Dane County Board of Supervisors Chair Patrick Miles appointed labor organizer Jay Brower on Tuesday to fill the campus-area District 13 seat vacated by former Supervisor Olivia Xistris-Songpanya.
Xistris-Songpanya resigned from the seat in August, prompting a hearing for candidates seeking to fill the vacant seat until the end of the term in spring 2024. Brower, a labor organizer with SEIU Wisconsin and former professor at Western Connecticut State University, applied to fill the vacancy along with two other candidates: Town of Berry Supervisor Travis Austin and WPS Health Solutions Vice President Sara Redford.
District 13 has a very large student population and encompasses much of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus as well as campus-area housing around the Kohl Center and Camp Randall Stadium.
Brower told The Daily Cardinal he is looking to “connect” his student constituents with the board.
“Universities are the place in our society where new ideas emerge,” Brower said in an email. “Student activism around central political issues is one way those ideas take hold in the mainstream.”
“As I start this position, I certainly think it’s important to engage the campus,” he added.
Brower named criminal justice as a key area of focus and pointed to the board’s search for a new director of the Office of Criminal Justice Reform. The office was created in the county’s 2023 budget to reduce racial disparities in the county’s criminal justice system.
The office’s current director, former Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney, ends his term in early 2024. The next director must be qualified to lead the county’s criminal justice reform initiatives, Brower said.
“It’s important that the county hire a director who can bring an interdisciplinary perspective that addresses the breadth of concerns in the criminal justice system that extend well beyond policing,” Brower said.
Brower also stressed the importance of addressing economic inequality in Madison.
“It is obvious to even a casual observer that there is a grossly unequal distribution of wealth in society,” he said. “At the county level, I intend to think carefully about how the tax dollars used to support public initiatives will circulate in the county and improve the lives of working people.”
Brower said he intends to run for the District 13 seat in spring of 2024 and has begun collecting the necessary signatures to appear on the ballot.
Miles also appointed candidates to fill two other vacant board seats that opened up after former Supervisors Alex Joers and Mike Bare resigned in August. Verona City Council President Chad Kemp was appointed to represent District 32, which encompasses much of Verona, and former Supervisor Steven Peters will serve as supervisor for District 9, which includes part of west Madison.
Miles said in a press statement he was “pleased” to see multiple “quality candidates” apply to represent each of the three districts.
“I think each person I am appointing holds views consistent with the incumbent the voters last chose,” Miles said. “I look forward to working with them as we address important issues in the coming budget cycle.”
The board will vote to confirm the appointments Thursday at the County Board of Supervisors meeting.