UW-Madison student Elena Haasl is hoping to bring student representation to the Dane County Board of Supervisors.
Haasl, a twenty-year-old undergrad, launched her campaign for the District 5 seat on the county board in November with the goal of representing the voices of the greater campus community.
Her involvement in politics began two years ago when her mom’s physical therapist, Brittany Keyes, ran for state assembly in her hometown of Beloit.
“I started canvassing about 30 hours a week with her around the district,” Haasl said. “I realized that there's a way to apply my activism to political processes, which sparked my interest in politics.”
On campus, Haasl worked on political campaigns, including Matthew Mitnick’s campaign for District 8 Alder. As a freshman, she attended Emerge Wisconsin — a program that gives women the tools to run for office and turn their experiences and advocacy into meaningful legislative action. She is currently double majoring in political science along with community and environmental sociology, with a certificate in gender and women’s studies.
Despite her significant involvement in clubs and classes, as well as having a part-time job, Haasl decided to run for the District 5 Board of Supervisors seat, a position that represents a majority student district.
“If no other student is going to run for this seat, then it's my responsibility to run,” Haasl stated. “So far the experience has been overwhelmingly positive.”
If elected, Haasl wants to expand mental health services in the community and find ways to work with the campus on the current mental health system, as she believes they can find innovative ways to bridge the gap between the campus and county.
The stigma behind mental health and the lack of culturally competent mental health service providers on campus remains a significant problem in the student community, according to Haasl.
“I think residents ages 18 to 22 are often cut off and left out of the conversation when it comes to mental health,” she said. “And since District 5 is predominantly students, that’s a huge issue.”
As a biracial young woman in the LGBTQ+ community, Haasl also wants to continue to work to promote equity and inclusion on and off-campus. She serves as a student ambassador for the Campus Climate and Diversity Committee, a member of the Student Implementation Board for #IAmUW and Equity and Inclusion Committee intern with the Associated Students of Madison.
Haasl believes her experiences in these positions have made her deeply cognizant of the importance of true intersectionality within local politics. She stated her plans to extend the work she’s done with underrepresented students at UW-Madison to the county board, as she hopes to eventually create more safe and inclusive spaces on campus.
Haasl’s campaign is also focused on advocating for the lakes and watersheds in the Madison area. She wants to continue current efforts on funding programs that help mitigate pollution.
“Dane County has all these natural aspects that people should be able to enjoy,” Haasl said. “Emphasizing and prioritizing the health and well-being of our environment is also emphasizing and prioritizing the health and well-being of our community.”
The election for the District 5 Dane County Board of Supervisors will take place on April 7, the same date as the 2020 Wisconsin Democratic primary and the Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice election.
Haasl hopes that a strong student voter turnout will encourage a better representation of student interests across the board.
“Vote like student representation on the county board matters,” Haasl said. “Because it really, really does.”