Agencies Continue to Announce Leadership Teams, Confirmation Hearings Begin

Newly inaugurated Gov. Tony Evers is continuing to fill appointed positions in the administration. Recently announced appointments include:


Public Service Commission

  • Chair – Rebecca Cameron Valcq. Valcq is currently a partner at Quarles & Brady and previously worked as attorney for WE Energies. Confirmation hearing in Senate Utilities & Housing on March 12; confirmation recommended by committee 5-0 on March 21. 
  • Chief of staff – Carrie Templeton. Templeton has worked at PSC since 2011. Templeton’s previous experience also includes working as director of legislative relations and senior policy advisor to Gov. Jim Doyle, as an executive assistant at the Department of Corrections, DOR, and DFI, and as chief of staff to Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton). Templeton was appointed executive assistant to Valcq in January.
  • Communications and legislative director – Matt Dannenberg. Dannenberg comes to PSC from Wisconsin Conservation Voters.

While not part of the Evers appointments, there have been several other changes to PSC staff. Bob Seitz has returned to PSC as an EA to Commissioner Ellen Nowak, replacing current EA Bill Jordahl. Seitz was previously the deputy secretary at the Department of Transportation. Alex Ignatowski will be PSC’s communications and legislative director. Ignatowski was previously a PSC advisor and worked in various positions in Gov. Scott Walker’s administration. Ignatowski replaces Matt Spencer, who is returning to the legislature to work for Rep. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond).


Department of Workforce Development 

  • Secretary – Caleb Frostman. Frostman won the June 2018 special election for Senate District 1 but lost in November to Sen. Andre Jacque (R-DePere). Before running for Senate, Frostman was the Door County Economic Development Corp. executive director. Confirmation hearing in Senate Local Government, Small Business, Tourism & Workforce Development on March 20.
  • Deputy secretary – Joanna Richard. Richard was DWD deputy secretary under Gov. Jim Doyle. Most recently, Richard worked in the Department of Health Services division of managed care and as a special projects coordinator at DWD.
  • Assistant deputy secretary – Danielle Williams. Williams previously worked in the legislature for legislators including Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse). Williams has also served as a Dane County board supervisor and advisor to the Dane County Executive.
  • Legislative liaison – Bridget Esser. Esser was most recently communications director for Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona).
  • Communications director – Ben Jedd. Jedd was most recently department chair for Blackhawk Technical College’s Communication and Social Science department.
  • Unemployment insurance coordinator – Mark Reihl. Reihl is a member of the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council and has served on the Council of Workforce Investment for the past 16 years.
  • Chief legal counsel – Pam McGillivray. McGillivray was most recently an attorney at DHS and has nearly 20 years of experience as a private practice attorney.
  • Equal Rights Division administrator – Jesus Villa. Villa was most recently Lead Employee Relations Consultant & Equal Employment Opportunity officer at Northwestern Mutual.


Department of Tourism 

  • Secretary – Sara Meaney. Sara was formerly chief marketing officer for Milwaukee Film. Confirmation hearing in Senate Local Government, Small Business, Tourism & Workforce Development on March 20.
  • Deputy secretary Anne Sayers. Sayers is currently deputy state director for For Our Future – Wisconsin and has previously held positions with Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, International Crane Foundation, and the Nature Conservancy.
  • Communications director Craig Trost. Trost was deputy director of the Evers Inaugural Committee and most recently served as political director for U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Town of Vermont). Trost has worked in the legislature for state Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison).


Department of Corrections 

  • Secretary – Kevin Carr. Carr is a U.S. Marshal and previously worked with the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office. Confirmation hearing in Senate Judiciary & Public Safety on Feb. 20; confirmation recommended by committee 4-0 on March 20. 
  • Deputy secretary – Amy Pechacek. Pechacek was previously Milwaukee County’s deputy chief administrative officer and director of operations.
  • Assistant deputy secretary – Shannon Carpenter. Carpenter was previously director of communications and external relations for UW-Extension.
  • Communications director – Molly Vidal. Vidal was most recently special assistant to the vice president for academic affairs at the UW-System and has held various other positions with UW.


