Chris Kolb, a University of Michigan alum and current state budget director to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, has been appointed the new U-M vice president for government relations. Kolb is replacing Cynthia Wilbanks, who served 22 years in this role and is retiring Jan. 18.

During his five-year appointment, which begins Jan. 19, Kolb will be responsible for managing the University’s strategic local, state and federal government relations program. The office of government relations facilitates meetings with legislative representatives, responds to legislation and monitors any regulatory activities from federal agencies that affect the University. 

Other University projects, such as the Economic Growth Institute, participation in the University Research Corridor and the Center for Educational Performance, will also be managed by Kolb. 

University President Mark Schlissel praised Kolb’s previous government-related experience in an article from the University Record. 

“I am pleased to announce the appointment of Chris Kolb as the vice president for government relations at the University of Michigan,” Schlissel said. “Chris has embraced public service throughout his career, with extensive experience in state and local government, public policy and community relations.”

Kolb told the University Record he is excited to continue his relationship with the University in this new role. 

“I am extremely excited and honored by this opportunity to serve as the vice president for government relations at my alma mater, the University of Michigan,” Kolb said. “The university has been a part of my life from my first breath, my education, and throughout my entire personal and professional life. I look forward to working with the president, the executive team, and the Board of Regents to represent the university in this position.”

Kolb has extensive experience in state and local government, as well as the non-profit sector. An Ann Arbor native, Kolb graduated from Huron High School and received a bachelor of science in natural resources at the University. 

He served on the Ann Arbor City Council for eight years in the 1990s, losing two races by narrow margins as the Democratic nominee for mayor in 1996 and 1998. During his time on City Council and in his campaigns, Kolb focused on environmental policy and affordable housing. 

In 2000, Kolb was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives, becoming the first openly gay representative in the state legislature’s history. In the House, he supported environmental legislation, lower tuition at state universities and sexual orientation-based legal protections. 

After holding office, Kolb in 2008 became president of the Michigan Environmental Council, a statewide coalition of 70 environmental, public health and faith-based nonprofit groups. 

Kolb also served as the co-chair of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force after being appointed by former Gov. Rick Snyder in 2015, producing a comprehensive report with recommendations to prevent similar situations in the state. 

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