Former Madison Ald. David Ahrens and Kristen Audet, who has no elected experience but has worked with the Dane County Democrats, are vying for the 17th District seat on the County Board. The special election, which is Tuesday, was called after the departure of former-Sup. Jeff Pertl, who now works for Gov. Tony Evers.
Address: 4117 Major Ave., Madison
Family: Married with one son, two step-daughters, one grandchild and one on the way
Job: Former Research Program Manager at UW School of Medicine and Public Health
Prior elected office: Former Madison alderman, 2013-2019
Other public service: Tutor, Allis Elementary; board member, Community Action Coalition; numerous neighborhood associations
Education: Master’s degree in labor economics, UW- Madison
Address: 4045 Rockwell Drive, Madison
Job: Regulatory compliance, UW Organ & Tissue Donation
Prior elected office: None
Other public service: Social media and communications manager, fundraising event coordinator, foster home, and leadership board member for Underdog Pet Rescue; co-chairwoman, Environmental Law Society; board member, Equal Justice Foundation; treasurer, Heather Driscoll for County Board; delegate to the state party, Dane County Democrats
Education: Bachelor’s degree in English, Grinnell College; law degree, University of Iowa College of Law; master’s degree in public health, University of Iowa College of Public Health
What makes you a better choice to represent the district over your opponent?
Ahrens: I have six years of service as an Alder in this district and 20 years of community service. My opponent has no record of community service and moved to the district this year. I have a record of winning difficult issues for my community (Pinney Library) and fighting wasteful spending (Judge Doyle Square). I have shown my commitment to this community.
Audet: Voters and elected officials alike continually tell me that they have chosen to support me because:
I have the right temperament to be an effective leader on the County Board.
I know when to fight and when to collaborate.
I have extensive experience coordinating with state, county and city agencies as well as in creating progressive and inclusive policies.
What would be your top priorities and why?
Ahrens: Providing a fair share of county resources to the residents of Madison and particularly the East Side. Restoring the county’s most important feature and asset: the lakes. Use the wheel tax to improve city transportation, not only rural roads. We’ve spent $4 million studying the jail. It’s time to do something about it.
Audet: As our governor says, “what’s best for kids is best for our state.” We need a safer, healthier community for everyone. We need affordable housing, transportation, and child care services; inclusive, fun programs for kids to attend after school; and to ensure that Dane County remains affordable so these same kids can one day also buy their first homes here.
What is an issue specific to your district, and how would you work to solve it?
Ahrens: Work with leaders of county villages and cities to receive a fair share of transportation funds. The county must assume responsibility for the repair of Buckeye and Cottage Grove Rd. to improve driver and pedestrian safety. These are county trunk highways. To reduce traffic, pilot program to run inter-city buses from Cottage Grove and Sun Prairie during peak hours.
Audet: Public health and safety: My professional experience and work with the state/county/city will ensure we have comprehensive plans to respond to extreme events like flooding. I will support policy that prevents public safety issues: investing in mental health care for all ages, addressing the opioid crisis, and making sure people can afford to stay in their homes.