Evers picks Milwaukee leaders for top Cabinet slots

NOW: Evers picks Milwaukee leaders for top Cabinet slots

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers announced Wednesday that he's chosen four prominent Milwaukee leaders, including a former campaign manager to Mayor Tom Barrett and a 30-year veteran of the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department, to hold top-level Cabinet positions.

The announcement comes less than three weeks before Evers replaces Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Jan. 7. It's Evers' first rollout of Cabinet secretaries, with more expected to be named in the coming days. He has 17 Cabinet positions to fill.

The appointees announced Wednesday are:

— Joel Brennan, chief executive officer for the Discovery World Science and Technology Museum in Milwaukee, will serve as Evers' top aide leading 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 the co-chair of 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, first appointed by Democratic 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. He has a degree in forest management.

— U.S. Marshal Kevin Carr will be secretary of the Department of Corrections. Carr previously 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.

— Sara Meaney, chief marketing and development officer at Milwaukee Film, will serve as secretary of the Department of Tourism. She replaces Stephanie Klett, who has been Tourism secretary for eight years under Walker. Several Republican lawmakers, and even on Democrat, urged Evers to retain Klett , a 1992 Miss Wisconsin and former host of the long-running "Discover Wisconsin" tourism television program.

Two of Evers' appointees, Cole and Carr, are African-American. All four are from Milwaukee, the state's largest city, which Evers won with 78 percent of the vote in November.

Some Republicans complained about the lack of geographic diversity among Evers' initial Cabinet appointees.

"For those that may not be aware, there are good, qualified people outside of Milwaukee and Madison," tweeted Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, of Kaukauna. "Hopefully the rest of the state will eventually be represented in this administration."

Republican Rep. Scott Krug, of Nekoosa, tweeted "DNR and Tourism secretaries from Milwaukee? That's 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."

All of the 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 the same person again if the Senate has already declined to confirm them.

Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) also released a statement following the announcement of the first cabinet secretaries in the Evers administration. 

“I would like to congratulate the new cabinet secretaries from Milwaukee on their appointments and welcome them to state government. The individuals appear to be well-qualified but for the most part, lack significant state government experience.

Governor-elect Evers’ outreach plan to take applications from across the state was cause for optimism, which is why I’m so greatly disappointed that his top four appointments were from Milwaukee. What’s even more disconcerting is that the most powerful appointment was the brother-in-law of the co-chair of his transition team.

If independence is supposed to be a hallmark of his administration, he’s already disproving it by showing that political connections are more important than anything else.”

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