Gov. Tony Evers today appointed former state Sen. Jon Erpenbach chair of the Parole Commission.

Erpenbach, D-West Point, didn’t seek reelection last fall after more than two decades in the state Senate. 

The Parole Commission became an issue for Evers last year after former Chair John Tate II originally agreed to parole a man who had stabbed to death his estranged wife in front of his children 25 years earlier.

The family of Johanna Balsewicz urged Evers to reverse the move. 

The guv then called on Tate to change course. Tate eventually did, finding the family hadn’t been given adequate opportunity to respond to the planned release.

Tate resigned in June after pressure from Evers, and Christopher Blythe came out of retirement to temporarily fill the role. Blythe previously worked for the Department of Justice and as a lawyer in private practice. 

Erpenbach pledged to take a “ balanced, thoughtful approach” as chair.

“The Parole Commission plays an incredibly important role in our criminal justice system and in making sure that system is just, fair, and constructive,” Erpenbach said. “The success of the Commission depends on our ability to balance the law and public safety while supporting victims, survivors, and their families and keeping dangerous individuals off of our streets.”

Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine and chair of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, said he looks forward to speaking with Erpenbach about his approach to the position. 

“I am hopeful about former Senator Erpenbach’s appointment and look forward to talking with Jon about the parole board,” Wanggaard said. “I want to hear his thoughts on how he will enhance public safety, how he intends to ensure victims are included in the process, and how he will follow the open meetings law he championed, all of which of Governor Evers’ previous appointees failed to do.”

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