Department of Safety & Professional Services 

  • Secretary – Dawn Crim. Crim joins the administration from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and previously worked at UW-Madison. Confirmation hearing in Senate Public Benefits, Licensing & State-Federal Relations on March 13. 
  • Deputy secretary – Nia Trammell. Previously, Trammell was the senior administrative law judge for the Office of Worker’s Compensation Hearings.
  • Assistant deputy secretary – Dan Hereth. Hereth was formerly deputy district director for U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee).
  • Legislative liaison – Mike Tierney. Tierney most recently worked for Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) and has held various other positions in the capitol. He is also a member of the Madison Common Council.
  • Division of Industry Services administrator – Johnny Winston, Jr. Winston was previously fire division chief/fire lieutenant for the City of Madison Fire Department.
  • Division of Management Services administrator – Kim Henderson. Henderson previously worked for UW-Madison at positions including Transportation Services special events and citation appeals manager and department administrator for legal and executive affairs. She has also worked at the Department of Workforce Development.
  • Division of Policy Development executive director – Christian Albouras. Albouras’s previous experience includes work as a business development specialist at Summit Credit Union and an education program consultant at DPI. Before that, he worked in business development WJTI radio station and in a political role at the Arizona League of United Latin American Citizens.
  • Division of Policy Development executive director – Debra Sybell. Sybelll was most recently a product manager at Navitus Health Solutions and a senior regulatory compliance specialist at WPS Health Solutions. Additionally, she has previous experience at the State Bar of Wisconsin and in the state legislature.

From the previous administration, Michelle Beasley will remain administrator for the Division of Professional Credential Processing. Al Rohmeyer will remain chief legal counsel.


Department of Natural Resources 

  • Secretary – Preston Cole. Cole is currently a commissioner of the Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services and was a member of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board. Confirmation hearing in Senate Sporting Heritage, Mining & Forestry on March 7. 
  • Deputy secretary – Elizabeth Kluesner. Kluesner is currently the DNR liaison to local and federal government and was previously a project coordinator at the agency. Before that, Kluesner worked for the Dane County Executive, as the DNR legislative liaison, and executive assistant to the DNR secretary.
  • Chief legal counsel – Cheryl Heilman. Heilman is currently a deputy chief counsel and has been with DNR since 2011.
  • Assistant deputy secretary – Todd Ambs. Ambs was most recently director for Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition and has over 35 years of experience in environmental policy, including seven years at DNR.
  • Interim budget director – Eric Ebersberger. Ebersberger has over 25 years of public service experience, including various positions at DNR.
  • Legislative liaison – Ben Van Pelt. Van Pelt most recently was director of community advocacy and director of government relations for the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. Previously, he worked for former state Sen. Julie Lassa.
  • Fish, Wildlife & Parks division administrator – Scott Loomans. Looms previously worked in various natural resources policy positions.
  • External Services division administrator – Dave Siebert. Siebert has worked at DNR for 27 years.
  • Environmental Management division administrator – Darsi Foss. Foss was previously director of DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment program.
  • Communications director – Sara Hoye. Hoye has previously worked for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, CNN, NBC, and ABC.

Appointees retained from the previous administration include Fred Souba as administrator of the Division of Forestry and Chief Forester and Doug Haag as administrator for the Division of Internal Services.


Department of Children & Families 

  • Secretary – Emilie Amudson. Amudson was Evers’s chief of staff at the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Confirmation hearing in Senate Universities, Technical Colleges, Children & Families on March 6. 
  • Deputy secretary – Jeff Pertl. Pertl was policy director on Evers’s campaign and a senior policy advisor at DPI.
  • Assistant secretary – Danielle Melfi. Melfi most recently worked for U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and on the Evers transition team.
  • Communications – Tom McCarthy. McCarthy was previously communications director at DPI and has worked in the legislature.
  • Legislative advisor – Naadya Perez-Reyes. Perez-Reyes was formerly an assistant state public defender. Before that, she worked at Legal Action of Wisconsin and was an elections specialist at the former Government Accountability Board.
  • Office of Urban Development director – Bianca Shaw. Shaw was previously in the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation at the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and has worked in the legislature.
  • Office of the Inspector General director – Dr. Michelle Robinson. Robinson was most recently a research, data and policy associate for the Race to Equity Project at the nonprofit Kids Forward.
  • Division of Early Care and Education administrator – Erin Arango-Escalante. Arango-Escalante was previously executive director of a child care agency and an early childhood special education consultant at DPI.
  • Policy adviser – Fredi Bove. Bove was previously administrator of the DCF Division of Safety and Permanence. Prior to DCF, she worked in various roles at the Department of Health Services and was the executive assistant to the UW Board of Regents.
  • Division of Safety and Permanence administrator – Wendy Henderson. Henderson was previously a child protection performance analyst at DCF.
  • Division of Family and Economic Security administrator – Connie Chesnik. Chesnik was previously a staff attorney at DCF. She has also served as a staff attorney at the Department of Health Services (DHS) and DWD.


