Monday, November 30, 2009

Fighting The Good Fight

Who better to fight for the baby boomers than a baby boomer? On the first Monday of 2010, Nino Amato will take the reins of the statewide non-partisan advocacy organization for the aging, the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups - CWAG. Those of us who are aware of the fine work this organization has done call it “See-Wag”.

I broke bread with the personable Madisonian a few days ago, and there’s no doubt that he’s full of energy and ready to rumble. And his plate will be full at CWAG. He’ll run a staff of 23, including seven lawyers, fighting for things like health care reform, low-cost prescription drugs, consumer protection for the aging, making sure we can afford our energy bills, and other critical issues.

Not tasks for the faint of heart.

But Amato has a track record of success in getting things done, and is uniquely qualified to head this important organization. His resume includes stints as a health care executive with Meriter Health Services and as a member of the University of Wisconsin Hospital Authority Board. He knows the ins and outs of the issues and challenges of health care.

Energy costs are of huge concern to senior citizens living on fixed income, and Amato was President and Executive Director of the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, and a Senior VP with Wisconsin Power and Light.

Throw in stints as President and CEO of Forward Wisconsin, membership on the UW Board of Regents, and President of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board of Directors, and you’ve got some idea of how well-rounded and accomplished Amato is. Lots of experience, lots of connections.

There are 76 million of us baby boomers. We’re facing challenges just as our parents did, and a few they never imagined. The recession has decimated our 401-K’s and made retirement a guess, rather than a plan. We’re likely to live longer than our parents, and we’re deeply concerned not only about their health care, if they’re still living, but for our own.

Never has there been a time when it’s more important to have effective advocacy for our concerns. CWAG has a three decades of history, standing up for us, making our voice heard by lawmakers and regulators, and helping those whose voice may not otherwise be heard.

Amato has deep roots in the community. He has graduate and undergraduate degrees from the LaFollette School of Public Affairs at the UW, and if you’re as old as me, you’ve probably dined at the restaurant his parents owned here for years.

CWAG is headquartered here, on the east side, but has nine district offices throughout the state representing over 400 groups. When Amato starts his new position on January 4th, his reputation for not side-stepping difficult political issues will come into play immediately.

One of his favorite sayings is “Many small people, who in many small places do many small things, can alter the face of the world”. It’s a piece of graffiti from the collapse of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago.

There’ll be no shortage of walls to scale…or break down…when the start of a new year brings the start of a new challenge for Nino Amato.

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