Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development History
Stan Milam Column - Government at Work

Reproduced with permission of the Wisconsin State Journal

Date: Sunday, August 25, 2002
Section: Business
Edition: All
Page: E1
Type: Column
Column: Government at Work

Byline: Stan Milam
Memo: Stan Milam, of Capitol News Service, has covered state government issues since 1983. He can be reached at (608) 251-8585; send E-mail to cns@chorus.net.

At first blush it looked like just another state agency press conference hyping something.

The Department of Workforce Development last week "unveiled" an online museum highlighting the history of worker programs in the state dating back to 1883 when the agency was created. If you had a dime for every new program or whatever that's "unveiled" in state government, you'd be wealthy in no time.

So, it was with some skepticism that I agreed to follow up on a call from the department informing me of this event. I was pleasantly surprised at what I found and even more impressed with the way the project was undertaken and completed.

News reports have documented the nuts and bolts of the new website -- www.dwd.state.wi.us/dwd/dwdhistory/ -- which provides a detailed and rich history of worker programs in Wisconsin, which led the nation in the area. An example of the professionalism in developing the site is the 1961 portion that has a photo of President John F. Kennedy delivering an Aug. 31 speech commemorating a 4 cent stamp to honor the 50th anniversary of the first workers compensation law passed by the Wisconsin Legislature. The text of Kennedy's speech is also available.

You might think that this project is a good example of our tax dollars at work and you'd be correct but only to a certain degree. What makes this Web site all the more unique is that it was developed through hours and hours of "off-the-clock" time and effort put in by several veteran state employees. For them, it was truly a labor of love.

The Web site we enjoy today is the extension of work started in 1983 by former department information officer Mike McCoy back when the agency was called DILHR, the Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations. McCoy created an informative brochure looking at the history of worker issues through the 1970s as part of the centennial celebration for the agency that was created in 1883 as the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

McCoy's work remained the standard until two years ago when a renewed interest in the department's history surfaced. Janet Pugh, a librarian in the Administrative Services Division, started the Web project and designed the site, but she was reassigned to another project before she could complete it.

In April this year, Art Zoellner, the assistant to the administrator in the division, called in Jerry French with instructions to complete the Web site project.

"The first thing I did was get back to Janet to get caught up on what she had done," said French, the division's project manager. "With her help and Mike's brochure, I had a good start, but we needed a lot more, including photos and additional content."

When French put out the word for help, he received an outpouring of volunteers willing to share information and photos.

"This is an example of state employees who care about what they do and the department they work in," French said. "They came forward with information and photos because they were proud of what they helped the department accomplish over the years."

These veteran department employees provided the bulk of the additional research needed to complete the project. One of these veterans is Brian Krueger who works in the department's Worker's Compensation Division.

Krueger provided helpful insights into the workers compensation program. His efforts made the Kennedy section that much more interesting.

Al Jaloviar, an employee in the Unemployment Compensation Division, also added to the project. He supplied information about Paul Raushenbush, the author of a book about the state's unemployment compensation program.

Dianne Reynolds in the Division of Workforce Solutions provided information about early job service programs and offered an overall critique of the research. Jacquie Piraino, who works in the secretary's office, provided additional information about job services.

The Web site is a thorough review of worker programs, but it will help the agency move forward, French said.

"For one thing, it helps us with orientation when we bring in new employees," French said. "As is the case in many state agencies, we will be losing many of our senior employees in the next five to 10 years. It's important that we have this information to provide them with a sense of what these programs are and what they mean to the workers of the state."

But, it's the sense of pride shown by the many state employees who helped with the project that makes it special, French said.

"We believe that these employees represent the best in all of us, and they also represent the majority of state employees who are willing to go above and beyond what's required of them."

Other employees who helped with the project: Joan Larson, Division of Workforce Solutions; Jim O'Malley, Worker's Compensation Division; Suzanne Lee, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; LeAnna Ware and Lynn Hendrickson, Equal Rights Division; Marty Shannon, Administrative Services Division; Peter Gottlieb, Wisconsin Historical Society.

Updated September 27, 2010
Division of Administrative Services
Content Contact: Jerry French

Email DWD DWD on Twitter DWD on Facebook DWD on YouTube DWD RSS Feed DWD on Flickr