Chuck Hanson: The Finisher
Charles (“Chuck”) Hanson is the equivalent of three people in one. While maintaining a successful civil litigation and worker’s compensation law practice at Hale, Skemp, Hanson, Skemp & Sleik in La Crosse, he is also heavily immersed in volunteer and outreach efforts.
He has fostered sister-city relationships between La Crosse and cities in China, Russia, Ireland, and Norway. He founded a program called Freedom Honor Flight that sends WWII veterans, free of charge, to visit the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. And he’s worked on countless other civic projects. One of Hanson's law firm partners says his involvement in civic activities in La Crosse is almost "legendary."
"While some people play golf for leisure, Chuck finds his leisure in helping his community," said Mike Gill, who has worked with Hanson for 34 years.
At the same time, Hanson is heavily involved in the legal community. He’s a former president of the La Crosse County Bar Association, and has served on the State Bar’s Board of Governors since 2009, representing District 5. Now, he’s ready to lead the State Bar in a presidential capacity.
“I feel very lucky to live in this community,” Hanson said. “I like giving back, and helping within the community to make it better. The same goes for the legal profession. Working on the State Bar’s board and having the opportunity to serve as president is a way to give back to the profession.”
But what makes Hanson a good candidate for the post? “He’s a finisher,” Gill said. “When he takes on a commitment – whether it’s a legal case, a civic project, or a State Bar matter – he is completely dedicated to it and he sees it through.”
The Experience to Lead
Hanson was born and raised in La Crosse. He went to St. Olaf College in Minnesota, and met his wife Cheryl, also a St. Olaf student, while studying abroad in Thailand. He thought about pursuing a medical degree, but soon realized his fondness for history and political science, writing and speaking.
“I felt I wanted to be part of a profession that was dedicated to serving people and making their lives better,” said Hanson, whose father was also lawyer. “I felt I could do that by becoming a lawyer.”
He graduated from U.W. Law School in 1973, with honors, before a four-year stint as a captain in the U.S. Air Force. During that time, he was chief of military justice at March Air Force Base in California and staff judge advocate at Taipei Air Station in Taiwan. He joined his La Crosse law firm in 1977.
Since then, Hanson has embarked on a life of law and civic involvement, a hobby he shares with his wife. He says his professional and volunteer experiences show he is effective as a leader.
“I’ve had a lot of experience working with volunteer organizations. These experiences have helped me develop skills in motivating and collaborating with volunteers that will help serve the bar,” he said. “As a leader, I can help facilitate the efforts of those who are working hard to meet the challenges we face as a bar.”
As President, Hanson Would … “Build on the progress that has been made, focusing on improving the practice of law, providing excellent member benefits, fighting the unauthorized practice of law, promoting public confidence in our court system, and enhancing the public image of our profession.”
Chuck and Cheryl Hanson have two sons, Army Major Eric Hanson – currently, the Judge Advocate General for the 101 Airborne Division, and Air Force Major Matthew Hanson, who is a fighter pilot. Whenever time allows, the Hansons enjoy skiing, hiking, canoeing, and spending time with their four grandchildren.
“We face a lot of challenges as a bar,” Hanson said. “The success that we are going to achieve will be the result of the many volunteers that work hard to improve our profession. I’ll find ways to support them and make it possible to do the work that needs to be done.”
Bob Gagan: Energetic, Affable
Robert (“Bob”) Gagan is a “first-generation lawyer” with a blue collar background, the type of person who doesn’t forget names, says one of his partners at Calewarts, Duffy & Gagan in Green Bay.
“His ability to remember names amazes me,” said partner Ken Calewarts. “But this tells you something about Bob’s character. He listens to people. He takes a genuine interest. He’s just an affable guy. He's tough when he needs to be, but he does in a circumspect manner.”
Gagan, who practices civil litigation and municipal law, is also the co-founder of the Brown County Free Legal Clinic, former president of the Brown County Bar Association, and represents District 14 on the State Bar’s Board of Governors. As a relatively younger lawyer, he wants to continue the State Bar's outreach efforts.
“I want to be certain we channel our efforts effectively,” Gagan said. “Member perspectives are critical to understanding what the bar can do to help them, and I really want to open those communication lines.”
But what makes Gagan a good candidate for the post? “It’s his ability to connect with people that would make him a great State Bar leader,” said Calewarts, Gagan's partner for 12 years.
Gagan was born and raised in Green Bay, the Irish son of a railroad engineer and the youngest of six children. His godfather was the local tavern owner, a testament to the culture in which Bob grew up.
“I think his parents ran out of uncles," Calewarts joked. "In those times, the railroad guys and their families would congregate at a bar on North Broadway called Lenny's Tap. The owner, a friend, agreed to be his godfather, and Bob maintained a relationship with him through the years. Lenny's is still there, and Bob still stops in.”
Calewarts says its Gagan’s upbringing that helps him connect with people, but he’s also a savvy lawyer with good business instincts. He obtained his undergraduate degree in business at U.W.-Madison, and was immediately recruited to work as a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
He spent a year there, and another year at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. He returned to Wisconsin for a Master’s in Business Administration at U.W.-Milwaukee, taking night classes while working full-time in sales. After graduating, his current partners encouraged him to go to law school.
“They are family friends, and they thought my personality would be a good fit for this profession,” Gagan said. “My business background certainly helps with our commercial clients.”
Gagan graduated from Marquette Law School in 2000 and joined the firm in Green Bay. He became involved with his local bar, serving as president in 2005. He also co-founded a free legal clinic that serves the Hispanic community, and dedicated volunteer time to help local organizations.
Now he’s ready to be the State Bar’s point man. He wants to build on current efforts to improve member services and tackle issues involving the unauthorized practice of law. “We’ve got to get the word out on what’s happening with UPL,” he said. “It’s the only way to achieve better enforcement.”
As President, Gagan Would … “Tirelessly recruit new volunteers from the ranks of in-house counsel, government lawyers, and private practice to assure that your State Bar continues to work for all of us.”
“I want to be a listener, and communicate what members are saying to get things done,” Gagan said. “I’m proud to be a lawyer, and I welcome the opportunity to represent the State Bar as president.”
Gagan and his wife Jenny have two young children. The family enjoys snow skiing and visiting relatives. His sister has a Packer Bus – a renovated school bus decked with Packer gear – but Gagan stopped short of saying members could use it if he becomes president. “I’ll have to check with my sister,” he said.