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ON THE LEVEL: Public service foundation of Stone’s career

Jeff Stone

Jeff Stone

No matter what his job title is at any given moment, Jeff Stone tends to drift toward government work.

Right now, he’s a senior consultant at Kapur & Associates Inc., Milwaukee, having joined the consulting-engineering firm in April to work on regional transportation and infrastructure plans as well as public outreach. At the same time, though, he’s holding an elected position on the board of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

Government, whether it be in a local office or the state Assembly, just seems to be what he’s naturally drawn to.

“These are infrastructure issues,” Stone said, “things that are basic to government that we need to do well to serve the public.”

Stone, who was born in Kansas and moved to Ohio when he was young, said public policy has held his interest since he was in college. He graduated from Washburn University in Kansas in 1983 with a double major in political science and history.

But rather than going to law school after graduation, as he had planned, Stone took a detour from public policy. While in college, he began working for a company that did quick printing. After his graduation, he was given a chance by the owner of the company to start a new branch.

Stone chose to do so in Phoenix.

“I just thought it was a great opportunity to start a business from scratch,” he said.

He spent three years running the company and, along the way, met the woman who would become his wife. She was from Wisconsin. They moved to Greenfield in 1987 and started their own printing company.

The company expanded during the following five to six years. At one point, it was employing six people. But Stone found himself drawn back to public policy.

“Then I started getting involved in local government,” he said, “which was always my love.”

Stone became a Greenfield alderman in 1994. During his four years in local office, he said, he discovered an interest in community planning, serving on the Plan Commission and working on a master plan for the city. He also dove into finances, helping the city unburden itself of some debts.

But then his attention shifted toward state government. Tommy Thompson was then governor, and Stone found himself watching closely as various economic and welfare reforms were made at the state level.

“A lot of things government was doing I was interested in.”

He ran for the state Assembly in 1996 but lost. Then, in 1998, he ran in a special Assembly election to represent his Greenfield district and won.

He immediately got involved in transportation, first serving as chairman of the Highway Safety Committee and then the Transportation Committee. He was also chairman of the Health Committee and the Small Business Committee and served three sessions on the Joint Finance Committee.

Those committee assignments, he said, further piqued his interests in development and transportation.

“I kind of had the blend of finance, bonding and transportation infrastructure issues,” he said.

Stone served more than 15 years in the state Legislature before being appointed by Gov. Scott Walker to the Public Service Commission in 2013 as a division administrator. His attention then shifted to water utilities and water infrastructure.

The appointment made use of his strengths, he said, because it drew on his knowledge of local government, business, infrastructure and finance.

“The one thing I think people know about me is I have a broad experience and broad interests.”

Stone spent three years at the PSC and then stepped away from public service to run a statewide association for municipal electric utilities. He stayed there for about a year and then returned to southeast Wisconsin, particularly of the development associated with Foxconn and other big projects.

That led to his position at Kapur. Now, even though Stone may not be working full time in government, public service is never far from his thoughts.

“I think it’s a different role for me,” Stone, 57, said, “but I’m excited to say, ‘How do we get local government and the state to work in a coordinated way?’”

The Daily Reporter: What surprises you most about your job?

Stone: How easy it has been to fit in at Kapur & Associates. Since I am brand new to the consulting-engineering field and didn’t have many relationships here, or an engineering background, I was concerned that it might take a while to connect with others in the organization. It has, however, been a pleasure working with my new team, and I have found a great deal of common experiences with folks throughout the company.

TDR: Which living person do you most admire?

Stone: My stepmother. She had an amazing career as an educator and was named Teacher of the Year in her home state. She has continued to teach young people (and adults). Even now, 20 years after retiring, she has developed and run a nonprofit organization serving children in an economically depressed area. She loves to see young people develop and thrive, and I have been personally blessed to have her in my life.

TDR: What other job(s) did you consider trying?

Stone: I considered being a lawyer and have been in the printing industry, but I was always drawn to public service and community development.

TDR: What is your greatest fear?

Stone: Growing up in Kansas, we didn’t have too many hills or tall structures, so I developed a bit of vertigo. I try to confront it on a regular basis. I have been to the top of the Statue of Liberty, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Willis Tower, the Space Needle in Seattle and the Eiffel Tower, among other high structures.

TDR: What is your greatest extravagance?

Stone: Playing as many of the great golf courses in Wisconsin as I can, like Whistling Straights, Erin Hills and many others.

TDR: What would you never wear?

Stone: Anything with a Bears logo.

TDR: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Stone: My putting stroke.

TDR: What would your colleagues be surprised to find out about you?

Stone: After running for public office 13 times, I don’t have any secrets. If I did, they would have made the paper.

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