MADISON -- Former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch has taken the new job of executive director at the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission and said this morning she is going to attack the position "at full throttle." The commission announced Wednesday Kleefisch had been sworn into the post Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
Kleefisch served eight years as lieutenant governor under Gov. Scott Walker before Walker lost re-election to Tony Evers in November 2018.
The commission Kleefisch is leading was created by Congress in 2017 to lead commemorative and educational efforts surrounding the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote. Kleefisch had been one of 14 appointed members of the commission.
The 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote was ratified on June 4, 1919, and was added to the Constitution. Women were granted the right to vote on Aug. 26, 1920.
The commission has a $3 million budget that will expire in April 2021.
Kleefisch spoke with the Daily Times this morning regarding her new job, explaining why she sought the position and is so excited about it.
"Speaker Paul Ryan has appointed me to sit on the commission," Kleefisch said. "I was passionate about its mission and knew that any new job might leave me unable to participate in the way I had intended in what I envisioned to be a grand, countrywide effort to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote. So, rather than pull back, I went in full throttle and applied to be the executive director."
She said she will be commuting to Washington from the home she shares with her family in the town of Concord.
"I will be spending a considerable amount of time in Washington, D.C. I just got back, actually," she said. "There are usually two direct Southwest flights a day from Milwaukee to Washington, D.C., and my former jobs -- and being a mother -- have helped me hone a skill set that allows me to get a lot done very efficiently. So, when I'm in D.C., in particular, I use my time to do things I cannot do from my Wisconsin office, and I prep and organize well, so I can move fast and precisely when I'm there."
Kleefisch feels she can bring a lot to the new job.
"I'll tell you what I told the new chairman and that is, I am a coalition builder. If I am enthusiastic about something, I have the experience and bandwidth to bring groups of people together over a subject matter area," she said. "Here in Wisconsin, that was over policy. For the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission, it will be over the 100th anniversary of a controversial, historic fight."
Kleefisch is unafraid of things like large-scale organizing.
"I've run two national organizations -- the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association and the Aerospace States Association -- and helped start two women's organizations, those being Right Women Right Now, to help conservative female candidates, and the Right Women Awards in Wisconsin. Bringing warring politicians together over something that should unite us all sounds like something fun and new," she said.
Kleefisch said she enjoys knowing Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment.
"I confess that I felt there was a lot of providence in the subject matter and the timing of all of this," she said. "It just felt like this was what I was supposed to do next. But knowing Wisconsin's role in this history sealed the deal for me."