Sen. Jennifer Shilling thanks voters and colleagues after 20 years in Wisconsin politics

Wisconsin Sen. Jennifer Shilling announced Thursday she is not seeking re-election
Sen. Jennifer Shilling
Wisconsin Sen. Jennifer Shilling announced Thursday she is not running for re-election after 20 years in Wisconsin politics.

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Wisconsin Senator Jennifer Shilling took to Twitter Thursday afternoon announcing a decision she said was not an easy one. She has spent 20 years of her life representing Wisconsin residents and decided it was time for a new chapter to begin.

In a release Shilling said in part, “It was not an easy decision, but I know it is time to put my family first…It has been a tremendous honor to represent western Wisconsin in the Legislature, and I cherish the many friendships that I have made along the way…It is honestly something I never imagined for myself as a young girl growing up in Wisconsin…Thank you to the voters of the 32nd Senate District for placing your trust in me to be your voice in Madison. It is an honor, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have served you in the Legislature.”

Shilling graduated from UW-La Crosse in 1992. Her former political science professor Joe Heim remembers the start of her career.

“There was as County Board Race coming up [in 1990] and it was primarily a campus seat,” Heim said. “She decided to run and she won. That was the beginning of her career.”

She was elected to Wisconsin Assembly representing the 95th Assembly District in 2000 where she served until 2011. In 2005, she took on the role of a minority caucus sergeant at arms.

There was a special recall election in 2011 where her career began in the Wisconsin Senate. She also served as the Senate minority leader from 2014-2019. According to a release Shilling was the longest-serving woman leader in Wisconsin history.

Shilling’s colleges took time to thank her for her work including Wisconsin Rep. Jill Billings said in a statement, “She has been a strong voice, leader and representative for all of us. Senator Shilling’s leadership will be missed, as she’s been a dutiful and passionate public servant for our region. I wish her, and her family, the best as she moves on to new adventures in life.”

La Crosse mayor Tim Kabat said the news was bittersweet because Shilling encouraged him to run for mayor.

Rep. Ron Kind said in a statement, “Jen’s decision to retire is a huge loss not only for our district but for our state. As Jen likes to say, ‘onward, upward and forward, thank you for your service, Jen.”

Joe Heim said he thought Shilling represented this region well for both urban and rural communities.

“I think she can certainly hold her head high,” Heim said. “She’s accomplished a lot in the 20 years she’s been a politician.”

Shilling’s announcement leaves Republican Dan Kapanke unopposed for the Senate seat.