Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, September 12, 2013

37 legislators engage in leadership training

The faces of three new Wisconsin legislators will go on the conference wall at the La Follette School of Public Affairs later this year.

The three — representatives Mary Czaja, La Tonya A. Johnson and Janis Ringhand — are members of the latest class of graduates from the Bowhay Institute of Legislative Leadership Development, which met in August at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Thirty-seven legislators from 11 states and four Canadian provinces attended the five-day institute, the only leadership training program exclusively for Midwestern legislators. It helps newer legislators develop skills to become effective leaders, informed decision-makers and astute policy analysts.

La Follette has sponsored the institute with the Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments since 1995. Each graduating class is pictured on the wall at La Follette, including more than 50 current and former Wisconsin legislators.

"It is getting crowded up there, " jokes Terry Shelton, outreach director at the La Follette School who has helped plan and execute every single one of the 19 sessions. "We may have to add more walls soon."

But Shelton is serious about the work of the institute itself. He says: "We worked hard to come up with the right mix of nationally renowned scholars, professional development experts, and legislative leaders to help these newer legislators develop the skills necessary to become effective leaders, informed decision-makers and astute policy analysts."

This year's agenda included policy sessions on the regional economy, Medicaid, higher education finance and government-reform initiatives. In addition, the BILLD fellows participated in professional development sessions on time management, effective communications, and consensus-building and negotiation skills. They also heard from a panel of current and former legislative leaders from across the region on strategies for being more effective legislators and policymakers.

"In these days of strident partisanship, BILLD offers a chance for lawmakers to talk across the aisle, across state lines and across international borders without regard to party affiliation," Shelton says. "It has proven to be a special program over the years."

Shelton, La Follette School director Susan Yackee, outreach specialist Bridget Pirsch and professor emeritus Dennis Dresang greeted the lawmakers at the opening reception at Brittingham House, the home of UW System President Kevin Reilly. The session ended with a dinner and graduation ceremony at the Madison Club.