Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, December 10, 2018

Eskrich takes passion, skills to systemic political reform efforts

Sara Eskrich Sara Eskrich

After several years working on health policy and in public service, Sara Eskrich (MPA/MPH ’15) has taken her passion for making a difference in a new direction. She now serves as chief of staff for Katherine Gehl and executive director of FixtheSystem–Wisconsin.

“I love complex policy and systemic change, and believe that some of our most wicked problems can be solved only with the help of functional government,” said Eskrich. “When I considered what was next for me, I knew I wanted to be part of that change – and that it wasn’t possible in our current system.”

Eskrich, who previously worked as a consultant for Deloitte, also served on the Madison Common Council, where she could make more of an impact at the local level and where tangible solutions are available. Then, she a job posting on the La Follette School’s Jobs for Alumni listserv.

“When I saw the job description, I devoured Katherine’s report,” said Eskrich. “Her diagnosis of the unhealthy competition in the politics industry resonated deeply with me, and I knew that I wanted to work with a woman who focuses on systemic solutions.”

In 2017, Gehl and Michael Porter of Harvard Business School wrote Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America: A Strategy for Reinvigorating our Democracy. Gehl, who has worked in the private and public sector, was president and CEO of Gehl Foods from 2011 to 2015. She also served on the La Follette School Board of Visitors from 2015 to 2018.

“Their ground-breaking research and analysis on and prescription for our political system is informing, engaging, and motivating business people and leaders across the United States,” Eskrich said.

The report applies Porter’s tools for understanding industry competition for the first time to politics. It outlines the impact of political gridlock and hyper-partisanship on business and economic growth in the United States and offers solutions for realigning the U.S. political system to the public interest.

As Gehl’s chief of staff, Eskrich directs Gehl’s national political innovation work. For Fix the System – Wisconsin, she leads organizations working to implement legislation that supports electoral reforms in Wisconsin, specifically Four Forward (open, top-four) primaries and Ranked Choice Voting in the general election for Congressional elections.

“The work we do applies business theory to politics,” said Eskrich. “I still care deeply about the health of our country – which is why I’m working on systemic political reform. It’s my new form of public service.”