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Monday, May 9, 2016

 5:31 PM 

Kennedy to retire after 33 years as Wisconsin's top elections official

Kevin Kennedy, who has spent the past 33 years as Wisconsin's top elections official, will retire next month as the GAB is replaced by two new entities.

Kennedy, who turned 64 in March, told WisPolitics.com today he decided last year he wanted to retire after 2016. He moved up his timeline after the GOP-led Legislature voted to replace the GAB with the new Elections and Ethics commissions. 

"Once the Legislature made the decision to restructure the agency, I didn't see any reason why I'd want to be part of the new structure, and even if I did, it would have been a very short-term situation because of the timetable I had for myself was already in place," Kennedy said.

Kennedy has become a lightning rod for criticism Republicans have lobbed at the GAB over the past several years, including the agency's involvement in John Doe probes. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, vowed at a WisPolitics.com luncheon in October 2014 that the GAB would not exist in its current format in two years and declared Kennedy "has to go." 

Vos did not immediately return messages seeking comment. 

Kennedy said he never put much thought into whether to apply for a job with the new entities and shrugged off the criticism he has received from some lawmakers. 

"The reality was: On a day-to-day basis, the same people who were knocking us were turning to us for advice and expressing their gratitude for that as well," Kennedy said. 

Kennedy was appointed staff council for the old Elections Board on April 1, 1979, and was promoted to acting director in December 1982. The following August, the interim tag was lifted from his title, and he became director and legal council of the GAB after it was created to replace the old Elections and Ethics boards. 

He will leave state service about a month after Jonathan Becker, administrator for the GAB's Ethics and Accountability Division who is retiring May 31.

Kenney dated his retirement letter to GAB board members April 1 to correspond with the anniversary of his initial hire. He waited until this weekend to send it to board members to make sure the process for selecting the new administrations for the Elections and Ethics commissions was in place.
-- By JR Ross


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