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Madison neighborhood leaders level up

Madison neighborhood leaders level up

This is part of a package of stories on the 2021 Madison City Council election. Find the other pieces HERE.

Some candidates are looking to take their neighborhood leadership and experiences to the next level.

“Neighborhood association activism is a very helpful attribute because you’re intimately familiar with one neighborhood and what those issues are, but you’re also likely to have experience working with city officials and also working with neighboring neighborhood activists and adjacent neighborhood associations that have common issues,” Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said.

From former alders and council candidates to neighborhood association leaders, these community members now want to expand on their hyperlocal work.

Nikki Conklin, running in District 9, cites her community roots as what makes her stand out against three opponents, including an incumbent. Conklin has lived in Wexford Ridge on the west side for 10 years and is involved with the Lussier Community Center and the Neighborhood Organizing Institute.

Nikki Conklin

Nikki Conklin

“I’m running for City Council because I am a deeply rooted community member that’s been living, breathing and working within her community and trying to empower and uplift all the folks around me,” Conklin, 35, said. “I thought, what better way to have my voice heard than to have a seat at the table.”

Former alder and mayoral candidate Anthony “Nino” Amato, 69, and Doug Hyant, 31, are also challenging Ald. Paul Skidmore, who has held the seat since 2005. Amato served on the council in 1975 while living in Allied Drive.

Hyant and his wife, who moved to the neighborhood January 2019, currently hold leadership roles within their neighborhood association. He spoke to the need for greater communication in his district. 

“It’s about forming that community as an elected official,” Hyant said. 

In District 20, Erica Janisch, 34, is again challenging Ald. Christian Albouras after running against him in 2019. She is involved with the Toki Middle School PTA, MSCR, Falk School’s renaming committee and the city’s Affirmative Action Commission.

“This last year moms have really stood out — especially in this pandemic — because we have sacrificed so much, and we have shown that we are able to juggle a home while also taking on the task of bringing forth equity in our community,” Janisch said. 

David Hoffert, a former president of two neighborhood associations, is another returning 2019 council candidate and is challenging Evers for the District 13 seat. Hoffert, 34, lost to Evers two years ago following a competitive four-way primary for the near west side district.

Yannette Figueroa Cole, 51, is one of two candidates running for the open District 10 seat. She has worked with the Friends of the State Street Family organization as an outreach specialist, board member and data analyst and has been involved with the Dunn’s Marsh Neighborhood Association.

“The year 2020 has brought a lot of pain and misery for many people but at the same time has opened a door to so many opportunities for people in positions of power to actually make change,” Figueroa Cole said.

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