Mayoral candidate Gloria Reyes spent her childhood and entire professional career in Madison. Now, she wants to move the city forward through collaboration and equity by running for mayor.
Reyes was Madison’s Deputy Mayor from November 2014 to April 2019. She has also served as the Madison Metropolitan School District Board President and the CEO of Briarpatch Youth Services.
Reyes wants to address public safety, homelessness, education and economic development as Madison’s mayor.
Reyes spoke with The Daily Cardinal about why she is running for mayor and how she plans to address the community’s needs.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Tell me about yourself and why you decided to run for mayor.
Madison raised me, and I love this city. That's why I'm stepping up for Madison and running for mayor. I believe at this moment in time my leadership is needed to move this city forward.
What do you hope to accomplish if you are elected?
I want to bring in my experience in all areas of my professional career, particularly around public safety and government leadership. I want to focus on infusing equity within city government — ensuring that when we make policy decisions within the city our administration, our city staff and city council are thinking through an equity lens, and making sure that we do not have unintended consequences. We need to intentionally look at how our decision may impact communities of color, our disability community and our LGBTQI community.
I want to focus on public safety issues. Law enforcement is doing what they can, but we need a collaborative approach. We are losing our youth, particularly our youth of color, to the criminal justice system. I want to take a collaborative, holistic approach to divert them away — working with law enforcement and providing them with resources.
I want to work on economic development and ensure that Madison is a city where businesses want to open up while providing jobs and economic growth in our city. I also want to tackle our homelessness issue. We have young mothers and children living in motels. I want to identify families with nowhere to go and provide solutions and strategies for moving them out of homelessness into sustainable jobs and housing.
I want to work on the bus rapid transit system that the current mayor has been moving forward. I feel that there are some challenges around that. We just now completed an equity analysis on the redesign of our routes that are negatively impacting our disability community and our most vulnerable, marginalized communities. We're either taking away routes or we're moving routes, which are causing people to walk two or three blocks away to ensure that we have the bus rapid transit system. I support the bus rapid transit system, but we should have conducted a racial and equity analysis at the forefront before we move forward.
What steps will you take to accomplish these goals?
I did a lot of work as deputy mayor to bring the school district leadership together. United Way brought in the criminal juvenile justice system. We brought in other nonprofit organizations, bringing in our foundations who want to support funding programmatic approaches to solving juvenile crime in our community. I want to bring that collaboration together again and reevaluate what we've done and why it's not working. We had the police department as part of the collaborative, but coming up with innovative approaches to reimagining public safety, where we're not solely relying on law enforcement to solve our societal challenges — I think what it's going to take is finding solutions for young people who have committed a crime. Rather than just sending them to the juvenile reception center, we intervene at that moment and provide support for the young person and their families to divert them away from the criminal justice system.
And as far as economic development, I want to work with our business community on their struggle with the staffing shortage. I want to reduce the cumbersome fees that we often implement in the city that prevent economic growth.
When I was the deputy mayor, I supported Housing First, the idea that we house people while providing supportive services. They are gaining rental history. They are getting support so that we are moving them away from poverty and into a sustainable home where they and their children can thrive. We built a couple of Housing First buildings in Madison on the west side and east side. They are functioning really well. That's something I would like to support while also supporting our current homeless shelters because they provide valuable space. Porchlight is an amazing organization that does good work in our community.
I want to do a separate analysis on identifying gaps in transportation needs for vulnerable communities who have to get to work. The south and north sides of Madison are significant gaps.
What other unmet needs are in the Madison community?
Education is one of my priorities as well. A strong educational system supports a strong and resilient city. Without a strong public school system, we're not able to move forward as a city. There has to be a strong connection between city government and school district administration. I don't know what that would look like at this point, but it has to be a strong relationship with the school district to help support their needs, and ways in which the city can elevate, particularly around the areas of youth homelessness. Also making sure that students have the opportunity to explore the trades, so that when they get out of high school and they're not interested in going into a four-year college, there's an alternative.
What would you do differently than Mayor Rhodes-Conway?
I'm a collaborative leader. I would bring experts and residents who are most impacted by a decision together to solve some of our complex issues. I'm not going to work under my own sort of sphere of thoughts and experiences. I'm going to gain experience and ideas from the residents of this community. I will move with a sense of urgency on public safety. Right now, we're not elevating or talking about public safety. There's not a high-level leader who is bringing people together to not only protect residents but also ensure we're not losing our young people to the criminal justice system. I would ensure that we are centering ourselves around equity in making decisions. That is not currently happening right now.
How will your previous experiences influence your work as mayor?
We need somebody right now that has experience working and leading within city government while also working with communities. Because I have that experience, I'm able to bring that into a leadership role as mayor. Our most vulnerable youth will most likely stay in this city. They will work in this city. They will raise a family in this city. It's important to invest in them today rather than having to pay into the future.
Through my experience with Briarpatch Youth Services, I have a good understanding of what the challenges are and how we build the capacity to help our young people. We have to support our nonprofit organizations from a health and wellness standpoint and invest in them.
What other qualifications make you a good candidate?
I'm a woman of color. I’ve experienced poverty and homelessness. I’ve experienced struggle growing up in a hard-working, blue-collared family. Those experiences I’ve brought along throughout my professional career and will bring as the mayor of this city. Lived experience is important in understanding what other people are experiencing. Having empathy in this role is so important.