Three candidates are running in a special election for a seat on the Dane County Board in the 17th District, which covers parts of Madison’s East and Far East sides. Former Sup. Jeff Pertl left the board earlier this year when he was appointed deputy secretary of the state Department of Children and Families. The top two vote-getters in the May 7 primary will face off in a June 4 election.
Address: 4117 Major Ave.
Family: Married with one son, one grandchild and another on the way
Job: Retired research program manager at UW School of Medicine and Public Health
Prior elected office: 2013-2019 Madison City Council member
Other public service: Tutor, Allis Elementary; board member, Community Action Coalition; numerous neighborhood associations
Education: Master’s degree in science in labor economics, UW-Madison
Address: 4045 Rockwell Drive
Family: Rescue pets
Job: Regulatory compliance and quality specialist, UW Organ & Tissue Donation
Prior elected office: None
Other public service: I have been employed in state service for all of my professional career, first at the University of Wisconsin, then at the state Department of Health Services, and currently at UW Health. Foster home and social media manager, Underdog Pet Rescue of Wisconsin; leader, Equal Justice Foundation; co-president, Environmental Law Society; coordinator, Citizen Lawyer Program/Civic Engagement
Education: Bachelor’s degree in English, Grinnell College; master’s degree in public health, University of Iowa College of Public Health; law degree, University of Iowa College of Law
Address: 3709 Dennett Drive
Job: Peer supporter and early educator
Prior elected office: None
Other public service: Secretary, Dane County TimeBank board
Education: Infant and toddler credential, UW-Platteville; associate degree in liberal studies, Madison College
Why are you the best candidate to represent the district?
Ahrens: I have the experience and shown the commitment to aggressively represent the district. The Capital Times described my six years as a City Council member: “David Ahrens has been an exceptionally hard-working member of the Council. He has not been afraid to ask tough questions and wade into contentious debates.” I have years of experience with county government and serving communities.
Audet: My experience with policy and regulations, government bodies and emergency management has prepared me well for this role. As County Executive Joe Parisi emphasized: “Kristen knows the key to getting things done in local government is one’s ability to collaborate. Her ability to problem-solve in a positive, productive manner will serve us well on the Dane County Board.”
McKaig: I’m District 17’s best candidate because I truly care about our community. I was raised in Dane County. It’s my home. I’m a great listener, and want the voices of our residents to be heard. It’s time to come together as neighbors, and get to know one another. My goal is to make lasting connections while facilitating positive countywide growth.
What is the most pressing issue facing your district, and how would you address that issue?
Ahrens: County responsibility for repair of Buckeye and Cottage Grove Road to improve safety in driving and for pedestrians. Support of intercity transit such as regular bus service from Cottage Grove to Madison that would reduce traffic and housing pressure in the city. Support of affordable housing targeted to lower-income seniors who cannot afford property taxes.
Audet: Dane County needs to support and nurture kids through their entire lives. First, we need affordable housing/transportation/childcare services. Next, we need programs outside of schools for kids to learn and grow from a young age. Last, we need to make sure that Dane County remains affordable for these same children to stay here and raise their own families.
McKaig: I feel the most pressing issue facing District 17 is our environment. This includes runoff into our lakes. We need to come together, be more aware of our actions, and learn how they affect those around us. I would address the issue by being an active committee member, and invite residents of our community to do the same.
What do you think the county is doing well, and what should the county be doing better?
Ahrens: Dane County is a leader in environmental remediation of our lakes and in moving towards zero-carbon operations through its use of renewable energy. It must take on the challenge of constructing a new jail and a facility where individuals with serious mental illness can be diverted and begin treatment. Both are very costly but must be a priority.
Audet: We’re working to reduce the effects of climate change with new initiatives like the landfill biogas facility. We remain focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which is critical for our community and environmental health. The county can better connect with and engage residents and I am eager to see this improve through the 2019 Engage Dane Action Plan.
McKaig: I feel our county is leading the way in Health and Human Services. There is always room for improvement, but what I think the county could focus on improving is communication. We live in an extremely busy world. The county needs to rethink how to best get residents involved, and keep them informed about changes now and looking forward.