Last Friday was Mark Bugher's final day on the job as director of University Research Park. He has headed it since leaving Governor Tommy Thompson's administration, for which he served as secretary of the Department of Administration.
Yeah, he's a Republican. But he's the kind of Republican, if there were more like him, that I might think of joining the party. If there were one word I'd use to describe Bugher, it would be reasonable.
I have known Mark for maybe twenty years, and I honestly don't where he stands on a lot of issues. I think of him as a principled conservative who believes in smaller government, lower taxes and less regulation.
But what Bugher really did in a variety of capacities over two or three decades was make government work. It was for that reason that I appointed him -- over his reluctance -- to chair a committee charged with trying to work out the transition of the Overture Center in late 2010. Under his stewardship that committee laid the groundwork for the final product, which three years later seems to be working.
Now, simple competency in governing shouldn't be remarkable, but these days it is. And it doesn't have to come in moderate packages. Our own U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison) is a strong liberal who has earned a reputation for being able to reach out and work with the other side. Problem is that that kind of pragmatism has gone out of political fashion.
Now that he's retired, Bugher might be called on to do even more shuttle diplomacy -- on a bunch of local issues here in Madison and at the state level. If I still had my old job, I wouldn't issue him a visa to leave the city. But he and his wife Kate will split their time between Bayfield and Arizona, and Mark's only tenuous connection to Madison will be a seat on a few boards.
You can't blame Mark Bugher for wanting to enjoy life a little bit after a long and productive career in public service. But we can thank him for that and we can look for a new generation of conservatives, liberals and moderates who are genuinely committed to making the system work.