Former state Sen. Ted Kanavas, the chairman and co-founder of Michael Best Strategies, has died, friends and colleagues said today. He was 56.

The Brookfield Republican, who had been battling cancer, was named chair of Michael Best Strategies last week with Rob Marchant succeeding him as the firm’s president.

“Ted was a tremendous business partner and leader, but more than anything, he was a great man,” said Marchant, a former Senate chief clerk “He cared deeply about those close to him and always treated people with dignity and respect. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with him both in the Senate and here at Strategies, and I will miss him dearly.”

In addition to serving in the state Senate from 2001 to 2011, Kanavas served as an aide to U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, and worked in the software industry. He co-founded Michael Best Strategies, a government relations and public policy firm affiliated with Michael Best & Friedrich, in 2014.

Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, said via Facebook today: “Our community lost a giant of compassion. RIP my good friend Sen Ted Kanavas. My mentor, friend and brother in Christ.”

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, a former GOP state senator who served with Kanavas, added on Facebook: “My mind is reeling at the news of Ted Kanavas’ passing. He was battling cancer for some time. I’m reliving memories of how he would make me bust out laughing at the most inappropriate times in the Senate floor and in caucus. The pranks we would pull on other senators with my shock gum and shock flashlight, clown nose, etc. He was a smart, funny, and charismatic guy who will be missed, to be sure.”

Kavanas, along with former Democratic state Sen. Chuck Chvala of Madison, were the WisOpinion.com Insiders.

See their final show, which was taped in early June.