The crowd could not stop gawking at the class photo of 2004 on the wall of the La Follette School conference room. There, on the left in the second row, was former Minnesota Senator Michele Bachmann, now a Minnesota congresswoman and Republican Party presidential candidate.
"See, your leaders knew how to pick out future leaders," says Terry Shelton, outreach director of the La Follette School of Public Affairs, who had to take the picture off the wall so the visiting lawmakers could pass it around to get a closer look. "All of you have the same potential. Just check back in a few years and you'll see I'm right."
The lawmakers were attending this year's Bowhay Institute of Legislative Leadership Development at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in August. Thirty-seven legislators from 11 states and three 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 co-sponsored the institute with the Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments since 1995.
"The institute offers panels on emerging policy questions as well as personal and professional leadership sessions," says Shelton. "Many of these legislators are from term-limited states and our job is to help them learn quickly about policy initiatives underway in other states and provinces."
Wisconsin lawmakers attending this year were senator Pam Galloway and representatives Howard Marklein and JoCasta Zamarippa. They join the more than 40 current and former Wisconsin legislators as BILLD alumni.
Shelton, La Follette School director Tom DeLeire, outreach specialist Bridget Pirsch and emeritus professor Dennis Dresang greeted the lawmakers at the opening reception at the governor's executive residence.
Through the program, lawmakers explore issues with nationally renowned scholars, professional development experts, and legislative leaders and colleagues from across the region. This year's agenda included policy sessions on the regional economy, corrections reform, evidence-based policymaking and government-reform initiatives. In addition, the BILLD fellows participated in professional development sessions on topics such as time management, effective communications, and consensus-building and negotiation skills. In addition, a panel of current and former legislative leaders from across the region led a roundtable discussion that focused on strategies for being more effective legislators and policymakers.
The 2011 program culminated with a closing session at the Wisconsin State Capitol by Professor David Eisenhower, who talked about leadership lessons learned from his grandfather, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Fellows received an autographed copy of David Eisenhower's new book, Coming Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight. D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969. David Eisenhower is director of the Institute for Public Service at the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Pennsylvania.