At the end of the day on Friday, Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) traded in her hat as Senator representing Wisconsin’s 10th District for new head gear as Secretary of the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. And on Monday morning, she made history as well as the agency’s first female in its 88-year history to fill the post.

Following his announcement, Gov. Scott Walker said about Harsdorf, “Sheila’s experience as a highly-respected, dedicated legislator and dairy farmer make her an excellent fit to lead DATCP.”

In response to her appointment as DATCP Secretary, Harsdorf said, “I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with and support the farmers, businesses and consumers of our great state.”

Harsdorf succeeds Secretary Ben Brancel who retired in August. On Monday, she appointed Keeley Moll as her Deputy Secretary to handle the internal operations of the agency. Moll has served as the DATCP’s legislative and policy advisor since 1997.

Wealth of experience

A member of the Senate since 2001, Harsdorf held leadership roles as majority caucus chair and chair of the Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges, as well as a member of the Joint Finance Committee of Finance and the Committee on Agriculture, Small Business, and Tourism. From 1989-98, Harsdorf represented the 30th Assembly District, and she holds a degree in animal science from the University of Minnesota.

Harsdorf’s appointment has won applause from several agriculture organizations. Jim Holte, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, noted that he has known Harsdorf for more than 30 years and is confident she will continue to be an outstanding advocate for Wisconsin agriculture.

“Sheila understands the diversity and strength in the state’s $88.3 billion agricultural economy,” Holte said. “Sheila worked diligently with her colleagues on our state’s right to farm and use value assessment of farmland laws ... [which] remain critical to the future of agriculture in Wisconsin.”

The Dairy Business Association feels that Harsdorf’s ag background will serve the state’s residents well. In a press release, the group stated, “Her commitment to finding solutions, with input from those directly affected, will help keep our dairy state strong.”

Special election

A special election for the 10th Senate District has been set for Tuesday, Jan. 16. Nomination papers must be filed no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 21. If a primary is necessary, it will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 10.

“Serving the residents of the 10th Senate District has been a distinct honor and privilege,” Harsdorf said. “Most rewarding has been the opportunity to work with area residents to address important issue affecting them, their families and communities. ... Now I look forward to this new opportunity to serve the residents of Wisconsin.”