A new batch of more diverse Madison City Council members, including the city’s first black women to serve as alders, are preparing to “hit the ground running” April 21.
“We come at a critical time,” Alder-elect Barbara McKinney said. “That lense is so important because you will never see things the way I see things, not that you’re bad or good. It’s just that my vision is totally different. If the city is really going to move in a way that it includes all people, you really have to include that vision.”
In the April 7 general election, McKinney won the race for District 1 and Sheri Carter won against incumbent Ald. John Strasser to represent District 14.
McKinney said she takes pride in being elected based on the support she earned from her community.
“For me, ironically, it wasn’t even to think of being ‘the first,’” she said.
She said returning to her former home in Ferguson, Mo., and seeing the effects of Michael Brown’s shooting prompted her to run for office.
“When I was standing there, I just realized how blessed I had been to move from that, and what I had accomplished,” McKinney said. “I realized that I could really make a difference.”
Alder-elect Samba Baldeh, who won the race for District 17, follows eight black Council members who served before him.
Baldeh is a software engineer and a partner in a technology consulting business. He was born in a small village in rural Gambia and immigrated to America in 2000.
“I wanted to be in the process of people who will make the laws,” Baldeh said. “My reflection, or my understanding of the world or my people, particularly minority people … [having] that reflected into policies, laws or ordinances is important.”
Carter, who has been a community activist for more than 15 years on city and neighborhood committees, also emphasized the importance of bringing diverse backgrounds into Madison politics.
“I come from a different perspective by working with neighborhoods and working from the grassroots,” she said. “It’s knowing all phases of life and being able to translate that to the Common Council meetings.”
The alder-elects agreed their priorities include improving education, transportation and public safety.
McKinney, Carter and Baldeh are scheduled to join the only current black Council member, Ald. Maurice Cheeks, District 10, in serving Madison at the end of the month.