MADISON, Wis. — Tommy Thompson has achieved many milestones in his long public service journey, and he's about to hit another one. Wisconsin's longest serving governor is about to turn 80-years-old.
From the office space overseeing his Alma mater in Madison, UW System's interim President Tommy Thompson is ready to take on the day and another decade!
"You make it sound like it's a big deal. It's just another day for God's sake," Thompson said. "You're only as old as you feel. You know, I feel like I'm still 55, 56."
No one ever assumed the kid from Elroy would slow down with age.
He went from law school to lawmaker, serving 20 years in the Assembly and rising to Minority Leader. He was first elected Governor in 1986 and would go on to win an unprecedented four times.
President George Bush picked the Wisconsin Republican in 2000 to be his US Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Thompson was appointed interim President of the University of Wisconsin System in June of 2020. Now, he is thinking about what's next for his beloved UW.
He has a white board in his office with 50 ideas that he wants to accomplish before his replacement is hired.
"Set big goals and fight for them," said Thompson.
Thompson's drive these days is to make UW's 13 Universities across 26 campuses a destination place for businesses and public policy.
"I'm trying to make it relevant," said Thompson. "I'm trying to make the University of Wisconsin, not only the educational arm of the state, but the problem solver."
The road wasn't always successful for Thompson. Early in his career he lost a primary race for a congressional seat. He had an unsuccessful run for President in 2008, and a high profile defeat in the U.S. Senate race against Democrat Tammy Baldwin in 2012.
He looks backs with no regrets.
"Be positive, love people, take a gamble, follow your gut," Thompson said.
Thompson says his 80th birthday plans include family and friends and deer hunting - but just don't ask the octogenarian if he plans on slowing down.
"What do you think? I'm going to water skiing next year. I'm going to snow ski and yeah, I'm looking forward to my next undertaking whatever it may be," Thompson said.
Thompson needed surgery in September to repair a water skiing injury to his arm.
Thompson's birthday is Friday.