends most of his time working with the Waukesha County Board on issues of open meetings, open records, ordinances and resolutions.
“You get to have a positive impact on your community by influencing the corporation whose job it is to make your community a better place to live,” Farley said. “That gives you job satisfaction that you might not achieve in private practice where you are helping one client at a time.”
Prior to taking on the role of corporation counsel, he was in private practice working first with a general practice firm, then with Milwaukee defense attorney Gerald Boyle.
When he’s not working, he’s busy keeping up with his two daughters who are both involved in high school athletics, or he can be found on the golf course.
“Like all golfers, I don’t get to golf enough,” Farley said.
Farley took time out of his busy schedule to participate in this week’s Asked & Answered.
Wisconsin Law Journal: What was the best thing you learned in law school?
Thomas Farley: The best thing I learned in law school was that being prepared and knowing the facts is 90 percent of any battle.
WLJ: If you could create one CLE program what would it be?
Farley: Understanding that we have an open records law, not an open mind law.
WLJ: What is your favorite thing to do in Wisconsin?
Farley: Play golf.
WLJ: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Farley: Good food around the table with family and good friends.
WLJ: What book are you currently reading?
Farley: I have three books open right now on my Kindle. The one that I like best is “Body of Lies: A Novel” by David Ignatius. It’s a World War II spy novel.
WLJ: Which living person do you most admire?
Farley: My mother is 85 years old and has been an inspiration for me both in the way that she’s always been able to beat me on the golf course and be the person that motivates me to do my best. She helps me understand that it’s people who make the world a great place to live in.
WLJ: What song is on heavy rotation on your iPod?
Farley: I have an iPhone, but I’m not a music person. I have one song on my iPhone and that’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” by Jimmy Buffet.
WLJ: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Farley: I wish I could work hard enough to have more free time.
WLJ: What is your motto?
Farley: Never be afraid to say, “I don’t know,” but always realize that it requires you to find a quick answer.
WLJ: If you could be any superhero, who would it be?
Farley: I’m not sure if this qualifies as a superhero – Bilbo Baggins in the J.R.R. Tolkien book “The Hobbit.”