Jennifer Shilling, the former minority leader of the Wisconsin Senate, has joined Dairyland Power Cooperative as the La Crosse utility’s government relations manager.
Shilling, who resigned last month after two decades in the state Legislature, will help develop the utility’s legislative, regulatory and member relations strategies at the state and federal level.
“Jennifer’s record of service to the people of western Wisconsin is well known, including her positive, proven ability to work with lawmakers of both parties,” Dairyland CEO Barb Nick said in a statement. “Those capabilities will be an asset to Dairyland’s cooperative membership, as we continue to work for safe, sustainable and reliable power in our four-state service area.”
Shilling, a Democrat from La Crosse, was elected to the Assembly in 2000 and won a Senate seat in a 2011 recall election. She served as Senate minority leader since 2015.
She announced in April that she would not seek another term.
“It is an exciting time in the energy industry and I look forward to developing strategies that reflect Dairyland’s commitment to communities now and into the future,” Shilling said. “Through this new opportunity, I can continue to serve residents and rural communities in the essential service of delivering electricity to businesses, homes, schools and healthcare facilities.”
Shilling will join Brian Rude, a former Republican state senator from La Crosse who leads Dairyland’s regulatory affairs but is planning to retire later this year.
Dairyland spokeswoman Katie Thomson said Shilling was hired “to strengthen the government relations team as a whole, especially given her unique and extensive experience in state and local politics.”
Headquartered in La Crosse, Dairyland provides electricity to 41 rural co-ops and municipal utilities serving nearly 280,000 customers in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.
Dairyland operates coal-fired power plants in Alma and Genoa as well as a hydroelectric dam in Flambeau, Wisconsin. The company is pursuing permits to build a contentious $700 million natural gas generator in Superior that would be co-owned with Minnesota Power.
The utility is also part owner of a controversial power line that would run through southwest Wisconsin between Dubuque and Middleton. Opponents of the line, which was approved by state regulators last year but has been challenged in court, questioned the move.
“Shilling’s hiring reveals a serious, statewide issue,” said Rob Danielson, secretary for the group SOUL of Wisconsin. “We have elected officials refusing to take positions on controversial utility proposals during their terms of public service and this experience helping them qualify for public relations work with the same utility.”