John Sobotik thinks of himself as a generalist.
It’s a way of approaching things that he honed in his first job out of law school, at a small firm in Platteville, where he handled just about everything — bankruptcy, title work, traffic defense — you name it.
Even after he left the firm for a position at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in 1990, he took the lessons he learned there with him. As an assistant general counsel at the agency, he still thinks of himself as a generalist when he’s working on cases that deal with estates, construction contracts and the Wisconsin State Patrol.
“I figure things out that nobody’s dealt with,” Sobotik said. “Because transportation touches so many fields, you do a lot of everything.”
Over the course of his career at WisDOT, Sobotik has been fortunate to have mentors who have helped him grow in his position. Also, as a public official, he learned early on that he had a responsibility to display leadership and share his knowledge with the public.
“I like to look at the big picture of an issue,” Sobotik said. “The reason I like public service is because I want to make government work for people.”
So Sobotik has given many talks and imparted some of what he has learned about his profession to the public over the years. He also seeks to be a resource for other attorneys who have questions about the field.
Sobotik’s job has caused him to think about topics like transportation’s role in economic development and how legal chances could help prevent traffic deaths on Wisconsin roads. He’s recently spoken at a public health conference about Wisconsin’s OWI laws and at another conference on the opioid pandemic.
The work has been effective, Sobotik said. It has helped to prevent roadway deaths and businesses to grow. And he hopes to continue doing it for years to come.
“It’s been fun to be involved in helping commerce develop in the state and at the same time working to save lives,” Sobotik said.