Staff & Fellows
SCOTT K. WALKER, FORMER NATIONAL HONORARY CHAIRMAN
Scott Walker knows a thing or two about bold leadership.
In 2010, the unemployment rate in his state was 9.3% and soon after, he inherited a $3.6 billion budget deficit. After eight years of his leadership as governor, employment was at historic highs and unemployment fell below 3%. Plus, the state finished with a budget surplus every year he was in office.
Scott Walker’s reforms helped the state invest more actual dollars than ever before into schools, freeze college tuition for six years in a row, reduce taxes by more than $8 billion and build a rainy day fund 190 times larger than when they started – all while still fully funding their pension liabilities.
Most importantly, Scott Walker took power out of the hands of the big government special interests and put it firmly into the hands of the hard-working taxpayers. At one point, more than 100,000 protesters (many brought in from other places) tried to intimidate him. They even tried to recall him.
But Scott Walker was unintimidated. On June 5, 2012, he became the first governor in American history to survive a recall election. In fact, he actually received more votes in the special election than in the original election. Two years later, he was reelected to a full term.
During his tenure, Wisconsin lead the way on budget reform, education reform, tax reform, health reform, collective bargaining reform, and workforce reform. It went from one of the worst states for business to one of the best. Wisconsin was consistently ranked as one of the top states for schools, higher education, healthcare, pensions, tourism, millennials and retirees.
Prior to serving as the 45th Governor of Wisconsin, Scott was the Milwaukee County Executive. He was the first Republican to hold that office and was re-elected two times. During his tenure, he cleaned up the major pension scandal he inherited while holding the line on property taxes, lowering debt and the size of the government workforce and winning the national gold medal for the county parks.
Scott worked a variety of jobs – from a dishwasher at a local restaurant to cook at McDonald’s to student manager at a fitness center to sales at IBM. During his senior year at Marquette University, he took a position in marketing and development with the American Red Cross. In 1993, he was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly where he was a leader on tax policy, criminal justice policy, election laws and welfare reform.
Scott and his wife Tonette live in Milwaukee where they are active in their church and various charities. Their adult children, Matt and Alex, live close by in Milwaukee.
Scott enjoys riding his 2003 Harley Davidson Road King, running, hiking, boating, listening to 80’s music, eating custard, cheering for the Packers, Brewers, Bucks, Badgers and Marquette. Most of all, he loves spending quality time with his family and friends.
Mr. CJ Szafir
CJ has nearly a decade of experience in the conservative movement. Prior to IRG, he was executive vice president at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, one of the nation’s largest state-based conservative litigation centers. At WILL, he managed policy analysts, communications, and attorneys. Prior to WILL, he was a policy advisor for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. Szafir participated in some of the state’s biggest lawsuits that protected freedom, liberty, and school choice. He’s authored studies and worked on legislation that gives more children the opportunity to attend a school of their choosing, improves transparency of local officials, and expanding free enterprise.
His work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, Washington Examiner, and Wisconsin State Journal, among other state and national publications. CJ has a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago, a Law Degree from Marquette University, and a B.A. in Political Science from Michigan State University. He is on the Board of Directors for HOPE Christian Schools and vice president of the Milwaukee Lawyers’ Chapter for the Federalist Society. CJ can be reached at [email protected]
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.
Mr. Jim Villa
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.
Ms. Laura Gralton
Laura has worked on local, statewide, and national political campaigns for more than a decade and a half. She has been part of the successful campaigns of notable elected officials such as Gov. Scott Walker, Attorney General Brad Schimel, U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, and countless other campaigns. She is respected throughout the finance community as someone who works diligently with her non-profit, corporate, and political clients to ensure they have the means to showcase their message.
Ms. Nicole Schneider, PhD
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. 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. Ivan Gamboa
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.