Chief strategist for Whitmer to address new administration

Chief strategist for Whitmer to address new administration

Jackie Jahfetson

Chief strategist for Gov. Whitmer will visit NMU today to discuss some of the governor’s initiatives addressed previously in Tuesday’s State of the State, and underline some of the issues the new administration intends to focus on and what the people of Michigan can expect to come.

Mark Burton, who graduated from NMU in 1999 with a bachelor degree in public administration, will give a campus presentation from 3 to 4:30 p.m. today in the Mead Auditorium of the West Science Building. Recently appointed as Whitmer’s chief strategist in January, Burton helped formulate the vision for the new governor’s office and will discuss those strategies in more detail, followed by a reception in the atrium.

Accepting the invitation from NMU’s Political Science Department, Burton is not only a successful alum for fellow students to look at, but he has years of experience on the political line, NMU political science professor Steve Nelson said.

“It’s really nice to have someone from the U.P. that close to the decision maker, and in this case, the governor. So I think that’s an excellent thing for us, for Northern,” Nelson said. “I don’t expect that we’re gonna get millions of dollars thrown at us but at the same time, it’s nice that we will be on the agenda and won’t be left off. He’s still a Yooper.”

Fellow political science professor Brian Cherry has worked with Burton on education matters and thought it would be a great idea to bring him in to provide students and the Marquette community with a chance to hear what’s happening in the capital, Nelson continued. Nelson, who was Burton’s adviser during his time at NMU, said the Champion native is a bright and pleasant individual, adding he is probably one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

“The thing that’s always impressed me about him is he seems to have a lot of common sense. He’s able to look at things and make some practical, pragmatic decisions,” Nelson said.
Previously serving as chief of staff for Whitmer when she was Michigan’s Senate Democratic leader, Burton knows how things get done and understands what he needs to do to see them through, Nelson said. With his level of expertise and his law degree from Michigan State University, Burton has that “Yooper work ethic” and will give people another chance to look at what Whitmer will address, he added.

“What we expect him to talk about is this idea [of] what does a new administration mean? What are we going to see different? We kind of want him to reiterate some of the things that Whitmer said in her State of the State,” Nelson said. “We’ll want to hear about infrastructure, education and skills programs that are going to be offered. We’d also like to hear how does this impact us? Because we’re a rural community, how are things going to be different for the U.P. versus downstate.”

For students, Burton’s presentation is an opportunity to see a relatively young person who’s interested in politics, went onto law school and worked in the political arena for years. Burton is a great example of a success story, Nelson said, adding, this is a way to see whether the new administration will take a different approach and provide some insight.

Michigan faces several challenges including water problems, continuing issues with diverting freshwater, environmental concerns and an education system and infrastructure that need attention. Regardless of his age, Burton has the experience to help us better understand these concerns, he said.

“You definitely want someone who understands the political process. He’s been involved in a number of different things so I think he brings an older person’s level of experience and sort of a younger person’s creativity and ability to look at the big picture,” Nelson said.