Over 60 Wisconsin College Republicans gathered in Eau Claire this past Friday and Saturday for the 2011 College Republican State Convention, electing new leadership and amending a slew of constitutional articles. The proceedings began at 4 PM Friday afternoon with a social gala and check-in at the Holiday Inn at Craig Road in Eau Claire, followed by a reception at 7 PM that included 5 legislative speakers, mostly from districts around Eau Claire. Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder of Abottsford opened the festivities with an inspiring ten minute speech, telling the youth in the room to not let anybody stop them from "achieving anything they've set out to do". Suder's speech, which set the tone for the convention, was followed by an Asian-themed banquet dinner complete with chicken-fried rice and egg rolls and while the contingent of student relaxed after the meal, the main speakers stepped up to the mike with Warren Petryk, 93rd Assembly representative, headlining first.
Petryk gave his speech about service, tying in his calling to public office and sacrifice as a duty he didn't take lightly.
"Someone asked me what it was like to run for office and many of you with campaigns know how crazy it is and some of the description lack of sleep, etc, are there," he said. "And many of you have worked or will work on campaigns and I read a quote one time that pretty much sums it up. . . 'He who mounts the wild elephant goes where the wild elephant goes.' and that's pretty profound because it takes you on journey. . . I've been told oftentimes we define our dreams and sometimes they define us and that's what happened in the process as I humbly accepted the call and I am so happy to be here. In spite all of the challenges, it is incredible to spend time with these gentlemen and these ladies and to turn this state around."
Tom Larson, 68th District Representative from Dunn County, told the students a little bit about his experience struggles with representing his constituents in the way he believed most accurately reflected the silent majority view on the Budget Repair Bill. Kathy Bernier, 67th Assembly Representative from Chippewa Falls then got up and told the group a little bit about the trying times and the emotional challenges of dealing with the protestors, upset constituents, and the support of her male colleagues during the recent budget repair battle.
"Some of us had people out our doors and down the halls and we were determined to stay in our offices and meet those folks who were angry and upset and speak with them and I had law enforcement in my office from time-to-time, I had other legislators, my male neighbor legislators in my hallway would come and rescue me and they would take me out for a little break and they were wonderful. . .As you know my district is pretty much 50/50 and when the media called and told me that the City of Eau Claire passed a resolution telling me to vote no, I asked them how did Howard Ludwigson (a conservative on the city council) vote and he voted no. On election night when it came to the City of Eau Claire, I had a 1000 vote lead from the surrounding townships and I only won by 93 votes and so my thought was that the City of Eau Claire was not going to tell me how to vote because that is not indicative of what my district really looks like and who got me elected."
Senator Terry Moulton of the 23rd Senate District talked about how his business (Mouldy's Tackle) in Eau Claire gained a boost in revenues from the attention given to it by a union protest at the end of February as people who were on the conservative side flocked to it from surrounding areas during that time to show their support. Lori Forcier, 3rd Vice Chair of the Wisconsin GOP talked about her passion and support for the College Republican groups around the state and how she would throw her weight behind them as "Chair of the 72 County Chairs" of Wisconsin. Forcier was Eau Claire County GOP Chair for several years and was a strong mentor for the College Republicans at UW Eau Claire.
The keynote speaker was Senator Glen Grothman from West Bend, whose speech highlighted the budget hearings being conducted in Superior and Steven's Point over the last few days concerning Scott Walker's 2011 to 2013 budget and how many of the people who show up for the meetings are not representative of all of the people in the state.
"And they're all asking for more money," said Grothman. "Unless you're a grounded person, people get confused and begin to think that people want more money spent because that's what you usually hear as a legislator, that's what you usually hear as a county board member, that's what you usually hear as a city council member. There must have been over 500 people testifying and I'd be surprised if 10 of those were supportive of Scott Walker's budget and the reason is because the average guy is too busy working. If you're somebody who works at the University, K-12 education, at the county board, or what-have-you, your paycheck does not depend on making the public happy, it depends on getting the politicians to get you more money, which is why we had the problem we had yesterday and today."
The convention kicked off at 9 o'clock Saturday morning with 48 amendments to the College Republican State Constitution, several of them major. The changes were made within the first 2 hours. Awards were handed out with Eau Claire winning Chapter of the Year for the second straight year. UW-Milwaukee’s Kate Edwards won individual activist of the year. The last item on the agenda was to nominate new leadership for the coming 2011 year. Charlotte Evans, the UW River Falls student who was elected chair in 2010 is stepping down due to time constraints due from her other commitments. Evans is credited with rebuilding both the image and the operation of the Wisconsin College Republicans after the organization fell into complete turmoil when former chair Lora Rae Anderson completely changed parties the day after the 2010 convention concluded. The shakeup made national headlines and destroyed the credibility of the Wisconsin CRs in the eyes of the State and National GOP, as well as created a PR battle between the Democratic Party and the Democrat College Republicans and the Wisconsin CRs. Evans and the executive board that she appointed fought back and neutralized both the fallout and the war of words against the GOP borne from Anderson's action. Evans, a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, divided time between her Guard duties, her University physics studies, and restoring trust and connections between the Wisconsin CR organization, other state organizations, as well as the individual chapters in the state. Her executive board worked hard to refurbish the reputation of the College Republicans by making them a big part of the State GOP Convention in Milwaukee last May and by sponsoring numerous campaign weekends and Get-Out-the-Vote efforts for GOP candidates all over the State during the 2010 election cycle.
During the convention on Saturday, Matt Rossetto was elected new chair for the 2011 Wisconsin College Republicans. Johanna Conrad was elected Vice Chair, Neil Isono treasurer, and Peter O'Reilly secretary. Conrad took over as chair of the UW Eau Claire College Republicans a year ago when former chair Bobby Hamill graduated. She was instrumental in keeping the CRs operating at a high level in Eau Claire and was responsible for guiding the club to it's second "Chapter of the Year" award. New chair Matt Rossetto will now appoint a new executive committee.