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Evers taps 3 more for Cabinet

Democratic Gov-elect Tony Evers, right, announced two new cabinet secretaries and his new budget director Friday in Madison. Pictured from left: Brian Pahnke was named new budget director; Kathy Blumenfeld, Department of Financial Institutions secretary; and Mary Kolar, a retired U.S. Navy captain as Veterans Affairs secretary.

Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers unveiled three more appointments Friday, including his state budget director and the heads of agencies that serve veterans and regulate financial institutions.

For state budget director, Evers has named Brian Pahnke, an assistant state superintendent for finance and management at the Department of Public Instruction, which Evers heads. Pahnke has held finance posts at multiple state agencies, including a stint in the state budget office under former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson.

To head the Department of Veterans Affairs, Evers tapped Dane County Sup. Mary Kolar. A retired Navy captain who served 28 years on active duty, Kolar has led the Dane County Veterans Service Commission. Kolar will be the second woman to lead the DVA after Donna Williams, who served briefly as acting secretary in 2011-2012.

Evers also named Kathy Koltin Blumenfeld as secretary of the Department of Financial Institutions. Koltin Blumenfeld is executive vice president of special operations at Total Administrative Services Corp., or TASC, in Madison. Before that she worked for CUNA Mutual Group for 25 years, including as vice president of lending and payment security.

The picks add to Evers’ slate of Cabinet secretaries, which are subject to a majority confirmation vote in the state Senate. Pahnke is not subject to confirmation.

Evers’ appointees so far are largely from the Madison or Milwaukee areas, which has drawn criticism from some Republican legislators.

Evers, asked about that Friday, said he expects to announce more appointees from outside the state’s two biggest cities. But he added, “I don’t think our selections are extraordinarily surprising.”

“They’re two areas that have a lot of people living there,” Evers said.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald did not immediately respond Friday to Evers’ latest appointments.

Evers, the state superintendent, also has tapped some of his direct subordinates from the Department of Public Instruction, the state’s K-12 schools agency.

On Thursday, Evers announced his pick to succeed him as state superintendent is Carolyn Stanford Taylor, another assistant state superintendent who serves under him, and a former principal in the Madison School District. That appointment is not subject to a Senate confirmation vote.

So far, the Evers Cabinet pick that has faced the most public pushback from GOP lawmakers is Craig Thompson, named to lead the Department of Transportation. Thompson is a spokesman and lobbyist for the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association, which advocates for boosting state revenue to fund transportation projects — which likely would come from increasing taxes or fees or collecting highway tolls.

Other Cabinet secretaries and appointees Evers named last week were:

Department of Natural Resources:

  • Preston Cole, a member of the state’s Natural Resources Board, its first African-American chairman, and a Milwaukee city official.

Department of Administration:

  • Joel Brennan, CEO of Milwaukee’s Discovery World science and technology museum and a former campaign manager for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Department of Corrections:

  • Kevin Carr, a U.S. marshal and onetime top aide to former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.

Department of Tourism:

  • Sara Meaney, chief marketing officer for Milwaukee Film, the city’s annual film festival.

Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection:

  • Brad Pfaff, who served under former President Barack Obama as deputy administrator for farm programs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Most recently he was U.S. Rep. Ron Kind’s deputy chief of staff.

Commissioner of Insurance:

  • Mark Afable, chief legal officer for American Family Insurance.

Public Service Commission chairwoman:

  • Rebecca Cameron Valcq, a partner specializing in regulatory law at the Milwaukee firm Quarles & Brady. She previously spent 15 years as regulatory counsel for We Energies, Wisconsin’s largest energy company, where she occasionally represented the company in front of the office she will lead.

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Mark Sommerhauser covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.