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District 12 City Council candidates

From top left clockwise, Syed Abbas, Diane Farsetta, Lydia Maurer and Mark-Anthony Whitaker are running for District 12.  

Four candidates are running for Madison City Council's District 12 seat. A fifth candidate, James Stansfield, is on the ballot but dropped out of the race.

Currently held by Larry Palm, District 12 encompasses a large swath of Madison's north side that includes the Dane County Regional Airport and the former Oscar Mayer site. Palm decided not to run for re-election after 14 years in office. 


Syed Abbas

Syed Abbas

Syed Abbas

Age: 32

Profession: Energy efficiency project manager for an independent nonprofit that advances sustainability through energy consulting, continuing education, research and program design

Education: Master's degree in public policy and human development from the United Nations University at Maastricht University in the Netherlands in 2014; master's degree in mass communication and journalism from Beaconhouse National University in Pakistan in 2011; bachelor's degree in mass communication and journalism from Forman Christian College in Pakistan in 2009

Political experience: Co-Chair of the Eken Park Neighborhood Association, vice chair and citizen member of the Public Safety Review Committee, member of the Oscar Mayer Strategic Assessment Committee and member of the Task Force on Equity in Music and Entertainment

Other public service: Volunteered for Youth for Human Rights International

Campaign website: www.syedfordistrict12.com

What brought you to Madison? How long have you lived in the city and in your district?

My wife, Holly, and I met in New York City when I was working at the United Nations. She describes herself as a Madison-born, Wisconsin girl. After getting my master's degree in public policy and human development and many years in the Big Apple, we moved back to Madison nearly three years ago to be closer to family and to start our own family. My mother-in-law lives Up North and we have family in Chicago, but we chose Madison because of the people, community, culture and all the things the city has to offer a family. I've lived in Madison for three years and in Eken Park for most of those three years.

Why are you running for City Council?

Working with people, helping my community, makes me come alive.

What sets you apart from your opponents?

My passion for community problem solving and my experience and background. 

What is the greatest challenge facing a) Madison and b) your district and how do you plan to fix it?

There are many challenges facing Madison that I am concerned about, including the opioid crisis and creating safe communities. My district is facing similar issues, but one of the biggest concerns in my district is the high unemployment rate. According to the City of Madison Neighborhood Indicators Project in our district Sherman Park has an alarming unemployment rate of 11.7 percent. While working on the Oscar Mayer Strategic Committee, I focused on jobs for our diverse community and ensuring a diversity of ownership, while prioritizing the needs of local businesses. As an alder candidate and if elected, I am going to create more livable wage jobs for communities with high unemployment.

What do you love most about your district?

The people. 


Diane Farsetta

Diane Farsetta

Diane Farsetta

Age: 46

Profession: Senior outreach specialist for UW-Madison School of Nursing

Education: Bachelor of arts degree in biology from the University of Delaware in 1994; Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology from UW-Madison in 2000

Political experience: Graduate of the Wisconsin Women’s Policy Institute, organizer of advocacy days at the state Capitol around immigrant rights, clean energy and other priorities of member groups of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice

Other public service: Member of Emerson East Neighborhood Association steering committee, member of city of Madison’s Sister City Collaboration Committee, volunteer for Madison Tiny Home Village, Madison-area Urban Ministry and WORT community radio  

Campaign website: www.dianefor12.org

What brought you to Madison? How long have you lived in the city and in your district?

I moved to Madison nearly 25 years ago to attend UW-Madison. I’ve lived in District 12 since 2007 in a nearly 100-year-old house with my husband Eric, a public school teacher and union representative, our dog and three chickens (well, they’re in the backyard).

Why are you running for City Council? 

I’ve put down deep roots in the community and want to give back in another way. Madison is facing important decisions that will affect our transportation system, environmental health and community resilience. I’m running for City Council to ensure that those choices make life here better for all.

What sets you apart from your opponents?

I know that we all share a commitment to the community. My unique qualification is a mix of decades of grassroots activism along with engagement on policy matters at the local and state levels. 

What is the greatest challenge facing a) Madison and b) your district and how do you plan to fix it?

