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STATE MAN HAS PLAYED KEY ROLE WITH OBAMA'S TEAM
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STATE MAN HAS PLAYED KEY ROLE WITH OBAMA'S TEAM

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Jon Carson never planned for a career in politics.

His father, Glenn, served on the Westby School Board for 15 years, but that was the extent of his family's involvement in politics.

He studied everything but political science and spent two years in the Peace Corps. Yet in the past dozen years, the 33-year-old native of Chaseburg, about 15 miles southeast of La Crosse, has built an impressive resume of political campaigns.

This year he served as the national field director for Barack Obama's campaign.

Recently, Carson took a well-earned vacation, relaxing and deer hunting on his family's farm as he took a break from his work on Obama's transition team.

In 1996, while a student at UW-Platteville, Carson volunteered for Democrat Mark Kastel in his bid to unseat Assembly Rep. DuWayne Johnsrud (he lost badly) and for Ron Kind in his first race for Congress.

At Platteville, Carson majored in civil engineering, got involved with tuition issues and eventually was elected president of the student Senate.

He was accepted to a graduate program in geography at UCLA but delayed his studies to work as a field organizer for Sen. Russ Feingold's 1998 re-election campaign.

He took time off to work on Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign in Iowa.

"Just about every campaign I thought would be my last," he said.

Carson eventually finished his master's degree in geomorphology and he and his wife, Rebecca, whom he met on the Gore campaign, left for Honduras, where Carson built water systems and taught surveying as a Peace Corps volunteer.

When they returned in 2006, Carson worked for Illinois Congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth, a wounded Iraq war veteran who now is director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and is considered a contender to fill Obama's seat in the Senate.

Duckworth lost her Congressional race, but Carson met people such as David Axelrod, one of Obama's top political advisers. In February 2007, Carson joined the Obama campaign as it began the marathon march through the Democratic primaries.

As field director, Carson presided over thousands of workers in 770 offices across the country. No campaign ever had amassed such a staff, nor the volunteer corps they organized.

Carson said the biggest challenge - and surprise - was the volume of volunteer help, including more than 15,000 so-called "super volunteers," who donated 30 or more hours a week.

Always finding work for those volunteers was part of what made Obama's campaign so successful, said Jocelyn Shadforth, who teaches political science at UW-La Crosse and specializes in elections and voting behavior.

"It's very significant in getting people to feel like they have an investment," she said.

Carson didn't get much of a break after Obama's victory. He had to report the following Monday to begin work on the transition. A veteran campaign worker herself, Rebecca Carson said the two were thankful to have a job after this election.

Carson doesn't know what he will be doing next year but anticipates moving to Washington, D.C., for a job in the new administration.

In June, just as Obama wrapped up the hard-fought Democratic nomination, Rebecca gave birth to the couple's first child, Noah.

"It's been a very intense two years," she said.

Milwaukeean named

Meanwhile, another Wisconsin native will also have a role in the Obama Administration.

Mona Sutphen was tapped recently to serve as a deputy chief of staff for Obama.

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Sutphen, 41, graduated from Marshall High School before attending Mount Holyoke College. She later got a master's degree from the London School of Economics.

She also worked in the Clinton administration as a special assistant to national security adviser Sandy Berger.

Sutphen most recently served as a foreign policy adviser to Obama during his campaign and worked as a managing director of the consulting firm Stonebridge International.

She will report to recently named chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

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