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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Photos courtesy of Ald. Regina Vidaver (left) and Sen. Melissa Agard (right)

Meet the Dane County executive candidates

Madison Ald. Regina Vidaver and state Sen. Melissa Agard are running to succeed Joe Parisi as the next Dane County executive.

Madison Ald. Regina Vidaver and Democratic state Sen. Melissa Agard are running to replace outgoing Dane County Executive Joe Parisi after he retires in May 2024.

Parisi will retire after serving since 2011, before the official end of his term in May 2025. Dane County Board Chair Patrick Miles will serve as a temporary county executive before appointing an interim county executive prior to the November election. 

Parisi told The Daily Cardinal he hopes the next county executive will have the humility to listen and learn and the courage to act decisively. 

“To be successful in this position, one needs to have a vision for the community, recognize and utilize the talent inside county government, and build strategic partnerships through the community,” Parisi said. 

Here’s what we know about the candidates.

Ald. Regina Vidaver

Vidaver was the first candidate to announce her campaign for county executive in October. She has served as the District 5 alder on Madison’s Common Council since 2021. 

Vidaver’s current district includes neighborhoods west of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s campus on Madison’s near west side. She highlighted accomplishments she said contributed to the “sustainability, equity and vibrancy of the region.”

She established a zero-dollar loan program for child care centers, acted as lead sponsor for the Building Energy Savings and Transportation Demand Management Programs, championed efforts to complete the Madison Public Market project and advocated for the expansion of the Community Alternative Response Emergency Services (CARES) team.

“As I've served, I've witnessed firsthand the challenges we face — from the disparities that exist despite Dane County often being cited as one of the best places to live, to the budgetary issues our communities face and environmental dilemmas threatening our lakes, wildlife, and overall quality of life,” Vidaver said.

Vidaver told the Cardinal her experience as a longtime Madison resident has given her a “valuable perspective on the intricate tapestry of our community's needs.”

“This position is not just another role for me; it's a continuation of my life's work to make Dane County a place where everyone feels seen, heard and supported,” she said. 

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Additionally, Vidaver said her skills in organization, finance, human resources, communications and program management are well-aligned with Dane County’s needs. 

“As someone who is known to get things done, I will effectively lead and manage diverse initiatives, addressing critical community issues with an informed and multifaceted approach,” Vidaver said.

Vidaver said her team is taking a grassroots approach to her campaign. They focus on the members of the community who are most in need by facilitating conversations around the issues that matter most to the people of the county, she said. The campaign includes direct voter contact and fundraising. 

“Too many people in our community are currently struggling, and we need to be laser-focused on ensuring they have the services they need to be able to thrive,” Vidaver said.

Vidaver said her goals for the City of Madison and Dane County align. She told the Cardinal she believes municipal governments should be able to respond to people’s needs, ensure businesses have a strong community to thrive and continue progress towards goals for a more resilient climate.

“The county executive has the responsibility to ensure the services and support are in place to build a strong future for everyone in the region,” Vidaver said. “I look forward to working collaboratively with students, faculty, and staff at UW-Madison to refine goals and approaches that allow the region to grow sustainably, equitably and vibrantly.”

Sen. Melissa Agard

Agard stepped down from the Wisconsin Senate in November to run for Dane County executive. 

Prior to serving in the state Senate, Agard was elected to the Dane County Board of Supervisors for four years and later served four terms in the state Assembly, representing the 48th District in Madison.

Parisi endorsed Agard in her bid for the position on Monday.

“County Executive Joe Parisi has done a fantastic job in balancing the tough choices, and I intend to build upon his work to solidify our communities for generations to come,” Agard said.

Agard told the Cardinal she believes Dane County needs bold leadership with strong Dane County roots and values. She was born and raised in Madison, raised four sons and began her career in public service in Dane County. 

“Dane County is in my blood. We also need someone who understands the importance of county government, but also has a track record of delivering for our residents,” Agard said. “I am not afraid to roll up my sleeves and take on the challenges facing our communities.”

As county executive, Agard said she plans to keep community services provided by the city government accessible for the vulnerable members. She said she hopes to bring real-life experiences of benefiting from government resources to the position.

“I know what it’s like to be on food stamps or be housing insecure. I also know what it’s like to lose family members to the opioid epidemic,” Agard said. “I understand the vital role that our county government plays in supporting our residents, not just because I’ve served as an elected official, but because I’ve lived it.”

Agard said her campaign relies on traditional means of communication with residents and voters, including door-to-door visits, phone calls and mail. She is reaching out to voters through social media, text messages, daily local newspapers, radio and podcasts. 

Agard said she’s spending time with communities around Dane County, meeting with organizations, non-profit groups and individuals to discuss their vision for the county. 

“This will be a very active political year with the presidential campaign,” Agard said. “The great part about that is the increased interest and participation in the election — the more people participate in our democracy, the better it works.”

Agard told the Cardinal her track record of fighting for progressive values — social justice, racial equity, abortion rights and legal cannabis — demonstrate her commitment to making Dane County a better place for all residents.

“While we may not always agree on the front end of a particular issue, what I know is that I will not stop working for a shared-values solution to the issues facing our Dane County and city of Madison residents,” Agard said. “Open communication, a willingness to listen, and bringing diverse voices to the table is the only way we will bring about collective change which honors all our residents.”

The special election for Dane County executive will take place in November, coinciding with the fall presidential election cycle.

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Marin Rosen

Marin Rosen is the City News Editor at The Daily Cardinal and a second-year journalism student. Throughout her time at the Cardinal, she's written articles for city and state news. Follow her on Twitter at @marin_rosen

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