Gov.-elect Tony Evers today announced Mary Kolar, a Dane County supervisor and retired Navy captain, will serve as his secretary of Veterans Affairs.
He also announced Kathy Koltin Blumenfeld, the executive vice president of special operations at TASC, will lead the Department of Financial Institutions.
And Brian Pahnke, who served under Evers at DPI as the assistant state superintendent for finance and management, will be the state budget director.
So far, Evers has announced nine cabinet secretaries and his pick for the PSC. All but one — Brad Pfaff at DATCP — are from Madison or Milwaukee counties. Turnout in both — the state’s most populous and Democratic — helped propel Evers to victory over Gov. Scott Walker in November.
Still, the emphasis on the two counties has generated criticism from Republicans that Evers is not building a cabinet that adequately represents outstate Wisconsin.
But Evers downplayed that criticism, saying Madison and Milwaukee also happen to be “two areas that have a lot of people living there.
“What we always do is strive for talent and making sure that we have good people who can connect the dots, and we will continue to do that,” Evers said, adding there will be more geographic diversity in his remaining picks.
Evers has yet to announce appointments for Health Services, Revenue, Children and Families, Safety and Professional Services, Workforce Development, and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. He also hasn’t announced a selection for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., though GOP lawmakers earlier this month stripped Evers of the power to appoint that agency’s head until Sept. 1.
Kolar, who was elected to the Dane County Board in 2013, served 28 years on active duty and chaired the Dane County Veterans Service Commission. She’s also vice president of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Foundation Board of Directors and is in her third term on the Wisconsin Counties Association Board of Directors.
She noted her grandfather, father, four brothers and husband have all served in the military, while her oldest son is currently deployed on a U.S. Navy submarine.
Kolar pledged the agency will work with vets groups and unaffiliated veterans to “ensure that all voices are heard” and helps veterans achieve their employment, education and quality of life goals.
“We will work with them and legislators to ensure nonpartisan policy is developed that best serves veterans, their families and Wisconsin,” she said.
Prior to joining TASC, which provides businesses a host of services include tax planning, Blumenfeld spent 25 years at CUNA Mutual Group, including a stint as vice president of lending and payment security. She also served as an aide to former Dem state Sen. Joe Strohl, of Racine.
She stressed both facilitating economic growth by ensuring access to capital and protecting consumers.
“In order to remain relevant, our financial institutions will need to continue to innovate,” she said. “We will ensure that we have an environment that fosters both innovation and economic growth.”
In addition to his work at DPI, Pahnke has served in numerous budget and finance positions at state agencies during 28 years working for the state. That includes almost five years in the state budget office during the Thompson administration.
He thanked the Walker administration for its work with the Evers team on the transition and said the budget listening sessions Evers and Lt. Gov.-elect Mandela Barnes did around the state have provided a head start on the document that will be released early next year.
“As we know, budgets are about priorities and yours remain clear: health care, education, transportation and infrastructure, middle-class tax relief, the environment, and criminal justice reform,” Pahnke said.