Evers appointees belatedly assume roles on technical college board after Republican holdovers resign

3 Scott Walker appointees had declined to step down until 20 months after their terms officially expired

An empty classroom
An empty classroom is pictured at the MHS, Meo High School private college, in Paris on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. Francois Mori/AP Photo

Three people appointed during Democratic Gov. Tony Evers last term are belatedly assuming their roles on Wisconsin’s Technical College System board after their Republican predecessors agreed to step down 20 months after their terms officially ended.

Mary Williams, Becky Levzow and Kelly Tourdot, all of whom were appointed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, submitted resignation letters Dec. 29, just five days before Evers was sworn in to his second term on Tuesday.

Although their terms expired in May 2021, the three women were allowed to continue serving on the board, which oversees public two-year colleges across the state, because Wisconsin’s Republican-led Senate has yet to confirm their replacements.

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During that time, Evers nominee Dan Klecker, has been observing meetings even though he lacked voting power until his predecessor, Williams, stepped down.

“I looked at it as a time to train and understand … the process and I must say I do feel like I am ready to sit on the board now beyond a doubt,” said Klecker, who’s a field manager at the ASE Education Foundation, an organization that accredits automotive technology education programs.

Williams, a former Republican state representative, declined to comment when contacted by a reporter, and the letter she submitted to the board did not state a reason for her resignation.

The end-year-resignations on Wisconsin’s technical college system board mirror another more high profile resignation from a state board. Dentist Fred Prehn gave his notice effective Dec. 30, clearing the way for conservationist Sandy Naas to take her seat on the board more than a year after Evers appointed her.

Prehn won a legal battle in 2021 to keep his seat after Wisconsin’s Supreme Court determined he could continue serving past his term’s designated expiration date until the Senate confirms his replacement. Prehn ended up stepping down voluntarily, however, about two months after Evers won re-election. The natural resources board sets environmental policy and has dealt with fraught issues ranging from PFAS regulations to wolf hunt quotas.

In a statement on Tuesday, Tourdout wrote that the Supreme Court decision factored into her previous plan to continue serving on the technical college board until lawmakers confirmed a replacement.

“However, in light of recent reports indicating that legislative leaders and the Evers’ administration are looking for common ground, I felt this was a good time to relinquish my seat on the Board and provide an opportunity for cooperation,” said Tourdot, who’s the vice president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin.

At the start of December, nearly 180 people nominated by Evers during his first term to lead state, boards and agencies and commissions had yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Evers has called on Republican leadership to stop dragging its feet on the issue, and to at least bring more appointees to a vote.

Even so, Klecker said issues decided by Wisconsin’s technical college board are rarely partisan.

“I don’t think there’s any political type decisions that are made,” he said. “I don’t think any votes would have changed whether I was on the board voting or Mary Williams.”

Levzow, a dairy farmer appointed by Walker to the technical college board, could not be reached for comment about her resignation. She’s being replaced by Paul Buhr, who is also a dairy farmer. Also joining the board to a term expiring in May 2027 is Sara Rogers of Employ Milwaukee, a workforce development agency in Milwaukee County.