The Capitol Insiders
‘Never shy away from an opportunity —
you never know where it will lead.’
A decade ago Jamie Kuhn ’95 and Tim Casper ’95 were a formidable one-two punch as president and vice-president atop the Student Government Association at UW-Green Bay.
They and their SGA colleagues went separate ways after graduation, of course, but years later Kuhn and Casper happened to find public service careers in the same state, city and building. Their offices are now just a few floors apart, beneath the white granite dome of the Wisconsin State Capitol.
Kuhn is top aide to State Sen. Mark Miller, Monona. Casper is policy director for Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle.
“The most important thing I took away from UW-Green Bay was the ability to prepare and deliver concise, effective oral presentations,” Casper says. “The classes were small enough that there were numerous opportunities to stand in front of your classmates and provide an overview of your report, or lead discussion.”
Nowadays, the audiences for his briefings are often the governor and cabinet officials. Casper manages development of Doyle’s major policy and budget initiatives. His assignments have ranged from the Grow Wisconsin job creation and economic development plan, to BadgerCare Plus extending health care access, to Clean Energy Wisconsin, a plan promoting renewable energy and fuel production. Casper also helps communicate these initiatives to the public.
Kuhn’s position, too, requires flexibility. Because Sen. Miller is co-chair of the influential, budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, and chair of the environmental committee, his staff addresses policy issues across state government. If that weren’t enough, Kuhn, a parent to three children, field supervises UW-Madison grad students in social policy, and finds time to contribute political commentary to “Here and Now” on public television.
“The one thing I’d tell UW-Green Bay students today,” Kuhn says, “is never shy away from an opportunity. You never know where it will lead.”
More from Jamie Kuhn:
Jamie Kuhn has been chief of staff for Sen. Miller since 2000, when he was in the state Assembly. Married, she has two children, ages 3 and 1-month old, and a 12-year-old stepson.
In the late 1990s, right out of college, she worked for United Council, the state student association, as multicultural issues director and then president. She served on the Dane County Board as a county board supervisor, and volunteered for Briarpatch, a local organization that served teens. She followed up her bachelor’s in sociology (with a minor in Environmental Science) by earning a master’s in social work in 2003 from UW-Madison.
Kuhn on pursuing government service: “My first major was biology. However, the interdisciplinary program at Green Bay allowed me to explore other areas of interest and student organizations allowed me to learn about government and participate in it. It is the reason I am doing what I am doing today.
Kuhn on memories of her college days: “The most memorable things from my college days? Organizing what I believe to have been the first EarthFest, getting elected president of the Student Government and organizing students to travel to Madison and lobby the state legislature for a tuition freeze. But it was the people who made Green Bay memorable. There were so many people who were supportive and encouraging while I was at Green Bay I could not name them all. As a member of student government, there was no one more supportive then Jerry Olson, dean of students. He was straight forward and nonjudgemental, and he always made you feel like his equal, not a student.”
Kuhn on faculty mentors: “Whether it was a discussion about what my major should be or a class discussion about the rise and fall of the Motor City, Professor Ray Hutchison had passion about what he was teaching you and he cared about students’ learning. He taught me to be thoughtful about what I was learning and find something I could believe in. Finally, last but not least, Peter Kellogg earned my respect as I am sure he did everyone’s for his commitment to social justice through his teachings and more importantly through his actions.”
Kuhn on her career today: “On any given day I can do just about anything. I am involved in policy decisions, legislative initiatives, organizing the senator, office management, constituent communication, messaging and scheduling. The senator’s chairmanships allow me and other members of the senator’s staff to be involved in decision making in many areas of state government.
More from Tim Casper:
Casper graduated from UW-Green Bay in August 1995 with a double major in Urban Studies and Social Change and Development. He moved to Madison and started working for the United Council of UW Students. Through his work there, he developed an interest in state politics and policy. Before beginning to work for Governor Doyle in 2003, he earned his master’s degree in public affairs at UW-Madison, worked in the legislature and served as a policy analyst with the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services. He was promoted to his current position, senior policy adviser to the governor, in January 2007.
Casper on memories from his SGA days: “The most memorable thing was the recognition the Student Government Association received as the best among the 24 UW campuses that participated in United Council, the state student association. This was achieved due to our outstanding voter registration efforts, and the advocacy work we did at the state and federal levels on behalf of students and access to higher education.”
Casper on his career today: “I have primary responsibility for managing the development of the Governor’s major policy and budget initiatives. Some of these initiatives include: Grow Wisconsin, our job creation and economic development plan; BadgerCare Plus, extending health care access to our kids and working families; and Clean Energy Wisconsin, our plan to promote renewable energy and fuel production. I also work closely with our communications team to develop strategies and plans to communicate these initiatives to the public.”
Casper on the one thing he’d advise for current UW-Green Bay students: “Make time to get involved with any of the numerous student organizations on campus. The leadership opportunities and experiences you can gain will serve you as you enter the workforce.”