Tommy Thompson Reformed Welfare Through The Power Of Work

By M.D. Kittle

Kelli Thompson learned the art of politics and the necessity of hard work from one of the great American political masters - her father.

Thompson, daughter of the legendary Tommy G. Thompson, Wisconsin's longest serving governor who redefined political and public policy expectations, said her father has always loved people, the state of Wisconsin, and the thrill of a good fight.

Those qualities are what made Tommy, well, Tommy - the conservative who once won the liberal bastions of Dane County and the city of Milwaukee in his gubernatorial reelection bids.

"It was never a job to him," Kelli Thompson told MacIver News Service in an interview last week. "I think it was how he was brought up. He never was told anything but you have to work really, really hard. If you want it and you love it, you still have to work really hard. Nothing is going to be handed to you, nothing is going to be given to you easily."

That is how the former governor approached governing sans Republican majorities in the Legislature. It's how he approached bringing diametrically opposed groups to the table to tackle education funding reform and in pioneering school vouchers and parental choice. And the idea that nothing is handed to you definitely is how Thompson approached ground-breaking welfare reform. More than 20 years ago Thompson signed into law a sweeping package of initiatives that set the pace for the federal welfare reform that followed.

Last week, policymakers present and past turned out to a Capitol symposium addressing the Republican's governing legacy. It was part of Tommy@30, a series of events this year marking the 30th anniversary of Thompson's first inauguration as governor. More so, the celebration is designed to take a closer look at what Tommy@30 chairman James Klauser describes as the "secret sauce" that made Thompson "one of the most innovative governors in the nation's recent history."

Klauser, Thompson's Department of Administration secretary and one of his closest advisors, was among several Thompson administration alumni at the symposium.

"You couldn't really complain about how hard you were working because he was working harder than you," said symposium panelist Bob Trunzo, commerce secretary under Thompson.

Read more of this story from the MacIver Institute by going here

Photo: Getty Images

Matt Kittle

Matt Kittle

Matt Kittle is a fill-in host for WIBA and WISN who is an investigative journalist for the MacIver Insititute Read more


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