Department of Health Services 

  • Secretary – Andrea Palm. Palm was senior counselor to the federal Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) under President Barack Obama. Prior to working at HHS, Palm worked for U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-New York) and U.S. Rep. Robert Matsui (D-California). Palm also was senior advisor at the White House Domestic Policy Council during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Confirmation hearing in Senate Health & Human Services on Feb. 27. 
  • Medicaid director – Jim Jones. Jones worked at DHS under former Gov. Jim Doyle and was most recently at Deloitte Consulting providing services related to Medicaid.


Department of Administration 

  • Secretary – Joel Brennan. Brennan was most recently CEO of Discovery World in Milwaukee. Confirmation hearing in Senate Government Operations, Technology & Consumer Protection on Feb. 19; confirmation recommended by committee 5-0 on Feb. 26.
  • State budget director Brian Pahnke. Pahnke was an assistant state superintendent at DPI.
  • Deputy secretary – Chris Patton. Patton most recently worked in the private sector for the Patton Group and Epic Systems. Patton has also worked for former Rep. Peter Barca former Gov. Jim Doyle.
  • Assistant deputy secretary – Tia Torhorst. Torhorst was deputy transition director for Evers.
  • Legislative liaison – Brian Vigue. Vigue is currently the policy liaison for Wisconsin Wetlands Association. He has previously worked in the U.S. House, Wisconsin legislature, and various state agencies.
  • Division of Facilities Development & Management administrator – Naomi De Mers. De Mers has been serving as acting administrator for the division.
  • Chief legal counsel and Division of Legal Services administrator – Amy Kasper. Kasper is currently the program manager for Accreditation, Education, and Innovation at UW Health. She was previously chief legal counsel to former Gov. Jim Doyle.


Department of Financial Institutions 

  • Secretary – Kathy Coltin Blumenfeld. Blumenfeld was most recently the executive vice president for Total Administrative Services Corporation and had previously worked for CUNA. Confirmation hearing in Senate Agriculture, Revenue & Financial Institutions on Feb. 19; confirmation recommended by committee 9-0 on Feb. 22. 
  • Deputy secretary – Cheryll Olson– Olson-Collins previously worked in DFI’s Banking Division.
  • Communicataions director – Melanie Conklin. Conklin has worked in communications for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Town of vermont), among other offices.
  • Assistant deputy secretary – Catherine Haberland. Haberland was DFI assistant deputy secretary under former Gov. Jim Doyle.


Department of Trade, Agriculture & Consumer Protections 

  • Secretary – Brad Pfaff. Pfaff was most recently deputy chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse). Confirmation hearing in Senate Agriculture, Revenue & Financial Institutions on Feb. 19; confirmation recommended by committee 9-0 on Feb. 22.
  • Deputy secretary – Randy Romanski. Romanski was DATCP secretary under former Gov. Jim Doyle and has been an executive assistant to DNR and DOT, as well as working in the legislature and at DOJ. Most recently, Romanski was the safety program chief at DOT’s Division of State Patrol.
  • Assistant deputy secretary – Angela James. James previously worked as an attorney in private practice related to environmental regulations.
  • Division of Trade & Consumer Protection administrator – Lara Sutherlin. Sutherlin was previously an attorney in DOJ’s Consumer Protection Division.
  • Division of Agricultural Resource Management administrator – Sara Walling. Walling previously worked at DATCP for 12 years and most recently worked for the UW-Extension’s Institute of Agriculture.
  • Communications director – Grace Colas. Colas previously worked for Rep. Dave Considine (D-Baraboo).

