Tom Petri represents Wisconsin's 6th Congressional District and is serving his 17th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. First elected in April 1979, Petri has been returned to office every two years since.
He is a current member of both the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Committee on Education and the Workforce (formerly Education and Labor). Petri is the Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
From 1987 through 1990, Petri served as a member of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, better known as the House Ethics Committee, during which time he participated in several major investigations including the one which culminated in the early retirement of Speaker of the House Jim Wright.
Petri is a current member and former Chairman of the House British-American Parliamentary Group, an official organization formed to strengthen relations with the British Parliament.
A persistent foe of government waste, Petri has repeatedly earned high marks from such organizations as the National Taxpayers Union, the Concord Coalition, Citizens Against Government Waste, and the Watchdogs of the Treasury. Over many years, he has repeatedly been named a "Guardian of Small Business" by the National Federation of Independent Business, and has won the "National Security Leadership Award" from the American Security Council.
National Taxpayers Union Vice President David Keating has told Petri, "If every Member of Congress cast spending votes as carefully as you, we would have a balanced budget, lower taxes, and a healthier economy."
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Kenneth R. Lamke has called Petri "classy...a thoughtful gentleman." Washington Post columnist David Broder has said he is "a notably independent, creative legislator." New York Times columnist Peter Passell has said he is "known for his innovative efforts to coax a bigger bang from the federal buck." Norm Ornstein, a Congress-watcher at the American Enterprise Institute has said of him, "He is an idea guy, very thoughtful and decent and smart."
Important Petri legislative initiatives have included those in the areas of student loan reform, the federal highway program, cost-sharing for federal water projects, tax and welfare reform, banking reform, campaign reform, and health care reform.
Tom Petri (born Thomas Evert) was a toddler when his birth father, a Navy flyer and Lieutenant during World War II, was lost during a mission over the Atlantic.
Tom, an infant brother and his widowed mother Marian moved into a rented duplex in Fond du Lac. Tom's mother put food on the table by teaching in the Fond du Lac public schools.
Tom was adopted by Robert Petri after his mother remarried in 1946. He attended Fond du Lac public schools from kindergarten through high school.
While growing up, Tom took jobs shoveling snow, painting houses, delivering the old Fond du Lac Commonwealth-Reporter, working as a messenger for the First Wisconsin Bank, and selling advertising and hosting the "Teen Time" show for KFIZ radio.
In 1961 Tom worked in Kenya for three months with Operation Crossroads, a church-supported humanitarian aid organization.
While a student at Harvard, Tom was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and picketed a Woolworth's store in support of the desegregation of the chain's southern lunch counters. He was one of the founders of the Ripon Society, an organization dedicated to finding centrist solutions for public policy problems within the context of the Republican Party.
After earning degrees from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, he clerked in 1965-66 for James Doyle, the federal judge for Wisconsin's western district.
Then, in 1966-67 Tom served in Somalia first with the Peace Corps and then with the United States Agency for International Development.
In 1968 he was Executive Director of the Ripon Society.
In 1969-70 Tom worked in the White House as Director of Crime Studies for President Nixon's Advisory Council on Executive Reorganization (also known as the "Ash Council"). His work focused on anti-drug efforts.