|Dawn Crim and Nia Trammell Head the WI Dept. of
Safety & Professional Services
Ensuring Quality Services
Secretary Dawn Crim (l-r) and Deputy Secretary Nia Trammell are
leading the WI Dept. of Safety & Professional Services.
Crim landed a job as an assistant basketball coach for the UW-Madison women’s basketball team. She toured the state — as she would do so again as a department
secretary — representing the basketball program and recruiting future players. Crim would also head up the team’s community service work and took them to Lincoln
Elementary School — WI State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor was principal there at the time — where the players volunteered with the students on Saturday
After a brief stint with UW-Extension, Crim landed a job as an assistant to the late LaMarr Billups, special assistant to the UW-Madison chancellor. Billups’ office
basically took care of community relations for the university. Crim developed important relationships with many Madison community leaders at the time as she helped
the university develop its relationship with the Madison area and impact it for the better. When Billups left UW-Madison, Crim took over the position.
It was only a matter of time before opportunity would come a knocking and Crim went over to the School of Education to head up its community relations office. It was
then that Crim met future Governor Tony Evers.
“I had the opportunity to work with then Superintendent Evers as an alum when I was the associate dean in the School of Education at UW-Madison,” Crim said. “Part
of my role there as the associate dean for external relations and communications was to work with alumni to keep them closer connected to the School of Education
and UW-Madison as well as publications, recognizing alumni, fundraising and all issues that the School of Education had outside of campus. And so it was during that
time that I was the facilitator for the board and Carolyn Stanford Taylor at the time was actually a board member at the School of Education. It’s a small world.”
Eventually opportunity came knocking once again.
“I really hadn’t seen Tony Evers hardly at all until I was doing the work for UW-Madison School of Education,” Crim recalled. “He was up for his third election when he
and Carolyn had contacted me to see if I might be interested in coming on as an assistant state superintendent. And it’s really kind of funny because had mentioned it
to me first and I really hadn’t seen myself in K-12 education. I saw myself in higher education. I was thinking about people I might suggest to her for her consideration
and she politely listened and then said, ‘No, we’re actually thinking about you.’ I really had to reframe my thinking and think about the career I was building and where
K-12 education fit in. And that’s when I realized that actually I am an educator. It didn’t necessarily have to be higher education or K-12. It really is the spectrum. It
was from that conversation that I then interviewed with Tony Evers and decided to accept a position as assistant state superintendent.””
Crim settled into her new job as deputy superintendent, but then the landscape quickly changed.
“I thought I would be there for a while,” Crim said. “I spent a lot of time really learning on the K-12 space. My responsibilities were assessment, accountability, Title I
programs and precollege. I was most familiar with the precollege programs because a lot of the programs we had at UW-Madison’s campus. But the other three areas
were really a steep learning curve for me. I enjoyed learning that and thought I would be there. Shortly after I was hired — within the first month — Tony Evers called
me to let me know that he was contemplating a run for governor. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised. I said, ‘I understand the job that you hired me to do. I will
be doing that job and I wish you well.’ Basically the majority of my time at DPI, Tony was serving as the state superintendent, but also running his campaign to
One of Crim’s assignments was to restructure the Wisconsin Educational Opportunities Program or WEOP.
“We had a lot of challenges with our grant,” Crim said about the federally-funded program. “We did not receive a grant and so we actually had a whole reorganization
that we had to do. As a part of that, unfortunately, some of our workforce was laid off. But we really had to re-imagine WEOP and think through how to utilize the staff
that was in place and still be able to deliver the services statewide.”
Crim’s work didn’t go unnoticed.
pART 1 OF 2
By Jonathan Gramling
When Dawn Crim was announced as the new secretary for the WI Dept. of Safety &
Professional Services, it really came as no surprise. Steadily over the past 23 years, Crim
has risen up through the ranks first at UW-Madison, then the WI Sept. of Public Instruction,
to earn a spot on Governor Tony Evers’ cabinet.
Crim has come a long ways since playing professional basketball in Europe.
“I actually came back from Germany and started as a territory sales representative for
Coca-Cola,” Crim said about her life after basketball. “I was a sales rep for two years. And
while I was doing that job, I realized I wanted to be closer connected to the work in terms
of inspiring people and really making a difference in people’s lives. And at that time, I
decided to go back and get my master’s degree in counseling and education to actually
work on a campus, thinking I would be an academic advisor or working with students in
some way helping to shape their future."
“Shortly after Governor Evers won the election, I really had not given much connection might
be because again, in my mind, I’m an education professional,” Crim said. “I had the
opportunity to actually be on his transition team, the personnel team, and as we talked about
different positions and people whom he was considering for those roles, late as he was
looking at filling his cabinet, he began to talk about the Dept. of Safety and Professional
Services. And he shared with me that he appreciated the work I had done with our WEOP
program. He saw a connection to the work that I had done with WEOP and the work that was
going to be needed here at the Dept. of Safety and Professional Services.”
Crim wasted little time in bringing on her deputy secretary, Nia Trammell. Trammell began her
professional career as a private attorney with a prominent Madison law firm. But it was
community service that interested her and so, she switched to the WI Dept. of Workforce
Development and served as an administrative law judge for 11 years.
“While serving as an administrative law judge, my career path kept moving towards more of
a leadership role,” Trammell said. “I became the senior administrative law judge in Worker’s
Compensation for the state of Wisconsin. I was responsible for supporting the operational
needs of our office and also training administrative law judges and helping with the
recruitment and the retention of administrative law judges. When Governor Evers won the
election, I think it brought a great deal of optimism and excitement. I was also at a
crossroads in my career where I felt like I needed to take that next step or that next leap. I
applied to serve in the administration. I never imagined that I would be sitting right here
where I am. I applied and I got that call. It turned out that I made the short list for Secretary
Crim. It was an opportunity that you really couldn’t forgo. Not only was it exciting to be able to
work with a governor that shared a vision and goals that I have come to appreciate for the
state of Wisconsin, but I also knew that working with a dynamic leader like Secretary Crim
was something that I would absolutely value. And so I studied up and here I am.”
Next issue: Safety and a Quality Workforce