By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker convened the first meeting of his newly reorganized Commerce Department’s board Wednesday, introducing members with Republican and business ties.
The GOP governor signed a bill earlier this year that retools the agency as a public-private hybrid called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. The governor said the move was designed to help the state provide businesses with incentives more quickly, a key element in keeping his promise to create 250,000 new jobs.
The corporation’s board consists of 13 members, including the governor, six of his appointees and six appointees chosen by state Assembly and Senate leadership.
Walker introduced three of his appointees — Dan Ariens, president of Brillion-based Ariens Co., which manufactures lawn mowers and snow blowers; Donald J. Weber, founder and chief executive of La Crosse-based Logistics Health Inc., a health care contractor; and Lisa Mauer, president and owner of Milwaukee-based Tool Service Corp., which distributes manufacturing tools and accessories.
Ariens’ resume lists him as a member of the board of directors for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business group and a close Republican ally. He donated $500 to Walker’s campaign last year, according to government watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s campaign finance database.
Weber runs a company that provides health and dental services to the military. WDC’s database shows Weber donated $2,500 to Walker last year.
Mauer, meanwhile, served on Walker’s economic development task force when Walker was Milwaukee County executive, according to her resume. She donated $1,500 to Walker in 2009 and 2010, according to the campaign finance database.
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the appointments weren’t linked to contributions.
“They supported Governor Walker’s campaign because they share his passion to help get Wisconsin working again,” he said in an email.
The governor has not chosen his remaining three appointees but said he plans to make his picks before the board’s next meeting on June 13.
Senate leaders appointed Sens. Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac, and Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Plover to the board. They also appointed C. Thomas Sylke, owner of Sylke Law Offices LLC. He donated $500 to Walker last year.
Assembly leaders appointed Rep. Mary Williams, R-Medford, and Scott Klug, public affairs director at the Foley & Lardner law firm. Klug contributed $1,500 to Walker over the last two years. The final Assembly appointee hasn’t been selected yet.
The board handled mostly start-up business on Wednesday, including revisions to its by-laws. Members said little, except for Lassa. Appearing by phone, she said she wanted more explicit language in them stressing the state’s open meeting laws would apply to board meetings. Walker agreed, reiterating the board would operate under those statutes.
The governor said the board would likely meet quarterly after June 13, rotating gatherings at locations around the state.
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