Governor-elect Tony Evers announced more cabinet picks late last week, including transportation advocate Craig Thompson to head the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Thompson is a familiar face to members of the Eau Claire Chamber, having spoken multiple times at Eggs & Issues breakfasts and other venues in his role as Executive Director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin.
Business, labor and other groups positive on choice of Thompson
Eau Claire Chamber President & CEO Dave Minor said, "Craig Thompson is a great choice for the business community and those who want to see a long-term funding solution to meeting our transportation needs in Wisconsin."
During the discussion of regional legislative priorities for 2019 at the Chamber's Eggs & Issues Holiday Legislative Breakfast on December 21, Rep. Rob Summerfield (R-Bloomer) said "I was very happy to see Craig Thompson is going to be the DOT Secretary."
A wide cross-section of organizations had praise for Evers' choice of Thompson, including AAA, the Wisconsin Towns Association, the Wisconsin Economic Development Association, the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association, the Wisconsin Railroads Association, the League of Municipalities, the Wisconsin County Highways Association, the Wisconsin Counties Association, the Wisconsin Commercial Ports Association, and several others including key unions like the Wisconsin Laborers' District Council, and the International Union of Operating Engineers.
Praise from former Gov. Tommy Thompson: "A wise choice in this selection of a bi-partisan consensus builder"
Former Governor Tommy G. Thompson (no relation) said, "Craig has developed a deep understanding of the connection between a strong infrastructure and a strong economy and how all modes of transportation play a role in our economic success." He said, “I commend Governor-Elect Evers on his appointment of Craig Thompson as Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. As leader of the statewide, multimodal Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin for more than 10 years. Craig served on Gov. Walker’s blue-ribbon Transportation Finance and Policy Commission in 2012 and played an important role in the successful campaign in 2014 to amend the state’s Constitution to ensure that transportation revenues be used exclusively for transportation investments. He understands the needs of our transportation system as well as anyone who has ever held the position. Gov.-Elect Evers has made a wise choice in this selection of a bi-partisan consensus builder to tackle the significant transportation challenges facing Wisconsin.”
Transportation's role in economic and workforce development
At the Governor-elect's news conference announcing his appointment, Thompson noted that, “Access to highways and access to skilled labor have been the top two issues of how businesses decide to located in a given area. If we think about access to skilled labor, in this hyper-competitive economy we’re in right now, the race to attract young talented people is the hottest commodity out there. And these young talented people are demanding modal options when they decide where they want to plant their flag and offer their wares. We need to provide those modal options to those people."
Given the state's workforce concerns, Thompson also pointed out that transportation can play a key role in removing barriers to employment by helping “individuals that live in our cities and don’t have access to a vehicle or own a vehicle. Their ability to have reliable transportation to get to and from a a job has to be a number one issues to remove those barriers.”
"We will not solve our transportation issues until we view our transportation system as just that, a system," concluded Thompson.
Push back from Senate GOP leader
Although Evers' pick of Thompson also received praise from a wide variety of statewide business, labor and transportation groups, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told a Milwaukee radio station, "Governor-elect Evers would be better served by nominating someone who worked in a less controversial role during previous policy debates."
Video: Tony Evers news conference with new cabinet picks (Wisconsin Eye)
Gov-elect Evers announces additional cabinet appointments (News release)
Tony Evers' pick for Department of Transportation could face rough road to confirmation (Journal-Sentinel)
Former Gov Tommy Thompson: DOT pick is a bi-partisan consensus builder (News release)
Posted by Scott Rogers, Governmental Affairs & Workforce Director
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.