Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
December 2004
Eugene "Pepi" Randolph Energizes Forward Wisconsin
When he was less than a year old, Eugene Randolph fell off a table, bounced himself up off the floor, and went about his business without a whimper. "He's got a lot of pep," his uncle noted at the time. Hence, the nickname "Pepi".
Eugene "Pepi" Randolph, President, Forward Wisconsin
Photo credit: The Capital Times

The nickname stuck, and four decades later Pepi is still living up to it as the newest president of Forward Wisconsin, Inc. An individual blessed with boundless energy and unbridled enthusiasm, Pepi says that he has tried to hit the ground running in his new duties promoting Wisconsin as an ideal spot for business.

Born in "The Bush" neighborhood in Madison, Pepi lived in the Capitol City for a year before his father was transferred to Milwaukee. Pepi attended public schools there until he was awarded a scholarship to the private Milwaukee University High School.

A three-sport athlete (baseball, football, and basketball, in all of which he was voted team captain), Pepi excelled enough in baseball to earn a scholarship to UW-Madison, where he played second base from 1979 - 1983, and was team captain his senior year.

After graduating in 1983 with a double major in history and journalism, Pepi went to work for Proctor & Gamble for two years, followed by a stint at Johnson & Johnson in consumer sales. He trained for the job in California, Texas, and Indiana, and as luck would have it, when it was time to be assigned to a territory, one opened up in Madison. He jumped at the chance to return to his home state, where he still had close ties to the athletic department at the University as a tutor/mentor.

Walking up Bascom Hill one day, a gentleman said "hi" to Pepi, and engaged him in conversation. He knew who Pepi was, he explained, because he was a member of the school's athletic board. Pepi learned that the man was UW-Madison Professor Jim Jones, who then asked the young man if he'd ever thought of attending law school.

He hadn't really ever given it serious consideration, but decided to take the LSAT - the results of which indicated that Pepi did indeed have an aptitude for the law. With the help of a Legal Educational Opportunity (LEO) scholarship, Pepi attended law school at UW from 1988-1991.

During his first summer break from law school, Pepi worked in the legal department of Oscar Mayer, where he made the acquaintance of a VP there - Pat Richter. Richter would soon accept the position of Athletic Director at UW-Madison, and the two men's paths would cross again at a later date.

The second summer of law school, Pepi did law internships in Ohio and Minnesota, and though he had offers to return on a permanent basis from both firms, he decided that he'd really like to resume his professional career in Wisconsin.

Nearing graduation, in the spring of 1991 he blanketed the state with resumes, and was delighted to receive a letter from Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig, inviting him to come and interview for a position with the baseball team. As Pepi recalls the day, he drove to Milwaukee, met with Bud Selig and his daughter Wendy, and was offered a job on the spot. "I floated all the way back to Madison."

Employment secured, he and law school friend Laura Arbuckle (now his wife) took off in May of 1991 and backpacked through Europe before he began his job with the Brewers, and she headed to Washington, D.C. to work in the Attorney General's office.

After a year apart, Laura moved back to Milwaukee and took a job at the DA's office. The couple married, and became the parents of three boys, Miles, Isaac, and Max - now seven, six, and three.

Pepi worked for the Brewers' organization from 1991 until May of 2003, when he accepted a job in the institutional investment department at M & I Bank. Meanwhile, he was serving as the Wisconsin representative of the Big Ten Advisory Commission (where he's now in his seventh year in the role), and had accepted a seat on the UW-Madison Athletic Board. (Seems the young law intern made a lasting impression on Pat Richter.)

The following year, through the network of connections he had assembled over the years, Pepi was approached with the possibility of heading up Forward Wisconsin, Inc. He met with Governor Jim Doyle and Commerce Secretary Cory Nettles, and says that he was intrigued by the possibility of combining his sports, sales, and legal backgrounds to promote the state as a business destination.

He accepted the job - and Laura accepted an offer from the Wisconsin Department of Administration - and the couple moved their family to the West Side of Madison.

Since September of this year, Pepi has approached his new role at Forward as a team player. He sees Governor Doyle as the "captain of our team" with the legislators, state agencies, and his associates at Forward rounding out the bench. "As a state, we're all kind of in this together - we all play our parts."

Stating that any successful team needs leadership, communication, teamwork, and support, and with the leadership and business friendly attitudes of Secretary Nettles and Governor Doyle, Pepi says that he's "confident that we have all of these things in place."

He points to the state's "major commitment" to stem cell research (with over $1 billion spent over the past 15 years and another $750 million earmarked for the next fiscal year) stating that Wisconsin is well positioned to be a major player in the new biotech economy.

He says that he has been busy getting out and about around the state meeting with businesses and economic development professionals, and meeting with companies throughout the U.S. that are potentials for relocating to Wisconsin.

Pepi credits his predecessor, Mike Armiak, with putting in place "a fantastic business campaign" as well as overseeing the revamping of the award winning Forward website. "The website plays an important role. Over eighty percent of business expansion locators look at websites" for critical information.

All in all, Pepi says that he's "excited to be here. The staff's excited." He concedes that given the U.S. and state economies they face "lots of challenges". But with a product like Wisconsin, with its "highly educated workforce" coupled with Governor Doyle's "Grow Wisconsin" effort and the great quality of life here, he considers it a great opportunity to "open peoples' eyes" to all that Wisconsin has to offer as a premier business destination.

-- Barbro McGinn

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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