The invisible administration

Written by Bill Kraus on March 11, 2014

The governor is always the main event in any administration, and rightly so. But there is usually a prominent supporting cast.

The people in the governor’s office itself if not well known when they arrive, quickly become so.

The cabinet officers as well get profiled and make news on their own as attention to what their departments are doing waxes and wanes in the usual course of doing the state’s and people’s business.

The governor’s inner circle, which is not a part of the official government, is usually easily identified and occasionally newsworthy. Every governor has roots and friends and to a certain extent those friends identify and help them do this complicated job.

Everyone knew and respected and was thankful for the contributions made by the likes of Menasha’s Bill Kellett in the Knowles years, John Brogan when Tony Earl was governor, and Mike Grebe during Tommy Thompson’s reign.

All of those administrations had nominees for leading performers in supporting roles as well in the governor’s offices, the cabinet, and as administrators in important regulator agencies.

The University of Wisconsin’s faculty and staff was a particularly rich source of prominent experts in their own fields, and for what they did for the state as advisors and cabinet members, in most administrations.

Meanwhile, most members of the Walker administration are better known for being unknown. There are a few who made names for themselves in the Legislature or were well known for their work in previous administrations, but most came to their new jobs in Madison with no significant public history and have made none since their arrival.

The Walker administration is a remarkably singular and insular place.

Early on during the turmoil that followed the enactment of Act 10, which set off a backlash of virulent protest almost unheard of in Wisconsin, a small group of concerned former legislative leaders and government officials from both parties tried to offer their services to the governor in hopes of derailing what seemed at the time to be an unprecedented and unwelcome rush to government-by-recall.

Several calls to the governor’s office and staff were never returned. Even end runs around the governor’s office and through a leader of the governor’s political party went nowhere.

One gets the impression that this largely anonymous administration has an “I’d rather do it myself, mother” mindset.

The legislative leadership is also unusually inaccessible and unresponsive. Maybe it’s contagious.

The people who have their hands on the levers of power did not get where they are by accident. They won these offices in open elections. They can do with the power they won what they please.

This administration prefers to govern in private.

Legal, legitimate, effective, unusual.

Office: Common Cause Wisconsin

Issues: More Democracy Reforms

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