Hall has brought stability to WEDC

If asked to return for another term as secretary and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Reed Hall says he would be honored to serve again.

Like other cabinet members, Hall is awaiting an announcement soon about Gov. Scott Walker’s appointments to his cabinet in his second term. Walker, a Republican, was elected to a second term on Nov. 4 by defeating Democratic challenger Mary Burke.

“I understand that protocol is that the governor has to reappoint us to our positions. If asked, I intend to continue to serve but I do need to be mindful of protocol. In response to your question, no I have not heard if the governor wishes me to stay on,” Hall said.

Laurel Patrick, Walker’s press secretary, said in an e-mail, “Any announcement about changes to Governor Walker’s cabinet agency teams will be made when we have details to share.”

Hall, who had retired as the executive director of the Marshfield Clinic in 2010, was brought in by Walker to stabilize the agency as Walker transformed it from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce to the WEDC.

The transition was not without drama or turmoil.

Paul Jadin, Walker’s original commerce secretary, resigned in September 2012 to become the new president of the Madison Region Economic Partnership (formerly Thrive), which seeks to improve the economy of the Madison area.

The WEDC was often criticized for questionable loans and grants to private businesses and for not holding the recipients of that state aid accountable for jobs they had promised to create.

Under the leadership of Hall and his public information manager, former journalist Mark Maley, the WEDC has become far more transparent about how it operates and about the status of its economic development initiatives. The information is available to the public at www.inwisconsin.com. In addition to full disclosure of its operations plan for fiscal 2015, the agency published its “Annual Report on Economic Development.” The WEDC’s board meetings are open and accessible to the public. The website even includes a link to file an open records request.

Maley succeeded John Gillespie, who resigned a month after it was disclosed that his name was on a list of delinquent taxpayers.

The turmoil at the agency continued when Walker appointed Ryan Murray, his former deputy chief of staff, to be the WEDC’s chief operating officer. A rift developed between Murray and Lee Swindall, WEDC’s vice president of business and industry development. Swindall resigned over that conflict in August.

“I believe Ryan Murray, lacking either the talent or experience to function as the chief operations officer of the WEDC, is causing deep and lasting harm through the application of control-style management rather than consultative management,” Swindall said in his Aug. 25 resignation letter.

A few days after Swindall’s resignation, he was persuaded by Hall to return to his job at the WEDC.

Murray, who received an annual salary $107,110 as the second-in-command at the WEDC, then announced earlier this month that he will resign from the agency to accept an unspecified “opportunity” in the private sector.

(In the spirit of full disclosure and transparency, it must be noted here that the WEDC is the economic development sponsor of the WisconsinBiz project published by BizTimes Media.)

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