Governor Tony Evers appointed Kalvin Barrett, a former Badger offensive lineman to be the next Dane County Sheriff on Friday, April 2. Barrett will be Dane County’s first Black sheriff.
Barrett’s term as sheriff will begin May 8th and will replace Dave Mahoney, who announced his retirement earlier this year after serving as the Sheriff of Dane County since 2006. Barrett will serve for the remainder of Mahoney’s term, which expires on Jan. 2, 2023.
Barrett expressed his excitement about being able to lead his own department and implement changes to improve the service provided by the Dane County Sheriff’s department.
“It is a great feeling to accomplish something that I have been working very hard to obtain — to lead a law enforcement agency in a capacity where I can put my personal, professional, training, and educational experiences to lead us toward 21st century policing,” he told the Cardinal.
Barrett earned a Sociology degree from UW-Madison where he also played both offensive and defensive lineman for Badgers football from 2000-2004. He also earned a masters degree in criminal justice from American Public College in 2020.
He is currently an officer at Wisconsin State Fair Park and is the faculty director of the criminal justice studies program at Madison Area Technical College, where he teaches criminal justice and law enforcement.
Barrett serves on the Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparities, a subcommittee focused on addressing racial disparities within policing standards and law enforcement. Barrett is also a board member of the Democratic Party of Dane County, an organization that helps Democrats get elected to public office.
Barrett was an officer in the city Sun Prairie from 2011-2016 and a Sheriff's Office deputy from 2009-2011. His experience in law enforcement and familiarity with Dane County make Evers and members of a blue ribbon panel, who recommended his appointment, confident in Barrett's ability.
“With 12 years of service as a law enforcement officer, Kalvin Barrett is a dedicated public servant,” Evers said in a statement. “I am confident he will be an effective, empathetic leader in Dane County and will work to ensure the safety of and collaboration with every community he serves.”
Mahoney echoed the governor’s statement, saying that he believes Barrett is well suited to the position.
“Someone with a passion for community engagement on issues, who will guide the sheriff’s office into the future with equitable and equal justice for all citizens,” Mahoney said. “Kalvin Barrett will serve our community well, guided by the core values of the Dane County Sheriff’s Office.”
Barrett inherits several projects from Mahoney, including an expansion of the Public Safety Building to replace the jail in the City-County building. Barrett told the Cardinal he plans to “use innovative, evidence based crime reduction methods to reduce and maintain the local jail population” as part of his efforts for Dane County incarceration reform.
Barrett expresses motive to be active within the community, telling the Cardinal that, “proximity builds trust and distance builds fear.” He believes this strong presence of the sheriff will lead Dane County to a “21st century policing where we can serve the community in a better light.”
However, some Dane County community members have voiced criticisms about Barrett’s appointment. Amelia Royko Maurer, a local activist associated with the Madison response team, voiced her opinion in a facebook post that Barrett is unqualified for the position, as he lacks experience and has expressed insufficient interest in pursuing progressive changes in policing.
“The Governor's office and the following individuals instead chose Kalvin Barrett, a state fair cop/Dane Dems board member, who has never balanced a budget of millions or run a department to be sheriff,” Maurer stated. “He has no record of introducing or implementing progressive change within the department or taking the risks needed to decriminalize vulnerable communities.”
Barrett told the Cardinal he plans to gain further support from the community and rebuild fractured relationships throughout his term stating that, “I can't respond to what the critics say but I look forward to gaining trust from the community”