First Lady Tonette Walker

A brisk walk with the first lady

Annie Getsinger | News Republic
Wednesday, November 12, 2014

More than a dozen area residents braved freezing temperatures Wednesday morning to take a scenic two-mile walk with Wisconsin first lady Tonette Walker around Devil’s Lake State Park.

The event was the 40th in the Walk with Walker series, which invites people across the state to enjoy walking routes with the first lady.

Walker, the wife of newly re-elected Gov. Scott Walker, said the family used to camp at the park when sons Matt and Alex were young.

“It’s so beautiful,” she said after Wednesday’s jaunt partway around the lake. “The only thing that would have been better is if there was just a light dusting of snow on everything. It would have been just picture-perfect.”

The group was the fastest to finish its journey in the event’s history, Tywana German, executive director of the Sauk Prairie Area Chamber of Commerce, said with a laugh once the guests had gathered for lunch in the park’s Red Oak Shelter.

With the fireplace blazing, local officials, representatives of the Sauk Prairie School District, chamber of commerce, Wisconsin Department of Tourism, local businesses and other guests, ate lunch together. The meal was provided by several area businesses.

Twin sisters Sarah and Sydney Peterson, 16, members of the Sauk Prairie High School National Honor Society, said they enjoyed the walk and had been looking forward to asking Walker some questions.

“We really wanted to see her view on the workplace and help us get a better idea of the real world,” said Sydney.

“And get to know her,” Sarah added.

In her next four years as first lady, Walker said she plans to continue current initiatives and also has some new ones in the works. One plan is implementing a gardening program based on a model used in other states. The initiative would empower families to build, plant and sustain their own gardens, she said.

Walker also said job creation and education are important issues facing the state, and she’d like to see more opportunities for young people to access technical school resources.

She cited career and technical education initiatives led by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, as sources of inspiration.

Following the lunch and some brief remarks by Devil’s Lake State Park Superintendent Steve Schmelzer, Walker engaged in a conversation with the group, answering questions ranging from leadership to first impressions and preparing for one’s future career.

On the topic of a divided political climate and working with others with whom one disagrees, Walker advised the young people not to let only their differences guide their decisions. She expressed hope for the people of Wisconsin to find more common ground.

“I think the state should come together at this point, politically,” she said. “I think the people of Wisconsin have said they want Scott Walker as their governor, and I think now it’s time to come together and work together. Whether you believe in all of the things that he’s done and the way that he’s done them, I think now is the time that we have, the next four years, to come together to work on things to benefit the state of Wisconsin for all the people that live in Wisconsin.”