Vol. 76, No. 9, September
Of Governor Doyle's 20 top appointees in his administration, 12 are
attorneys. Read how their legal training and prior experience have
proved useful to them in their positions ... from analyzing problems
from multiple perspectives to evaluating the effect of laws and policies
on Wisconsin individuals and corporations.
|Left to right (back row): Matthew Frank, Secretary
of Corrections; Karen Timberlake, Director, Office of
State Employment; Jorge Gomez, Commissioner of
Insurance; Stan Davis, Deputy Chief of Staff/Legal
Counsel; Gov. Jim Doyle; Scott Hasset,
Secretary of Natural Resources; Marc Marotta, Secretary
of Administration; Michael Morgan, Secretary of
Revenue; and Burnie Bridge, Chair of the Public Service
Commission. (front row) Rod Nilsestuen, Secretary of
Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; Donsia Strong
Hill, Secretary of Regulation and Licensing; and David
Riemer, Administrator, Division of Executive Budget and
by Dianne Molvig
When Governor Jim Doyle scouted for bright, capable people to recruit
into his new administration several months ago, he turned to the legal
profession time and time again. His chosen inner circle includes 16
cabinet members, among them the heads of 13 state departments and three
state agencies, plus four other key advisors. Of these 20 top
appointees, 12 are attorneys. Among them are people who have used their
legal skills in a wide range of settings: private practice, corporate
counsel, legal services, government, and nonprofit private
organizations. The governor's own legal experience is nearly as
A Madison native, Doyle graduated from Harvard Law School in 1972 and
then went to work in a federal legal services office on the Navajo
Indian Reservation, where his wife Jessica Doyle was a teacher. Three
years later the Doyles returned to Madison, where Jim Doyle served three
terms as Dane County's district attorney and then built his own private
law practice. After eight years in private practice, he won election as
the state's attorney general in 1990, a position he held for 12
Doyle says he draws from all those experiences in his current job.
"My background as a lawyer made me understand what the world looks like
to a wide range of people," he says. "And that helps me a lot as
He sought that same kind of broad perspective in his top appointees,
a group of men and women from diverse backgrounds. "My thinking was that
I wanted the best people," Doyle explains, "and that's what you get when
you go out and look for talent everywhere."
He also applauds the law profession for leading the way in
championing diversity, as evidenced by the 12 attorneys on his team.
"All these people have incredible talents and experiences," Doyle says,
"and they've worked hard to get where they are. But it was the legal
profession that opened up opportunities for them."
We asked some of these attorneys to share their insights, now that
they've had a few months to settle into their new roles in state
government. What are the key challenges they've faced in making the
transition? And how is their legal training and prior experience proving
to be useful to them in their current positions?
Bridge, Chair of the Public Service Commission
A state government veteran, Burnie Bridge was Doyle's
second-in-command as deputy attorney general for 10 years. All totaled,
she spent 17 years in the Wisconsin attorney general's office. Before
that, she was a trial lawyer in Minneapolis for three years, following
graduation from the U.W. Law School in 1982.
Her legal experience ties directly into her new position in certain
ways, Bridge says. Besides setting policies for public utilities
(energy, telecommunications, and so on), the Public Service Commission
(PSC) hears and settles contested issues, such as proposed rate hikes.
These matters are brought before a PSC administrative law judge, who
conducts hearings at which interested parties present evidence. Then, at
a public meeting, the three commissioners, of whom Bridge is the chair,
make a decision based on the hearing's evidentiary record. "My position
is quasi-judicial," Bridge says, "so it does have some connection
specifically to my legal background."
Also familiar to her from her days in the attorney general's office
is the challenge she faces at the PSC of striking a balance between
opposing parties' disparate interests. "There's an understandable
tension," she says, "between the regulated utility industries that are
by definition businesses and have a profit motive, which is important
and critical for their survival, and the needs of consumers who pay the
bills and provide the profits for those businesses."
Now that she is PSC chair, Bridge is tackling the task of learning
all she can about the utility industries. Here, too, her lawyer
background serves her well; she notes, "I think lawyers are good at
taking on new subjects and being able to study them, understand them,
and work with new concepts."
Frank, Secretary of Corrections
The numbers depict the enormity of the job facing Matthew Frank and
the Department of Corrections (DOC): 10,000 employees, 22,000 inmates,
and 67,000 offenders on probation and parole. About half of all state
offenders read at or below a ninth-grade level, and 70 percent have
alcohol or drug problems.
Dealing with a population with such severe needs, one of the DOC's
key responsibilities is to make sure offenders gain the necessary life
skills to re-enter community life successfully, Frank notes. "If we
improve efforts in that area," he says, "we can reduce the likelihood
that they'll commit another offense and return to prison, which in the
long run saves the state money."
The subject of money brings up another huge DOC number: its nearly
$994 million budget (for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2003), one of
the largest among state agencies. Of that amount, $832 million comes
from state coffers, and the rest from grants and other sources.
"As we look at the sheer size of that budget and the challenges the
agency faces," Frank says, "we need to be open to new ways to do
business. It's important that we take a hard look at community
corrections to see how we can make improvements." That entails, he
explains, such factors as better community supervision of offenders,
strong partnerships with local law enforcement, and building judges'
confidence in community corrections.
Technology also will have an impact on corrections in the future.
Electronic monitoring, for example, is evolving to be more precise by
using global positioning systems. While currently expensive, Frank
expects this technology to become more cost-effective. "It opens up a
new opportunity," he says, "to do a better job of supervising offenders
in the community."