Pfaff will retain appointees from the previous administration including: Steve Ingham, administrator of the Division of Food and Recreational Safety; Krista Knigge, administrator of the Division of Agricultural Development; Kelly Smithback, administrator of the Division of Management Services.


Department of Revenue

  • Secretary – Peter Barca. After the announcement of his appointment, Rep. Barca (D-Kenosha) resigned his seat in the state Assembly. Confirmation hearing in Senate Agriculture, Revenue & Financial Institutions on Feb. 19; confirmation recommended by committee 9-0 on Feb. 22.
  • Deputy secretary – David Casey. Casey was most recently an executive consulting manager at Revenue Solutions Inc.


Department of Veterans Affairs 

  • Secretary – Mary Kolar. Kolar is a veteran who currently serves on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. Previously, she worked as the director of public operations at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and as the president for the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Place Condominium Association. Confirmation hearing in Senate Transportation, Veterans & Military Affairs on Feb. 20.  
  • Deputy secretary – James Bond. Bond is a veteran who most recently was DVA’s administrator for the Division of Veterans Benefits. Bond has also worked in a variety of other DVA programs and at the Department of Workforce Development.
  • Assistant deputy secretary – Kathy Still. Still is a veteran who has overseen various programs at DVA since 2013. Previously, she worked in the legislature.

Appointees retained from the previous administration include Carla Vigue as communications director and Chad Koplien as chief legal counsel.


Department of Transportation 

  • Secretary – Craig Thompson. Thompson was previously executive director of the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association. Confirmation hearing in Senate Transportation, Veterans & Military Affairs on Feb. 20.  
  • Deputy secretary – Paul Hammer. Hammer was DOT deputy secretary under Mark Gottlieb and has worked in DOT’s budget office. Hammer most recently served as deputy administrator for the Division of External Services at DNR.
  • Assistant deputy secretary – Joel Nilsestuen. Nilsestuen previously worked for UW-Whitewater, was executive director of the Wisconsin Workforce Development Association, and worked in the legislature.


Commissioner of Insurance 

  • Secretary – Mark Afable. Before joining the administration, Afable worked at American Family Insurance as chief legal officer and vice president. No confirmation hearing scheduled; in Senate Insurance, Financial Services, Government Oversight & Courts. 
  • Deputy secretary – Nathan Houdek. Houdek worked on the Evers transition team. His previous experience includes working at Michael Best Strategies and as chief of staff to Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse).
  • Director of public affairs – Olivia Hwang. Hwang was previous communications director for former Rep. and now Department of Revenue Secretary-designee Peter Barca.
  • Chief legal counsel – Richard Wicka. Wicka has been deputy chief legal counsel and acting chief legal counsel at OCI for seven years.


Department of Justice (appointed by Attorney General Kaul)

  • Deputy attorney general – Eric J. Wilson. Wilson comes to DOJ from Godfrey & Kahn. His previous experience includes work as an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago and an assistant attorney general in Wisconsin.
  • Chief of staff – Ashley Viste. Viste was Kaul’s campaign manager and as also worked on campaigns for U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, now-Gov. Tony Evers’s Superintendent of Public Instruction campaign, and state Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay).
  • Communications director – Gillian Drummond. Drummond served as a senior advisor to Kaul during the campaign. Her previous experience includes running communications for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Dallet’s campaign, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Hillary for Wisconsin, and Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett. Drummond also served as chief of staff to then-minority leader Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee).
  • Director of the Division of Legal Services – Charlotte Gibson. Gibson has been an assistant attorney general since 2001 and director of the special appeals unit since 2011.
  • Director of the Division of Law Enforcement Services – Tina Virgil. Virgil has worked at DOJ for 26 years, including as director of the Special Investigations Bureau and state fire marshal.
  • Senior counsel – Nate Zolik. Zolik comes to DOJ from Godfrey & Kahn. Previously, Zolik was chief of staff and senior adviser at the Public Service Commission and chief legal counsel to former Gov. Jim Doyle.

Kaul also announced he will retain Schimel appointees Michelle Viste as director of the Office of Crime Victim Services and Kristen Devitt as the director of the Office of School Safety.


Department of Public Instruction

  • Secretary – Carolyn Stanford Taylor. Taylor was previously the assistant state superintendent. Her term as DPI superintendent will expire in 2021.


Evers transition team.