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Tia Nelson, daughter of Gaylord Nelson who is considered the founder of the Earth Day and the subsequent environmental movement, in her office. Gaylord Nelson was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1995. Photo by Mike DeVries - The Capital Times

Months after Wisconsin's public lands agency banned its employees from discussing climate change while on the job, its executive secretary is stepping down.

Tia Nelson, who served as executive secretary of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands for 11 years, announced her resignation on Tuesday. She said she'll start an "exciting opportunity" on Aug. 1.

Nelson is the daughter of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day. She was publicly at odds for months with State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, who in April pushed a resolution to ban the agency's employees from doing any work related to climate change on state time.

That decision was approved by Adamczyk and Attorney General Brad Schimel, both Republicans, while Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette opposed it. 

The three-member board softened its policy in June, voting to instead ban employees from advocating for global warming policy changes. Schimel was the deciding vote in both cases, while Adamczyk remained adamantly opposed to allowing any talk of climate change.

"This is really about Tia Nelson," Adamczyk said, casting a "no" vote.

His opposition stemmed from the fact that Nelson had been appointed by then-Gov. Jim Doyle to serve on a global warming task force in the late 2000s. Nelson argued that she hadn't worked on global warming since that task force disbanded, and she hadn't done any lobbying on climate change issues.

"I want to thank the Attorney General and the Secretary of State for continuing BCPL’s long tradition of bi-partisan stewardship of school trust assets on behalf of the children of Wisconsin," Nelson said in a Tuesday statement that made no mention of Adamczyk.

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The BCPL operates a trust which provides aid for public school libraries and offers loans to municipalities and school districts.

The agency has loaned more than $1.4 billion to towns, villages, cities and counties since 2004. Of that, the agency has invested more than $250 million in economic development projects and more than $535,000 in public infrastructure.

Nelson said she leaves her post with "mixed emotions," adding that she had wanted to wait to announce her resignation until after the state budget was signed into law, with a commitment to expand the board's investment authority.

"I leave my job as Executive Secretary of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands proud of the agency and its staff and of the good work we have accomplished for the state — and the people — of Wisconsin," Nelson said in a statement.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.