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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Gov. Tony Evers appointed Héctor Colón, head of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, to the UW System Board of Regents Thursday. 

Evers picks nonprofit leader to fill Board of Regents vacancy

Gov. Tony Evers appointed nonprofit leader Héctor Colón to the UW System Board of Regents Thursday, according to a press release

Colón’s appointment, effective immediately, follows former Regent Gerald Whitburn’s resignation in January, five years short of his full second term. Colón will finish out the rest of Whiburn’s term, through May 2025, according to the Wisconsin State Journal

Currently, Colón serves as president and CEO of the nonprofit Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, which has earned multi-million dollar surpluses under his leadership, the release said. 

Prior to his work with LSS, Colón spent six years as the executive director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services, where he ended a 30-year waitlist for disability services. He also reduced Milwaukee County’s uninsured rate by 58 percent, decreased chronic homelessness by more than 75 percent and worked to reform the juvenile criminal justice system, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Additionally, he has won national titles as a boxer and is fluent in Spanish.

“Throughout my career, I have focused on addressing complex issues impacting people and communities, while improving budgets and organizational efficiency,” Colón said in a statement. “I look forward to bringing that experience to the UW Board of Regents and I want to thank Governor Evers for this appointment.”

In 2019, Colón earned recognition both as BizTimes Media’s Nonprofit Executive of the Year and United Migrant Opportunity Services’ Hispanic Man of the Year. 

Of the 18-member board, Colón marks Evers’ fourth appointment since taking office in January 2019 — compared to 12 from former Gov. Scott Walker. This excludes the two ex officio regents not appointed by the governor, the state superintendent of public instruction and a Wisconsin Technical College System representative.

With Whitburn’s resignation and Colón’s appointment, Evers appointees will outnumber Walker appointees come May 2021, potentially positioning the board — whose responsibilities include passing System-wide policies, approving budgets, setting admission standards, appointing campus leadership and granting employees tenure — to make decisions more in-line with the governor’s higher education goals. 

“The UW Board of Regents plays a critical role in not only the success of the UW System, but the success of each of our students,” Evers said in the release. “I believe Héctor's experience turning around budgets, advocating on behalf of some of Wisconsin's most vulnerable residents, and visionary leadership style will serve the Board well.”

Colón also received praise from UW System leadership in statements, with UW System President Ray Cross commending his “energy and passion for public service” and Board of Regent President Drew Petersen applauding his “proven commitment to students and families” and experience in finance.

“It’s really an honor to give back to an institution that played a major role in my life,” Colón told the State Journal. “It’s a big system, and, for me, I want to learn.”

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