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by Stephen Freese

Meet the New WECA Manager

In last month¹s commentary,Share Brandt introduced me as the new manager of the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association. I thought as I present my first column, I should spend some time telling you about myself before we launch headlong into policy or what is going on at the Capitol, whether here in Madison or in Washington, D.C.

Growing up and living on our family¹s farm in rural Hazel Green, Wisconsin, has given me a unique perspective on life. For 141 years my family has lived in this rural community and worked the land on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. For those of us who grew up in rural Wisconsin, I think it has taught us about respect, and has given us strength of character and a willingness to help our neighbors.

From an early age I knew I wanted to make a difference for my hometown, so while I was attending college at UW­Platteville I decided to run for a seat on our local town board. I figured it would take me a few tries before they would elect me, but on election night, at the age of 20, I became the youngest town supervisor in the Town of Jamestown¹s history. Two years later I would run for a seat on the Grant County Board of Supervisors and be elected the youngest county supervisor in the county¹s history. These two elections reinforced my belief that as individuals we can make a difference if we put our mind to it and work hard for it. My goal all along was to make a difference for rural Wisconsin.

The experience serving on these two boards would allow me to run for the Wisconsin State Assembly by the time I was 30 and be elected in one of the largest rural districts in the state. The first annual meeting I attended was the Grant­Lafayette Electric Cooperative annual meeting. During my 16 years of serving in the Legislature I would have the privilege of working with many of our members throughout Southwestern Wisconsin on issues that were important to rural Wisconsin and rural electric cooperatives.

When I was elected speaker pro tempore I became the first rural legislator from either political party to win a leadership post in 25 years. This gave me a unique opportunity to advance a policy agenda that was beneficial to rural Wisconsin.

Never in my wildest imagination did I think when I left the Legislature that I would run away and join a circus, but that is exactly what I did.

But more on that next month.



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