1. What is the number one challenge facing Wisconsin today and why?
Demographics. It’s a huge challenge for states, but especially us in the upper Midwest. In many industries, we’ve seen technology ease the need for people, but at a certain point innovation is not keeping up. Rural communities face real challenges with aging populations, which threatens a downwards spiral that’s hard to break. We’ve put a lot of eggs in the broadband basket, but that’s not a silver bullet for the underlying issues. Anyone who has waited forty minutes for a meal because of a lack of wait staff knows we’re short on workers. Indiana’s Mitch Daniels told Politico last week that a state can adopt all kinds of pro-business policies, “But until we can check the talent box, we haven’t got this thing solved. And we haven’t checked the talent box. I’m not faulting anybody, but it’s the hardest problem to deal with.” The same is true for Wisconsin: whether talent is blue or white collar, or candidates from diverse backgrounds, or farm or industrial or service or office, we’re short on talent. Many of us grew up on the phrase “personnel is policy.” Now the big challenge in policy is people.
2. Favorite supper club in Wisconsin?
This is gonna sound cheesy, but I’ve got to go with Ishnala. The brandy old fashioned (sour, for me) is outstanding. I wish they had a relish tray, and the prices aren’t cheap, but honestly, for me it’s the setting. Sitting in a state park, looking out on Mirror Lake, in a dining room with an actual tree growing through the middle of it. . . . it’s top dog for a reason. We try and make an annual spring tradition out of going with our extended family, and always go for a hike in the state park beforehand.
3. What is the last book you read?
I’m trying to be a good dad and read the Percy Jackson series alongside my 11-year-old (plus I’m a geek for Greco-Roman history), but readers of IRG’s newsletter will take greater interest in my other book: former US Attorney General Bill Barr’s One Damn Thing After Another. Barr dishes the juicy bits of Oval Office drama, and has his memoir moments of his own heroism, but not as many as plenty of others who write in this genre. Instead, he provides good solid thinking on policy (especially on crime), he explains his management style, and he talks about issues he cares about (like religious liberty), but in a way that keeps the book moving forward. Maybe it’s because I felt working in the Governor’s office in Wisconsin was just one thing after another, but Barr’s best insight is that you have to set a tight agenda and rigorously pursue it, and then push as much of the “one thing after another” that comes in the door back out on staff and subordinates while you keep the main thing the main thing.