Get to Know a Freshman: Week 5

As we continue our “Get to Know a Freshman” series, we again bring you information on five incoming legislators. With one of the largest freshman classes ever in the Wisconsin Legislature, it may be harder to get to know the newly elected senators and representatives.

This week, Political Tidbits highlights the following new legislators – State Representatives Todd Novak, Mike Rohrkaste, Amanda Stuck, Bob Gannon, and Jesse Kremer. For the 2015-2016 Wisconsin Legislature, the State Senate has seven new senators (five Republican, two Democrat), and the State Assembly has 25 new representatives (18 Republican, seven Democrat).


State Representative Todd Novak (R)

State Representative Todd Novak (R) is now representing the 51st Assembly District, previously represented by just elected State Senator Howard Marklein (R). Novak won the seat by just 64 votes against Democratic candidate Dick Cates in November. The 51st Assembly District, located in the south western part of the state, runs along the Illinois border and includes parts of Layfayette, Green, Iowa, Sauk, and Richland counties, including the cities of Dodgeville, Mineral Point, Monroe, and Spring Green.

Novak was elected Mayor of the City of Dodgeville in 2012, and was appointed to the Southwest Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission by Governor Walker in 2013. Novak has been the Government and Associate Editor of The Dodgeville Chronicle for nearly 25 years and has covered the local government beat for the newspaper. He is also a licensed foster parent and a court appointed guardian for senior citizens who cannot care for themselves.

2015-2016 Committee Assignments: Agriculture (Vice chair); Criminal Justice and Public Safety; Mental Health Reform; Mining and Rural Development; Urban and Local Affairs; Ways and Means



State Representative Mike Rohrkaste (R)

State Representative Mike Rohrkaste (R), new representative for the 55th Assembly District, was elected in November and replaced former State Rep. Dean Kaufert (R), who was elected Mayor of Neenah in April 2014. The 55th Assembly District, located on the northwest side of Lake Winnebago, includes the City of Neenah, and parts of Winnebago and Outagamie counties. In November, Rohrkaste beat Democratic candidate Mark Westphal with 58% of the vote. Rohrkaste won a five-way Republican primary in August to be the Republican candidate for the seat.

Rohrkaste’s career background is in human resources, beginning with Milwaukee’s Miller Brewing Company. He went on to join the Menasha Corporation in a human resources role, and he retired recently as chief human resources officer for Oshkosh Corporation. He is a member of the Fox Cities YMCA Board, Samaritan Counseling Center of the Fox Valley Board, the Fox Valley Christian Academy School Board, and worked with the American Red Cross of Neenah-Menasha. Rohrkaste has a bachelor’s degree in social science and a master’s degree in labor and industrial relations from Michigan State University.

2015-2016 Committee Assignments: Health (Vice chair); Colleges and Universities; Interstate Affairs; Jobs and the Economy; Mental Health



State Representative Amanda Stuck (D)

State Representative Amanda Stuck (D) was elected in November to represent the 57th Assembly District. She replaced former State Representative Penny Bernard Shaber (D), who ran for a Senate seat and ultimately lost to State Senator Roger Roth. Stuck won in November with 54% of the vote against Chris Klein (R). Her new district covers much of the cities of Menasha and Appleton.

Stuck worked at the Appleton Housing Authority prior to be elected to the State Assembly, and previously worked for former Congressman Steve Kagen. Prior to these roles, Stuck served in AmeriCorps, the American Red Cross, and was Rural Mail Carrier. Stuck received her bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration from UW-Oshkosh.

2015-2016 Committee Assignments: Energy and Utilities; Environment and Forestry; Housing and Real Estate; Jobs and the Economy



State Representative Bob Gannon (R)

State Representative Bob Gannon (R) represents the 58th Assembly District, previously held by former State Rep. Pat Strachota (R), who retired this past year. The 58th District is located in the southeastern part of the state, located in Washington County, it includes the cities of Slinger, West Bend, and Jackson. Gannon won a three way primary in August and was unopposed in the general election.

Gannon is Managing Partner at Richards Insurance of West Bend and has been in the insurance industry for 32 years. He also owns AmericInn of West Bend. Prior to working in the insurance industry Gannon worked for a short time as a garbage collector.

2015-2016 Committee Assignments: Children and Families (Vice chair); Corrections; Insurance; Small Business Development; State Affairs and Government Operations 



State Representative Jesse Kremer (R)

State Representative Jesse Kremer (R) represents the 59th Assembly District, which was previously represented by State Representative Dan LeMahieu (R). The former state representative retired this past year. The 59th Assembly District is made up of parts of Calumet, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, and Washington counties on the southeast side of Lake Winnebago, including the Village of Kewaskum. Kremer won a four-way primary in August and was unopposed in the general election.

Kremer is a professional pilot who worked for Midwest Connect regional airline and currently flies charter airplanes for West Bend Air. As a member of Wisconsin’s Army National Guard 832nd air ambulance unit PFC, Jesse Kremer served in the beginning waves of soldiers during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has also worked as dispatch for Elm Grove Police Department and has started three small businesses with his wife. Kremer is a volunteer firefighter, EMT, and fire inspector for the Village of Kewaskum.

2015-2016 Committee Assignments: Criminal Justice and Public Safety (Vice chair); Constitution and Ethics; Health; Mining and Rural Development; Public Benefit Reform 



Learn about the rest of this session’s freshman legislators:

Week 1: State Senators LeMahieu and Ringhand; State Representatives Bowen and Kitchens
Week 2: State Senators Bewley and Nass; State Representatives Brostoff and Steffen
Week 3: State Senators Marklein and Roth; State Representatives Brandtjen and Spreitzer
Week 4: State Senator Van Wanggaard; State Representatives Katsma, Vorpagel, Jarchow and Horlacher