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Former agriculture secretary finds job at Department of Administration
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Former agriculture secretary finds job at Department of Administration

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A week after being fired by the state Senate, former agriculture secretary Brad Pfaff has found a new job in another state agency.

The Department of Administration on Monday said Pfaff has joined the department as director of business and rural development, where he will advocate for small businesses and rural communities.

“While our residents have lost an advocate for our rural heritage and consumers in need of protection at the cabinet level, I’m proud to bring Brad onto the team at DOA to ensure his expertise and Wisconsin values are utilized to grow our economy,” administration secretary Joel Brennan said in a statement.

A DOA spokeswoman didn’t return a call seeking details on Pfaff’s salary and whether the position was vacant or newly created.

The announcement of Pfaff’s new role comes after the Republican-controlled state Senate voted to fire him from his job leading the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, perhaps the first time the Senate has ever ousted a member of a governor’s cabinet. A governor’s appointee has not been denied by the Senate since at least 1987, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau.

Pfaff drew the ire of some Republicans this summer when he criticized the Legislature’s budget committee for failing to release funds for mental health assistance to farmers and their families.

DATCP also has been under fire for proposed updates to the state’s farm siting regulations. The proposed regulations would update the state’s nearly 14-year-old livestock facility siting rule. Local governments use the rule to set standards and procedures — involving setbacks from property lines, management plans, odor, nutrient and runoff management, and manure storage facilities — that must be followed by new or expanding livestock facilities.

Pfaff’s ouster represented a day of drama in the state Capitol. Evers was present on the Senate floor for Pfaff’s rejection, perhaps the first time in modern history a governor had ever been present for a vote. Following the vote, Evers lobbed heavy criticism, including some expletives, at Senate Republicans.

Evers cited a chilling effect for other cabinet secretaries who are not yet confirmed, such as Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson or Dawn Crim, secretary of the Department of Safety and Professional Services.

The Senate voted 19-14 along party lines to deny Pfaff’s nomination. All five Republicans who voted in favor of Pfaff in committee — Howard Marklein, of Spring Green; Jerry Petrowski, of Marathon; Patrick Testin, of Stevens Point; Andre Jacque, of De Pere; and Kathy Bernier, of Chippewa Falls — changed their votes.

Pfaff previously served as deputy administrator for farm programs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture under former President Barack Obama and was deputy chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse.

Evers last week named former deputy secretary Randy Romanski as the agency’s acting secretary, but has not named a permanent replacement.

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