The first thing that struck me as I reviewed the names of Scott Walker's proposed cabinet secretaries and key staffers: wow, so many familiar names.
Huebsch, Jadin, Rhoades, Stepp, Gottlieb, Gunderson, Hamblin. They're all well-known names in state GOP and legislative circles, but with a smattering of notable county and local officials. And a variety of Thompson-era names as well. Gottlieb, in particular, has always struck me as a level-headed legislator with a streak of ingenuity.
As Mordecai Lee, a professor who taught my father over three decades ago, noted:
"This is not a talk radio list," said Mordecai Lee of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. "This is not a tea party, ideologically rigid list - this is a governing list."
That could be good. Functional governance from conservatives will be key, especially in a state like Wisconsin where the red shift this fall must nevertheless account for the state's typically purple politics. The results will matter.
I just hope that the lean toward figures comfortable with governing and administration doesn't result in a crew that is too cozy, too willing to accept the status quo. Change in the bureaucracies is necessary. Developing a new default line of thought on the appropriateness of certain agency actions must be built into an agency's esprit de corps in the first few months on the job.
In some areas, I don't think we'll have to worry. Walker's dramatic new approach with the Commerce Department is intriguing. I wonder about how citizens retain a direct, adequate check over a public-private entity at the statewide level, but I hope it proves to be a good move. And it's certainly a new, bold approach that seeks to address proactively one of the issues that dominated the campaign trail. This article also makes it sound like Walkers healthcare team might be looking at some big picture changes.
Overall, the geographic mix is quite healthy - a number of the picks extend well beyond the GOP heartland of Southeastern Wisconsin centered on Waukesha County. The local papers that picked up on individual appointments made this clear.
The second thing that I noted as I perused the list of proposed appointment was the strange relevance of the GOP Lieutenant Governor primary. It's suddenly become a talent pool to draw upon, a farm team development program of sorts. And it makes sense. Walker is bringing both former Rep. Brett Davis and Superior Mayor Dave Ross into the mix. In doing so, Walker incorporates individuals who recently rose to some level of statewide prominence. He reaches out to various constituencies within the GOP, as well as regions statewide.
Finally, Walker's top staff picks include a number of people I've worked with - Eric Schutt, who will be a more-than-able administrator as deputy chief of staff, and press secretary Cullen Werwie.
It looks like a great start. Here's my advice for how to make the swing to the GOP stick in the course of the Walker administration:
1. Don't over-read the mandate. Remember how fickle the electorate can be, especially in a nationwide period of great - and probably increasing - political volatility.
2. Don't slash-and-burn excessively - especially at the DNR. As tempting as it might be to get retribution, try to find fiscally responsible, innovative, limited government-leaning solutions in the agency context that have staying power.
3. Explain yourself - even when you're making significant changes or taking the agency in a new non-Jim Doyle direction, be sure to buttress decisions with ample facts and reasoning. And be sure to share it with the public. Independents and moderates can accept changes in a conservative direction, but the shifts need to be backed with adequate, reasonable justification. Invite ideas from the public in return as well.