It turns out that two Walkers from Wauwatosa were elected to state leadership positions this past week — only one of them is Gov. Scott Walker’s son, Alex. And he was elected mayor of a Badger Boys State city named after a former Wisconsin governor known, in part, for educational reform.
Alex Walker, an incoming senior at Wauwatosa East High School, was elected “mayor” of a Badger Boys State city on Monday, according to an announcement from the Badger Boys State PR office. Wauwatosa East also has a second student, Sam Schultz, at Badger Boys State, said Nick Hughes, Wauwatosa East principal.
Wauwatosa West also sent a boy to Badger Boys State this year: Sam Hanrahan, said Nick Becker, school counselor at Wauwatosa West High School,
“Most students are pretty active in the school community as well as outside when they go to Badger Boys and have interest in government as well," Becker said. "Sam is an outstanding student. He excels in social studies and is a leader in the school community. People look up to him. You can count on him.”
The American Legion Post 537 located in West Allis sponsored both of the Tosa East boys, Hughes said. They were selected by members of the high school’s social studies department based on essays they wrote answering the question, “How does democracy play into the 21st Century?”
Badger Boys State is a program designed to create future leaders out of Wisconsin youth, in addition to teaching them about civic affairs and government. More than 800 youth are selected from Wisconsin schools for the week-long program that places the boys into "cities" that form a "51st state." They engage in civic affairs, including elections. The Badger Boys State site states that, "The boys themselves will elect their own municipal, county and state officials. As alderman or county supervisors they will frame, present and pass their own ordinances and laws; their own police and sheriffs will enforce them. As attorneys they will prosecute or defend, or as judges, hear cases in their own courts. Through this program, these leaders of the future should develop a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation."
Badger Boys State began in 1939 at St. John's Military Academy in Delafield. In 1941, it was moved to the Ripon College campus. Professional leaders from various fields are also brought in to talk to the boys.
“Both Alex and Sam are solid students at East and involved in many extra-curricular activities in our school and will benefit from the leadership instruction and opportunities to meet other motivated students from around the state,” said Hughes. “As a former BBS representative, 1986, I have fond memories of the week in Ripon and the friendships I established. It certainly helped to confirm my interest in being a teacher of history as I prepared for college.”
For those wondering, Hughes was elected sheriff when he was at Badger Boys State.
Badger Boys state attendees are placed into 27 cities at the beginning of the program. Each city is named for a former governor. Alex Walker was elected mayor of Rennebohm. Students are assigned to cities randomly.
For those of you not up on gubernatorial lore, Oscar Rennebohm served as Wisconsin’s governor from 1947-51. According to the National Governors Association, he was a druggist who was first elected lieutenant governor. When the governor, Walter Goodland, died in office, Rennebohm took over, and also was later elected to another term on his own right. He was known for educational reform and veterans’ housing and was also a member of the UW System Board of Regents.
(In a unique historical factoid, Goodland had originally been named acting governor by the state Supreme Court after the governor-elect, Orland Loomis, died before he could be sworn in.)
Last year, Gov. Walker’s other son, Matt, who graduated Saturday from the high school, was elected “governor” of Badger Boys State.
Twenty-seven boys from around the state were elected mayors Monday after campaigning and debating during what is the 71st session of Badger Boys State, according to Nathan D. Grunewald, spokesman for the program.
The program involves 883 high school juniors this year, who are selected by their local communities based on leadership, academic success, and other attributes. They spend the eight days in the program learning about Wisconsin government, including everything from “operating efficient government offices, passing ordinances, balancing a budget, and amending the Badger Boys State constitution,” said Grunewald in a press release.
In an interview with Patch, Grunewald said individual districts choose their selection process for Badger Boys State, but he added, “We ask that the students be leaders amongst their class, and we ask them to be in the top third of their class academically. We are looking for the future leaders of America to come to Badger Boys.”
He said Badger Boys state elections are designed to be “like in the regular election for Wisconsin. The boys are selected by their fellow citizens at Badger Boys State.”
The principal said he wasn't surprised when Alex Walker was chosen.
“Alex has been a great student here at Tosa East, and he has a family background dealing with politics,” said Hughes. “It doesn’t surprise me at all he wants to go up there and be a leader. He takes on the same things in the classroom and athletic and other curricular activities. He sets a positive example. He’s an all-around great student and a great student athlete.”