Madison attorney Hassett to head DNR

B”I would like to get in contact with him ASAP,” Oestreicher
said. “I would like to get introduced, and do our best to get him
to the council meeting.”

Schultz said the La Crosse County alliance is willing to work
with Hassett.

“Boy, this is a tough time to bring in a new secretary who isn’t
familiar with the DNR,” Schultz said. “He will have a whole lot of
learning to do, and he’s in a tough situation right off the bat,
with the $40 million DNR budget shortfall. No one knows how that’s
going to be resolved, plus he’s faced with the CWD issue.

Hassett, 52, knows he has a big challenge ahead of him, but said
he’s excited. He officially goes to work Jan. 6, but as of Dec. 26,
he was already preparing to be involved in a Jan. 7 NRB phone
conference that could determine CWD control efforts after the
hunting season closes Jan. 31 in the CWD Intensive Harvest
Zone.

Hassett’s background

Hassett is married, with two children, a son and daughter. He
was born in Menomonie, in Dunn County, then moved to Madison with
his father and mother as a young boy.

He has a journalism degree from UW-Oshkosh (1974), and was
editor of the Jefferson Banner before getting a law degree from
Rutgers University in 1980.

He likes to fish muskies and especially enjoys row-trolling for
muskies. He also bow hunts, primarily in the Cross Plains area,
which is within the CWD area. He is a member of several hunting and
fishing groups, including the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association and
Muskies, Inc.

“My feet are planted mighty solidly in the hook and bullet
camp,” he said. “That’s been my love and my life. I teach hunters
safety, and I’ve been a hardcore muskie fisherman and bowhunter all
my life. I’ve tried sturgeon spearing, turkey hunting, and duck
hunting. I do a lot of row-trolling for muskies in a homemade boat,
but with my kids growing up, I had to get back into other outdoor
things that were more fun for the kids to get involved in.”

Hassett supports the DNR’s efforts to establish a mourning dove
season. He is aware of the state’s treaty rights situation, but has
not yet formed an opinion on the current scheme that allows the
state’s six Chippewa tribes to spear unlimited numbers of muskies
through the ice in winter, without those fish applying to the
tribes’ muskie quotas. He also supports bear baiting and hound
hunting for bears.

“I saw (outgoing Minnesota Gov.) Jesse Ventura (see news story
on page 4 in this issue) on the bear baiting issue. I’m familiar
with bear hunters. I did a little work for them years ago on an
issue on their ability to run dogs,” he said.

“On the dove hunt, it’s a shame it’s all tied up again. Doves
are the most hunted bird in this country. I hope it goes through.
Ironically, a lawyer who is an acquaintance of mine is representing
the group that has stopped the hunt for now. I give him heck every
time I see him,” Hassett said.

Getting the job

Hassett said he understands being the DNR secretary will be a
difficult job right now, but he is glad Doyle selected him for the
job.

“It was a fairly long and thorough process and I did not know
until the week before,” Hassett said. “There were other names out
there, and I know there was a movement to keep Darrell in there, as
well. I had interviews with the transition team, filled out
financial statements, ethics statements, the whole thing.

“Jim Doyle knew I was interested in this for a long time, but
that didn’t mean I was going to get it. A lot of good people were
interested in this job. Why would I want it? Because I have all of
these outside interests that have been a big part of my life, but
they’ve always had to be outside of my work. Now those interests
will be a part of my life. This excites me. If you want the
position you can’t be choosy about when you’re going to get it. The
budget issues, CWD, both will be a drain on resources. We are
facing a lot of complex, but interesting problems,” he said.

He said other big issues continue to be the Fox River cleanup,
and the Crandon mine issue.

“Yes, there will be a steep learning curve for anyone who comes
in here, but I do have a lot of contacts in the DNR and people who
I’m close to, ex-DNR people, are fairly well plugged in. I think
I’ll have a lot of good advice, not to mention the help that
Darrell Bazzell has already given me. He has been very helpful. I
can’t say enough about Darrell and how much he wants to help in
this transition.”

Doyle has asked the DNR’s top administrators, all appointed
positions, for their resignations, effective Jan. 5, the day before
Doyle’s inauguration. Those posts include Steve Miller (wildlife),
Susan Sylvester (water, fisheries), Frank Fennessy (deputy
secretary; Fennessy has gone to Department of Administration), Gene
Francisco (forestry), and others. It is possible some of those
people will be reappointed. The big question is whether Hassett
will select all outsiders, or if he’ll take some from within the
agency. Retired DNR people have said it will be difficult to run
the agency with a slate of all outsiders.

“It may be a mixture or combination. That’s one of my highest
priorities, naming seven division heads,” Hassett said. “A couple
of spots are vacant, and one or two are near retirement. The
others, what’s going to happen, I don’t know.”

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