Executive Leadership Team


Mary M. Kolar, Secretary

Mary M. Kolar is the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. She serves as the chief advocate for the more than 350,000 veterans of Wisconsin and their families. As Secretary, she is responsible for the leadership and management of the WDVA, including strategic and long-range planning initiatives that align with the department’s vision.

​​​Secretary Bio


James Bond, Deputy Secretary​

James Bond ​serves as the Deputy Secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.  He is responsible for day-to-day operations, as well as directing and coordinating the Department's strategic planning and program development.  The Department provides a full range of programs, services and benefits to Wisconsin veterans, to include: Veterans Homes, Veterans Cemeteries, Military Funeral Honors, veterans resource centers and claims services, as well as grant and other programs. 

​​​Deputy Secretary Bio


Kathy Still, Asst Deputy Secretary

The Assistant Deputy Secretary serves the Secretary and is the primary contact for inter-governmental agency functions. The Assistant Deputy Secretary also serves as the agency legislative liaison.​

​Assistant Deputy Secretary Bio


Chad Koplien is general counsel for the department with 27 years of private and public sector legal experience. He manages the Office of Legal Counsel and provides counsel to the Office of the Secretary and the department's leaders, with a focus on healthcare law for the department's 3 long-term care facilities. He also serves as the administrative law judge for all department benefit appeals.

He is a Veteran with 21 years of military service. He currently serves as command judge advocate for the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (2nd tour), Wisconsin Army National Guard in its OCONUS mission. He previously served as the state deputy judge advocate overseeing legal operations for Wisconsin's covid and public security missions, to include the Democratic National Convention security task force in 2020. Koplien has served as the command judge advocate in 64th Troop Command (2 tours) and as deputy command judge advocate for the historic 32nd Brigade. As a former active-duty enlisted Airman, he was assigned to the U.S. Air Force, 820th RED HORSE Squadron at Nellis AFB, NV.  

Koplien is a graduate of UW Oshkosh and received a post-graduate certification in Long-Term Care Administration from UW Madison. He earned his law degree from Marquette University Law School and holds advanced military degrees from the US Army Judge Advocate's Legal Center, Command and General Staff College, and the US Air Force War College.​

He is a member of the Wisconsin State Bar and holds a life membership with the National Guard Association of the US (NGAUS)/Wisconsin National Guard Association (WINGA). He resides north of Madison with his wife of 25 years. His two daughters are attending college at the UW.​

Colleen Flaherty BIO photo 6.29.22.jpgColleen Flaherty is the Communications Director for the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. As the Communications Director, she manages the Office of Public Affairs overseeing all communications, media relations, and public relations efforts to enhance the visibility of the Department's programs, services, and benefits.

Colleen has over a decade of communications, nonprofit, and legislative experience. Colleen received her undergraduate degree in Journalism and began her career as a sports stringer for a Minnesota daily. She went on to live in New York and Washington D.C., working various communications positions, including production assistant, freelance writer, and education advocacy communications specialist. She returned to Wisconsin in 2015 where she spent several years working for state legislative offices. Before joining the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, she worked as a communications specialist for the Department of Tourism while obtaining her master's degree in communications from UW Whitewater.

Colleen lives in Monona with her husband, David, and their daughter, Elaine. 

James A. Parker serves as the Administrator of the Division of Enterprise Services. The Division provides administrative support to the department. It  consists of four Bureaus; the Bureau of Fiscal Services, the Bureau of Budget and Facilities, the Bureau of Information Technology and the Bureau of Human Resources. Its responsibilities include, but are not limited to; development, monitoring and managing of the department’s annual, biennial and capital budgets, fiscal services, internal control, internal/external audit services, risk management, purchasing, policy and strategic planning, bonding and statistical analysis, information technology and support, human resources, fleet management and  the Continuity of Operations and Continuation of Government Plans.

Prior to employment with the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, James was an Executive Manager in the private sector and later became an entrepreneur.  He has 21 years of state service with several state agencies (DWD, former DHFS, DOR and DSPS) and the University of Wisconsin.  His positions were responsible for budget, finance, human resources, policy and information technology. He has performed in multiple Division Administrator roles and Director of Finance and Budget roles.

James received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  

​​​​​​​​The Administrator of the Division of Veterans Benefits oversees the benefits, programs and services to state residents who entered active duty from Wisconsin and continue to reside in the state. These benefits, programs and services are provided by the State of Wisconsin in order to supplement and complement those provided to veterans by the federal government. ​

Diane Lynch serves as Administrator of the Division of Homes. As Administrator, she is responsible for long-term care policy for the Department and overseeing the Wisconsin Veterans Homes at Chippewa Falls, King, and Union Grove.

Diane has 19+ years of experience as a leader in the senior care industry in a variety of Continuing Care Retirement Communities, Skilled Nursing Facility, and Long Term Care​ settings as well as in startup construction projects in Long Term Care and Assisted and Memory care living. She is committed to providing seniors with high quality, person-centered care and exceptional customer service and employees with a workplace culture that is n​ot only dynamic, but offers a positive, supportive environment.

Diane holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, a Bachelor of Arts in Healthcare Management from Metro State University in St. Paul, an LNHA from the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, and is a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator in 3 states.

Diane and Serge love the great outdoors, two adult daughter’s and 3 grandpups. 

Chris Kolakowski DVA-WEB-196x270.jpgChristopher L. Kolakowski is the Director of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs. As the Director he is responsible for the award-winning museum and research center that acknowledges, commemorates, and affirms the role of Wisconsin veterans in the United States of America’s military past and present..

Chris has his ​BA in History and Mass Communications from Emory & Henry College and his MA in Public History from the State University of New York at Albany. He is a proud descendent of Wisconsin Veterans from the Civil War through the Cold War.

Chris has spent his career interpreting and preserving American military history with the National Park Service, New York State government, the Rensselaer County (NY) Historical Society, the Civil War Preservation Trust, Kentucky State Parks, and the U.S. Army. He has written and spoken on various aspects of military history and leadership from 1775 to the present. He has published two books with the History Press: The Civil War at Perryville: Battling For the Bluegrass and The Stones River and Tullahoma Campaigns: This Army Does Not Retreat. His study of the 1941-42 Philippine Campaign, titled Last Stand on Bataan, was released in late February 2016. In September 2016 the U.S. Army published his volume on the 1862 Virginia Campaigns as part of its sesquicentennial series on the Civil War. His next book, on the 1944 India-Burma Campaigns, is scheduled for release in 2020.

Chris comes to Madison having served as Director of the MacArthur Memorial from September 2013 to December 2019.