By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – Reed Hall, interim CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, apparently performed so well in his four months at WEDC that Gov. Scott Walker decided to remove the word “interim” from Hall’s title.
Walker led a few-city tour Tuesday, introducing Hall in an anticlimactic finish to a nationwide, taxpayer-funded CEO search – a recruitment process spanning several months to find a new leader for an organization marred by controversy.
“Reed has got a vision for moving not only this organization, but this state, forward when it comes to economic development, prosperity and job growth in this state,” Walker said of the formal health care administrator.
With a plasma screen cycling through the quasi-public development corporation’s self-promotional slogans and a WEDC backdrop behind them, all that was missing from the announcement in Madison was Walker handing Hall a WEDC No. 1 jersey and a cap prominently displaying the letters W-E-D-C.
Walker said Hall reestablished credibility in the organization with his leadership and administrative action after former CEO Paul Jadin left in September, when it was reported WEDC had lost track of a $56 million loan portfolio, among other issues.
Hall said WEDC has been following suggestions from the Wisconsin Bankers Association and Schenck SC audit, which found weaknesses in internal accounting controls, to fix the problems that have made WEDC the subject broad criticism and giving the Walker administration a public relations black eye.
Hall said WEDC is recruiting a chief financial officer and a senior risk control officer for its loans, among other corrective measures.
Hall served as executive director of Marshfield Clinic from January, 2000 to July, 2010. He has served as a member of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce board of directors, the state’s largest business lobby.
“Reed Hall is a proven innovator in business, and a man of impeccable integrity,” said WMC CEO Kurt Bauer in praising Walker’s selection. “He is committed to job creation and economic development and will work every day to improve Wisconsin’s business climate and help businesses create jobs.”
After an initial request for applicants turned out few resumes, Walker appointed a committee to engage in a nationwide search with QTI, a Madison-based headhunting firm.
Three finalists – all Wisconsin-based – emerged, but in the end Walker went with Hall.
“Wisconsin’s hastily-developed job creation entity WEDC has now wasted even more tax dollars,” proclaimed Senate minority leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, on Facebook.
“Despite spending just under $40,000 of Wisconsin’s scarce funds on a nationwide search for a new Secretary and CEO, the Governor has ultimately recommended the appointment of sitting interim Secretary and CEO Reed Hall. Secretary and CEO Hall, with very little economic development experience, is the least qualified of those considered for the position,” Larson declared.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, in a statement said he “hoped that a nationwide search at significant taxpayer expense would bring a CEO with extensive economic development experience to turn around our state’s troubled jobs agency.”
Barca also sits on the WEDC board of directors.
Walker, however, said Hall was “heads and shoulders above any other candidate he could find across the country for this position.” And that Hall has “the confidence of staff and leadership” at WEDC.
WEDC officials tell Wisconsin Reporter that120 applicants applied for the position.
Lisa Mauer, Scott Klug, Corey Hoze and Dan Ariens – the four-member WEDC search committee – all have contributed to Walker’s political campaign. Hall also has contributed to Walker’s campaign. None of the three finalists contributed to Walker’s campaign, according to the campaign finance database at Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
Ariens is the vice chair of the WMC board of directors.
Hall has not signed a contract with WEDC, but spokesman Tom Thieding said he earns $120,000 a year.
Contact Ekvall at firstname.lastname@example.org