Making Wisconsin The Heart of the American Dream

Board of Directors

Mr. Ivan Gamboa

Board Member

Ivan is a Senior Vice President of Tri City National Bank in Oak Creek, Wis. where he has worked for 14 years in multiple roles. He also serves as the chairman of the board for the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. Ivan resides in Greendale, Wis. with his wife and four children.

Mr. Bill Johnson

Treasurer & Board Member

Bill is the President of Johnson Timber and a long-time supporter of conservative causes and many of Wisconsin’s most prominent leaders. He is a former Finance Chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, and also has extensive experience in local government as a former member of the School Board for the Hayward Community School District for 12 years and a former member of the Hayward City Council for four years. He is the father of three children and lives in Hayward, Wisconsin.

Mr. Rob McDonald

Chairman of the Board

Rob started his career in state government administration and is a retired local politician. He has sat on various local municipal committees and is a serial entrepreneur. He has been known as a change agent in everything he is a part of. He is married with four children and lives in Lisbon Wisconsin.

Ms. Nicole Schneider, PhD

Board Member

Throughout her career, Nicole has demonstrated a commitment to her community and improving the quality of lives of those around her, through her work at the intersection of poverty, health and education.  Her experience includes work in healthcare, public and private educational institutions, tribal and social services.  Most recently, Nicole was the President of Freedom House Ministries, a Christian-based, non-profit shelter serving homeless families with children. Dr. Schneider holds a Master’s Degree in social work from Columbia University, as well as an MA and PhD in social policy and management from Brandeis University. 

She has held faculty positions at St. Norbert College and University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, most recently lecturing for Fordham University.  Nicole currently resides in Northeast Wisconsin with her husband and four children.  

Mr. Jim Villa

Board Member

Jim is a seasoned political strategist with more than 20 years of experience advising candidates, elected officials, and business leaders in Wisconsin. He serves as the CEO of NAIOP Wisconsin, a trade association for commercial real estate, and is the former Campaign Manager and Chief of Staff for then-County Executive Scott Walker.

Staff

CJ Szafir

President

CJ Szafir serves as President of the Institute for Reforming Government. Prior to joining IRG, CJ spent over seven years at WILL, where he oversaw efforts to advance school choice, limited government, and healthcare reform and – in addition to regular appearances on talk radio – had his work featured regularly in the Wall Street JournalThe HillWashington Examiner, and countless other national and local news outlets and publications. Before WILL, he was a policy advisor to State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald in the Wisconsin Legislature.  He has a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Chicago and law degree from Marquette Law School. He received a BA in Political Science from Michigan State University. CJ is the vice president for the Milwaukee Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society and on the Board of Directors for HOPE Christian Schools. He and his family live in Wauwatosa.

Chris Reader

Executive Vice President

Chris Reader joined IRG senior leadership in 2021 and oversees efforts to generate policy solutions and execute the organization’s vision of creating the next wave of reforms. Prior to IRG, Chris was the senior director of workforce and employment policy at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), where he helped spearhead Wisconsin’s efforts to become the 25th right to work state, and led WMC’s efforts on workforce, HR, education, and healthcare policies. Prior to WMC, Chris spent nearly a decade in the Wisconsin State Legislature, most of that time as a top aide and Senate chief of staff for Rich Zipperer. In the legislature, Chris led an office that successfully advanced major policy initiatives. Chris has a B.S. in political science and public administration from UW-Green Bay and he lives just outside Beaver Dam with his wife and two children. 

Madison Hartmann

Director of External Affairs

Prior to joining IRG, Madison was executive communications manager for the American Medical Association, where she led strategic planning and outreach for AMA’s board of trustees and executive leadership at the height of the historic COVID-19 global pandemic.  She also has worked for Congressman Mike Gallagher as his communications director in Washington D.C. and served on the campaigns of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley and Governor Scott Walker. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Madison will lead IRG’s efforts to build winning coalitions and engage communities all over the state. She can be reached at: madison@reforminggovernment.org 

Chandler Swansen

Development Consultant

Chandler is the owner of Swansen Strategies, a consulting firm based in Wisconsin. As director of grassroots advocacy and the Issues Mobilization Council for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Chandler led myriad successful fundraising efforts. He has also worked with Gov. Walker and Rep. Duffy as a finance director.

Policy and Law Fellows

Michael Brickman

Senior Fellow in Education

Michael Brickman, a former policy official at the U.S. Department of Education and Gov. Walker’s policy advisor, joined the Institute for Reforming Government as a senior fellow, focusing on public policy research and analysis in K-12 education, higher education, and workforce development. Over the last four years, Michael Brickman was a senior advisor for Secretary Betsy DeVos at the U.S. Department of Education. Prior to joining the Dept. of Education, Michael was national policy director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where he focused on empowering parents.

Jim Bender

Jim Bender, President of Bender Consulting, is partnering with the Institute for Reforming Government as its public affairs representative. Coming off ten years as president and lobbyist for School Choice Wisconsin, Bender Consulting focuses on education policy development and lobbying. Prior to that, Bender was the chief of staff and communications director for Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald for six years.

The Honorable Daniel Kelly

Senior Fellow in Constitutional Governance

The Honorable Daniel Kelly is a former Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and joined the Institute for Reforming Government as its Senior Fellow in Constitutional Governance at the end of his term. Justice Kelly leads IRG’s efforts to increase accountability and oversight on state agencies.  He also brings his time-honored constitutional perspective to IRG’s work on free markets, limited government, and individual liberties in Wisconsin. Justice Kelly was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court by Governor Scott Walker in 2016 and served until July 31, 2020. While on the Court he issued landmark decisions on the preservation of individual rights, the integrity of academic freedom, and the lawful limitations on the authority of administrative agencies.

John Gray

Policy Fellow

John Gray brings over a dozen years of public policy and federal budget experience working on Capitol Hill and the Executive Office of the President. He most recently served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Policy for Vice President Pence. During that time, John worked on all domestic policy matters, including managing the Coronavirus Task Force for Vice President Pence. Prior to joining the Vice President’s Office, John was Acting Chief of Staff and Associate Director for the Office of Management and Budget at the White House. From 2011 to 2015, he served in the U.S. Senate as Legislative Director for Senator Rand Paul. Previously, from 2007 to 2011, John served as Policy Advisor to Chairman Mike Pence at the House Republican Conference and Budget Analyst for Ranking Member Paul Ryan at the House Budget Committee.

Benjamin Garbedian

Fall Student Fellow

From Waukesha, Wisconsin, Benjamin Garbedian is a junior at Carroll University. He previously interned at the Badger Institute, a free market think tank in Milwaukee. He also serves as Communications Director of the Wisconsin Federation of College Republicans.

Gov. Scott Walker, Former National Honorary CHAIRMAN

Prior to serving as the 45th Governor of Wisconsin, Walker was the Milwaukee County Executive. He was the first Republican to hold that office and was re-elected two times.