Madison’s foundational challenge is to expand opportunity and steer growth in ways that reduce disparities. District 12 has a deep sense of community, but some areas struggle with issues around housing or access to local resources. If elected to the City Council, I will work to strengthen collaborations and physical connectivity, including bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. The redevelopment of the Oscar Mayer site and the Madison Public Market are two exciting opportunities for our district to expand area employment, affordable housing, local food and transportation alternatives.  

What do you love most about your district?

Warner Park is a real gem. Its natural beauty and wildlife thrive alongside the Mallards stadium, community center and well-used trails. My husband and I got married there, next to the lagoon.  


Lydia Maurer

Lydia Maurer

Lydia Maurer

Age: 50

Profession: Program assistant supervisor for the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Human Services at Mendota Mental Health Institute  

Education: Bachelor's degree from Iowa State University, administrator credential from UW-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education

Political experience: Involved with the city's Pedestrian, Bicycle & Motor Vehicle Commission 

Other public service: Volunteer for the Berkeley Oaks Neighborhood Association

What brought you to Madison? How long have you lived in the city and in your district?

Originally from the west coast of Wisconsin, Iowa, my family and I moved to Madison in 2001, where our first home was in the Vera Court apartment community. We moved to the district in 2003 and have since called the Berkeley Oaks neighborhood our home.

Why are you running for City Council?  

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I am passionate about improving the district, and I want to bring that passion to the City Council. I am running for City Council because I have the skills and experience necessary to increase and improve housing options, to foster discussion within and between communities, and I am eager to have this opportunity to use these skills to serve and benefit all of the district’s families, neighborhoods and communities.  

What sets you apart from your opponents?

My business experience, working with children and families and advocating with them at the city and state level is a wealth of experience I want to bring to city government. From volunteering time and being involved in neighborhood advocacy, many things were accomplished through collaboration and community organizing — skills I will bring to the City Council.

What is the greatest challenge facing a) Madison and b) your district and how do you plan to fix it?

When my mom and daughter survived Joplin, Missouri's EF5 tornado in 2011, I realized emergency preparedness and response at the neighborhood and district level must be strengthened to protect health and safety from superstorms, disasters and other emergencies. Expanding emergency training, education and resources throughout the district will reduce the risk of harm and increase the rate of recovery following disasters.

Affordable housing is a challenge facing the city of Madison. The city's population increases an average of 3,000 annually which leads to an increased demand for housing. With rising home values and rents, the cost of housing is rising faster than the wages of minimum to medium wage earners and retirees. It will take community involvement and a responsive city alder, council and mayor to guide the preservation of residential, single-family homes while incorporating senior, multi-family or multi-unit housing into the character of existing neighborhoods.

What do you love most about your district?

The vibrancy of District 12's neighborhoods, the success and uniqueness of D12's small businesses and the occasional view of two chihuahuas riding on a moped sporting helmets, goggles and tongue-wagging grins. 


Anthony Whitaker

Anthony Whitaker

Mark-Anthony Whitaker

Age: 31

Profession: Information technologist, Meriter Hospital

Education: Microsoft Certified IT Professional

Political experience: None

Other public service: Military veteran, Iraq War

What brought you to Madison? How long have you lived in the city and in your district?

In 2011, my fiancé and I decided to relocate to the city where he grew up. We have lived in the 12th district since our return.

Why are you running for City Council?

I am running for alder because I believe Madison can be an inclusive community if all voices are involved in decision making. I’ve witnessed this from the moment I stepped foot in the state and saw everyday citizens, of all races and ethnicities, fighting to have their government listen to their voices.

What sets you apart from your opponents?

I believe I have a more accurate view of the racial and wealth divides and will actually listen to those who often are excluded from conversations on how to address those issues.

What is the greatest challenge facing a) Madison and b) your district and how do you plan to fix it?

Both Madison and District 12 will face many new challenges in the coming decade, including a changing climate, a broken public transit system and a growing population. However, the greatest challenge we face as one community is our growing wealth, income and racial disparities. Madison is an amazing city for some families. Our greatest challenge will be eradicating those disparities from our community.

What do you love most about your district?

I love the people in District 12. We have an eclectic mix of families and businesses that make District 12 a beautiful place to raise a family. I love the pride and support we have in each other. I love that even in our most divisive times, we can come together to get the job done.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.