Gov.-elect Scott Walker continues to flesh out his future team as governor after appointing his campaign manager Keith Gilkes as chief of staff Tuesday.
Gilkes said in a statement he looked forward to helping Walker “put Wisconsin back to work.”
“I’m honored to serve in the administration as well as help
Governor-Elect Walker accomplish the goals laid out during the
campaign,” Gilkes said.
Gilkes, a University of Wisconsin graduate, has worked as Walker’s campaign manager since 2009, but worked in the state Legislature before as a member of the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate.
Walker said in a statement Gilkes experience in the Capitol was a contributing factor in his decision to appoint Gilkes to chief of staff.
“Keith did an outstanding job building a team in every corner of Wisconsin,” Walker said. “He is a trusted adviser, and his background in state government will assist my administration in developing the policies needed to create an environment for 250,000 new jobs in our state.”
Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, said Walker chose Gilkes for the same reason current Gov. Jim Doyle chose his chief of staff, Susan Goodwin: Walker wanted a confidante.
Most executives want someone they trust and can talk to as their chief of staff, Heck said.
In terms of dealing with Democrats in the newly Republican-controlled Legislature, Heck said it probably was not a factor when choosing Gilkes.
Walker is not shy and he knows most members of the Legislature, so he will not have trouble reaching out and talking, Heck said.
However, Graeme Zielinksi, a spokesperson for the state Democratic Party, criticized Walker’s decision to surround himself with “cronies” like Gilkes.
“He governs like he’s running a political campaign, and his chief of staff pick is more of the same, a political hack with ties to ethical misdeeds,” Zielinksi said.
Zielinksi added Walker’s decision to name Gilkes chief of staff was not driven by a desire to work cooperatively with Democrats in the upcoming Republican-controlled legislative session.
Heck said Walker’s motivations may be less sinister, though.
“He wants someone who’s going to make the trains run on time,” Heck said.
But given Walker’s antipathy toward the high-speed rail project, Heck said maybe trains were not the right metaphor.