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Godfrey & Kahn attorney tapped by Evers to replace UW Regent

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Democratic Gov. Tony Evers appointed a bankruptcy attorney Friday to replace a conservative-leaning regent of the Universities of Wisconsin who is refusing to resign, creating another potential gridlock in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Evers announced that he has appointed Tim Nixon as Robert Atwell’s successor. Nixon works on the Bankruptcy and Financial Restructuring Team at law firm Godfrey & Kahn. He has a bachelor’s degree from UW-Green Bay and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“This is an opportunity to give back in a unique way to an institution that has done so much for me and my family,” Nixon said in a statement from Evers’ office.

But it is unclear when or if Nixon will ever take a seat on the board.

Then-Government. Scott Walker, a Republican, appointed Atwell as regent in May 2017. His seven-year term ends this month, but he has said he will not step down until he chooses to do so or the Senate confirms a successor.

The Legislature’s two-year session ended this spring and lawmakers are not expected to return to Madison until January. Asked about the prospects of the Senate returning sooner for a confirmation vote, Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu’s office said in a statement that Evers had only just announced the appointment and that “it is imperative that appointees demonstrate that they are qualified and will be a priority contribute to student education. ” It was not elaborated.

The state Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that political appointees do not have to leave their posts until the Senate confirms a successor. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul to force conservative Fred Prehn from the state Natural Resources Board.

Prehn’s term ended in May 2021, but he refused to leave until his replacement, Sandra Naas, won Senate confirmation, expanding Republican control of the board. He ultimately resigned of his own accord at the end of 2022. The Senate finally held a confirmation vote on Naas and three other Evers appointees to the Natural Resources Board last October and — in effect — fired all four by refusing to confirm them.

Evers questioned Atwell’s integrity during a question-and-answer session with reporters after he raised an LGBTQ+ flag outside the Capitol on Friday.

“When we play these games with members of the Board of Regents, that is a problem,” Evers said. “I know Bob Atwell and as I said before, he is – was – a person of extraordinary integrity. Something happened along the way that prevented that from happening. I truly believe that at some point he will decide to resign from the board.”

Atwell did not immediately return email and voicemail messages seeking comment Friday.

Also Friday, Evers appointed Jack Salzwedel and Desmond Adongo as regents.

Salzwedel, former chairman and CEO of American Family Mutual Insurance Company, replaces Walker appointee Mike Jones, who left his seat after his term ended this month. His departure leaves Cris Peterson and Atwell as the only Walker appointees left on the board. Peterson’s term expires in May 2025.

Adongo, a UW-Oshkosh student, replaces Jennifer Staton as the board’s non-traditional student regent. Her two-year term also expired this month.

Because their predecessors made room for them, Salzwedel and Adongo can serve without Senate confirmation.

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