If you've sat at home watching Muskego’s aldermen in session on TV, you have Jim Ott to thank.
Ott has been at the controls of the camera in the at nearly every council meeting for the past 15 years.
It may seem an unlikely job for an 84-year-old man, but Ott’s right at home at the controls. His background and experience make him a natural choice, really.
Drafted near the end of World War II, he learned radio repair at Fort Riley, KS. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electronics from the Milwaukee School of Engineering in 1949, and received his amateur radio license in 1950.
He moved to Muskego in 1959. Ott held several different electronics and radio-related jobs over the next several decades, all while raising his sons and caring for his wife, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1971.
His stories of those years are matter-of-fact.
“We made it work,” Ott said. “We went through five different used vans.”
His volunteer spirit remained intact throughout that period, collecting Corvairs and participating in parades with the Milwaukee Corvair club, often bringing his wife along for the ride. He was an active part of his neighborhood group and part of a HAM radio club in Milwaukee.
When local cable programming came along, Ott joined the city’s video club and started attending council meetings. Ott eventually took over as cameraman for council meetings.
The position was—and is—volunteer, but that doesn't bother Ott.
"I enjoy being there," Ott said. "Watching people is the most interesting part of the job.”
Then Ott laughed. “I've already gone through five or six mayors.”
"I have always been fascinated by video," he added. "I built my first television set in 1949. It had 15 tubes, and it was probably during a time when there were only 100 TV sets in the city (of Milwaukee)."
He also explained that he attempted building his own video camera around that same time.
"It was called an iconoscope; it worked fine outdoors, but was very low resolution," he explained.
It has been amazing to watch the medium of television develop, and his post at the back of the room has been "fun to work with, and it's a great job getting information out to people."
So, Ott isn't thinking of retiring just yet, and isn't quite sure what the term means. That is likely good news for younger generations who get the opportunity to learn from someone with a perspective that spans the lifetime of television and video production.
"He's great at advising us on what equipment to purchase, and has helped us with the cameras we have in the studios" said Jeff Jones, another member of the Video Club that works on various cable programming for the city.
"It's really remarkable how much (Ott) enjoys doing the city meetings and has always been a cheerful volunteer," Jones said.