By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov.-elect Tony Evers named four Milwaukee-area leaders to his Cabinet on Wednesday, including a former campaign manager to Mayor Tom Barrett and a 30-year veteran of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department.
The choices drew criticism from Republicans, who accused Evers, a Democrat, of not looking outside Wisconsin’s largest city for cabinet members.
The appointments were the first four of 17 Evers will make for his Cabinet before he succeeds Gov. Scott Walker on Jan. 7. Evers said at a news conference on Wednesday that the public will see in coming days that he is drawing Cabinet picks from places other than Milwaukee.
Evers, the state school superintendent who lives in Madison, said he was choosing Cabinet members because of their talents, not their addresses. At the same time, he said it’s best for Wisconsin when Milwaukee is thriving, since what happens in the city “absolutely drives” the fortunes of the rest of the state.
But that didn’t stop Republicans from outside Milwaukee from airing criticisms.
“For those that may not be aware, there are good, qualified people outside of Milwaukee and Madison,” tweeted Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, a Republican from Kaukauna. “Hopefully the rest of the state will eventually be represented in this administration.”
Rep. Scott Krug, a Republican from Nekoosa, tweeted that choosing people from Milwaukee to lead the departments of Natural Resources and Tourism was “not very encouraging so far. I’m glad the legislature is full of great voices for rural WI. Doesn’t look so far like the administration will be.”
Evers won Milwaukee with 78 percent of the vote.
All of Evers’ appointees are subject to confirmation by the state Senate, where Republicans will have a 19-14 majority. Under a change approved in the lame-duck legislative session earlier this month, Evers would be barred from nominating again a person whom the Senate had already declined to confirm.
On Wednesday, Evers announced that:
- Joel Brennan, chief executive officer of the Discovery World Science and Technology Museum in Milwaukee, will serve as his top aide, heading up the Department of Administration. Brennan previously worked as campaign manager for Barrett’s unsuccessful 2002 run for governor and his winning run for mayor in 2004. Brennan has run Discovery World for the past 11 years. His brother-in-law is Kevin Conroy, the chief executive officer of Exact Sciences Corp. and a chairman on Evers’ transition team.
- Preston Cole , commissioner of neighborhood services under Barrett, will lead the Department of Natural Resources. He has been a member of the Natural Resources Board since 2007. He was first appointed by former Gov. Jim Doyle and then re-appointed by Walker. That board advises the Department of Natural Resources. Cole is also on the board of directors of the Water Council and has a degree in forest management.
“I’d like to double down on science” in the department, Cole said, a thinly veiled reference to Walker’s decision to cut senior scientist positions at the department.
- U.S. Marshal Kevin Carr will be secretary of the Department of Corrections. Carr had worked 30 years in the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department before becoming a marshal for the eastern district, which includes Milwaukee, in 2010. He is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
Talking about the criminal-justice overhaul passed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, Carr said Wisconsin “has an unprecedented opportunity to move in that same direction.”
- Sara Meaney, chief marketing and development officer at Milwaukee Film, will serve as secretary of the Department of Tourism. She will replace Stephanie Klett, who has been Tourism secretary for eight years under Walker. Several Republican lawmakers, and even on Democrat, urged Evers to retain Klett, who was Miss Wisconsin in 1992 and is a former host of the long-running “Discover Wisconsin” tourism television program.