The writer is Steven Verburg; the writing (and presumably the editing) highlights a major reason our household no longer subscribes to Wisconsin's second largest daily.
The 2,500-word piece is the worst type of trash the State Journal puts out, illustrating how badly the Republican propaganda sheet misleads readers and shills for their favored political interests.
Online the headline reads: As DNR woes grow, former critic says she's its best protector.
That's a misleading headline.
The headline cites "woes" (caused by what or whom?) as though the DNR has passively experienced some unknown malady caused by unknown agents. In reality, Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans have worked to change the mission and operation of the DNR with Stepp on the front lines.
The headline shields Stepp in the cloak of DNR "critic" and "protector."
In the lede paragraph Verburg recites a story explaining Stepp's reluctant steps before being appointed by Scott Walker to the DNR secretary position in 2011.
The fact-based world is something different.
Scott Walker, Attorney General Bard Schimel, legislative Republicans and Stepp have devastated the resource protection and planning objectives of the agency, (most of what the DNR does is planning and soliciting input from stakeholders), and rebuilt the DNR as a tool for polluters.
Here's Verberg on Stepp:
Here I was thinking Republicans like Stepp were fronting for polluters like Menard's and other heavy donors to Walker and other Republicans.
She fought to streamline environmental regulations, earned a 'zero' rating from conservationists, gathered testimony about overzealous DNR employees, and authored a bill to criminalize state worker 'retaliation' against companies seeking pollution permits.
Frustrated by the slow pace of change, Stepp left the Senate when her four-year term ended. She worked for Republican causes until 2011 when the party took control of state government, and Gov. Scott Walker appointed her as the DNR’s top administrator.
No, Verburg assures, Stepp fought for streamlining, against the overzealous and the retaliatory.
Wow, Stepp is good.
Elsewhere, Verburg presents the DNR's Stepp as merely a passive regulator working to find common ground against Republican legislators:
'We have made terrific inroads with some the toughest critics in the Legislature against this agency who have a very skewed perception of who makes up this agency,' Stepp said.
The agency must be apolitical publicly, deferring to elected officials, Stepp said. As DNR secretary she said she has no opinion on whether environmental regulations are excessive or inadequate. The DNR’s job is to put the law into practice, she said.
Stepp is just an objective good-heated public servant; she said so herself.
Of course Stepp's opinions are easy to find. Notes Kewaunee Cares (Facebook):
She doesn't have an opinion? Stepp offered her commentary on our health and water crisis in the [heavily polluted] Kewaunee [County] through an Op-Ed piece in the Green Bay Gazette, marginalizing our problems.
Stepp writes, "The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has been working for more than a year with multiple stakeholder groups to address water quality issues in and around Kewaunee County. That work is not over but based on our discussions so far, we have been able to take action on several fronts."
"The department believes in making decisions and finding solutions based on sound science and so we commissioned scientific research to gather data about the quality of wells in Kewaunee County."
That's a lot of rhetoric to begin a piece on an issue about which Stepp has no opinion.
Of course, pointing this out would require the State Journal's Verburg to dig all the way back to ... May 2016. That kind of in-depth journalism apparently is beyond the means of the WSJ.