Prior to becoming the DOC's secretary, Frank gained 22 years'
experience with the criminal justice system while working in the
attorney general's office. A 1981 U.W. Law School graduate, he
prosecuted cases as an assistant attorney general, and later he headed
two different Department of Justice divisions. "I've had both lawyer and
administrator experience in my career," he says, "and both are helpful
to me in my current job."
Gomez, Commissioner of Insurance
To the job of state insurance commissioner, Jorge Gomez brings a mix
of experience in nearly all types of legal practice. After graduating
from the U.W. Law School in 1986, he worked for Legal Action of
Wisconsin in Madison representing farm workers in employment and
income-related matters. From there he moved to the Milwaukee County
district attorney's office, and later he became a litigation partner at
Michael Best & Friedrich in Milwaukee.
His most recent position before his current appointment was serving
as general counsel for United Government Services (UGS), Milwaukee, a
subsidiary of Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin and the
largest fiscal intermediary in the country. UGS contracts with the
federal government to process Medicare and Medicaid claims.
Gomez's last job gave him "the opportunity to understand the
struggles that businesses go through," he says, "to stay in compliance
with different kinds of federal and state requirements, and also meet
their clients' expectations. That's helpful for tempering a regulator's
perspective on the way businesses operate."
The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) serves multiple
purposes. It oversees the financial solvency of insurance companies that
do business in Wisconsin, to make sure they're financially sound and
able to pay claims to their policyholders. OCI also monitors companies'
conduct in the marketplace in terms of how they sell products and their
treatment of policyholders making claims.
Nearly 50,000 consumer phone calls pour into OCI each year, and it
handles about 10,000 consumer complaints, which, if necessary, can
result in prosecution brought to a hearing before an OCI administrative
law judge. Here Gomez's prosecutor background comes in handy.
Gomez cites a "cumulative effect" as he looks back on his 17-year
legal career. "Everything I've done so far," he says, "gives me a
bigger-picture view of the regulatory role and of how this industry
Marotta, Secretary of Administration
Marc Marotta cites parallels between his former life as a private
practitioner and his current position. "At the core, lawyers solve
problems for their clients and help them take advantage of
opportunities," Marotta says. "In this job, it's not much different.
We're here to solve problems, such as the budget deficit, and take
advantage of opportunities" that stem from Wisconsin's strengths.
When he was a practicing business lawyer, Marotta had to get up to
speed quickly on a client's business and the personalities and politics
involved. The same applies now. "I've had to learn the ins and outs of
state government very quickly," he says, "and I'm still learning."
After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1987, Marotta joined
Foley & Lardner, Milwaukee, where he focused on business law and
became a partner. Leaving there was difficult, he acknowledges, but
three factors spurred him to accept Doyle's appointment: his respect for
Doyle; the challenge of addressing the largest fiscal crisis in the
state's history, among other challenges; and the belief that "if
approached right, public service can be a noble venture," he says.
The toughest adjustment has been adapting to the "pure, raw politics
of this office and dealing with the legislature," Marotta says. "On the
other hand, I have a lot of great relationships in the legislature. And,
given that we have a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled
legislature, I think by and large we're working well together."
Some readers also may recall Marotta's days with the Marquette
University basketball team, another experience he chalks up as useful
now. "The competitiveness I derived from basketball suits me well in
this position," he says. "I think most people in politics have a
But can't the drive to win prove to be counterproductive in the
give-and-take of politics? "It depends on how you define winning,"
Marotta responds. "Here the definition isn't always getting your way.
Particularly with a Republican legislature, we know we're not always
going to get our way. But getting most of what we think is most
important is how we win."
Strong Hill, Secretary of Regulation and Licensing
When Doyle interviewed Donsia Strong Hill, he was clear about his
vision for his cabinet. "He said he didn't want me over in a silo
protecting my turf," she recalls. "He expects us to use whatever talents
we have" to help shape state policy.
That's why Strong Hill, like her cabinet colleagues, taps her
expertise to advise the administration, even when that falls outside the
domain of her specific appointment. In her private practice in Green
Bay, she concentrated in municipal bond finance, which has no connection
to regulation and licensing.
But that experience gives her "an understanding that's critical," she
says, "as we look at the Joint Finance Committee budget. How are
localities going to meet their needs if their revenue streams are
inadequate? I've had discussions with the secretary of revenue and
others on the governor's staff about what that interplay might be."
Strong Hill graduated from the John Marshall Law School, Chicago, in
1989. She's been staff counsel for a Texas congressman, a policy analyst
for President Clinton, and head of a U.S. Department of Energy project
that made electricity more widely available in South Africa. After
moving to Wisconsin, she worked in the Brown County district attorney's
office before setting up her own practice.
Strong Hill finds her legislative and policy-making background
particularly helpful as head of the Department of Regulation and
Licensing, which has 45 board commissions regulating 110 professions.
The lawyer/fact-gatherer side of her comes into play here, too. When her
staff investigates a problem or develops a process, she directs them to
the legislative history.
"That helps in determining the legislative intent," she explains. "Is
[a] profession trying to do something to protect itself when the
legislature's actual intent was to protect the public?"
Her law training also shapes her view of her department's processes.
"A law school education stresses the principles of due process and equal
treatment," Strong Hill says. "So I'm very sensitive when I have a
notion that our boards are being less than fair in dealing with