Like many younger Wisconsinites, I have moved around the United States in pursuit of a career. I’ve been lucky that my wife Abby has been with me as our dreams have taken us all across this country of ours. We’ve been a tag team since the day we met 18 years ago. Our journey has taken us down different paths than we ever could have imagined during our time at UW-Green Bay. But it was no surprise that our hearts would eventually bring us back to Wisconsin.
I was raised by a tight-knit family, watching the Packers on fall weekends. My parents worked hard, benefited from good public and private sector jobs, and sent their sons to great schools. When our family struggled through tough times, the community rallied around us. State programs ensured that I could obtain an education in Wisconsin.
I like to say that my family “launched” me. But, in truth, it wasn’t just my family. It was the people of Sheboygan and the great state of Wisconsin. They were the ones who built the nationally acclaimed grade schools in Sheboygan and the world-renowned colleges and universities of our state.
When I arrived at UW-Green Bay, the campus was just over 30 years old and going through a big transition. It was moving from a commuter school to something more. As the leader of the student government, I was deeply involved in the multi-million dollar student campaign to build new sports and activity facilities. If you visit the campus today, you can see the buildings we championed – part of a thriving, innovative institution!
After graduating, I worked for a couple of years, later deciding to go to business school. I was glad I could turn to a public university in Wisconsin! I then went to work for one of the best-run companies in the world: The Clorox Company. This was a pretty different situation than what I’d experienced in Green Bay. This was a steady 100-year-old company, and I was starting at the bottom of the ladder. But the more time I spent there, the more I realized that this company had to change and change fast. One thing I knew about myself: I do well in times of change. So instead of working through my immediate superiors I went straight to the CEO and executive committee members to share my thoughts on what’s coming and what it means. They quickly realized the change ahead, and have started transforming the company to sell and deliver products to your doorstep. As a result, I was one of a handful of leaders in the company who was driving the changes required to retool the company to be around for the next hundred years.
I’m proud of what I’ve achieved – especially because of what I think it says about the state that raised me. And even when things are tough, I’m lucky to have had role models that persevered. When my mom got laid off, she immediately picked herself up and looked for another job. When my dad got diagnosed with MS, he still insisted on helping around the house. My family rallied around each and every problem we faced together, and those lessons taught me how to succeed in difficult times.
But it wasn’t just my family that worked for me. It truly was Wisconsin itself. It was the union job that enabled my mom to support the family. It was the disability benefits that supported my dad, and made it possible to afford college tuition. It was the state funding for education that ensured that all my hours working at my uncle’s gravel pit & local grocery store would be just enough for me to be able to attend a cutting edge university. Today, Abby and I look back and realize that it was the community of institutions built by Wisconsinites that allowed us to achieve so much.. Because of our great state, we were able to blaze our own unique path.
And now I’m ready to re-launch Wisconsin to a better future!