Pranee Sheskey emigrated from Thailand in 1972 and in the subsequent 49 years has become a citizen, an elections worker, a community volunteer and the owner of purebred greyhounds — the last of which was inspired by the sleek racing dogs’ resemblance to some of the players of her favorite sport, American football.
Sheskey, 67, is retired and has lived for more than two decades with her husband, Gary, in a North Side house with a large, fenced-in yard that provides a bit of running room for FarRell, EnRon and a foster dog named VeNito. She’s had six greyhounds since 1994, but never to race; she considers the sport cruel.
A poll worker since 2008 and a volunteer interviewer for the Fire Department since 2017, Sheskey said she’s enjoyed being part of making government and democracy work.
“When they see somebody they know that works at the polls, they have more trust in you,” she said.
How did you become
a poll worker?I didn’t know anything about elections or the process and then one day while I was working the state sent out an email looking for poll workers. And I said, well, this is very interesting. An African American man is running, and I wanted to be part of the history if (Barack Obama) made it. I wanted to be part of the process of this man making history.
2020 was quite a
year for elections.Starting in April, August and November, that was crazy. There were a lot of preparations because more people applied for absentee ballots. There was a lot more work. I think I did everything in all capacities. I worked from Sept. 2 all the way through Election Day.
Given that, did the elections run smoothly?Yes. They hired a lot of hourly people and we started early. And then we had people who were concerned about how we return the cast ballots. They were all concerned about voter fraud and all that.
Yes, about those allegations ...There is no fraud. It’s not like you can just pick (a bag of ballots) up and go shopping. I think these people are concerned because they don’t know the process. People were making comments on (Nextdoor). I think the Nextdoor app is people just wanting to say anything and everything just because they’re not busy. I’m like, “Do you want to take my dog for a walk?” They just complain about anything and everything. It’s just like somebody needs to get a new job or a new hobby.
What should people know about greyhounds?Have you heard this thing that they call a 45-mile-an-hour couch potato? They can sprint up to 45 mph. They get all excited and frisky and then they go into couch potato (mode). They like to sprint; they don’t like to walk. We have a big yard; they like it much better when it’s fresh snow because they think it’s sand. At the racetrack it’s all sand.
What got you interested in the breed?I never did like dogs because in my country all dogs are stray dogs. I was bitten by dogs a few times. And then a friend of mine wanted to go to Wisconsin Dells to see dog races. I said no, I don’t want to go, so they just scooped me off the ground and threw me in the van. While they were having fun I was sitting in the corner pouting. When they fired the gun, all the dogs just popped right out and I looked at them and they were so graceful. I love football; I love wide receivers. And it just reminded me of wide receivers when they catch the ball and reach out. Since that day, I told people I hate dogs but if I’m ever going to have a dog it’s going to be a greyhound. (Later), a girlfriend was out traveling and she didn’t want (her boyfriend) to be alone on Father’s Day. So she asked me to take him out on her behalf. The next thing I know he just pulls up at the dog track adoption center at Wisconsin Dells. A few days later, I sent in an application.
Have you ever felt you were treated differently in Madison because of your ethnicity?Really nobody bothered me, other than at my job. I felt that I was discriminated against by my employer twice. Whatever I say is not right. Whatever I do is not right. So I told them to do it themselves. So one day I got really mad and pulled up my sleeve and said, “just because I’m brown, just because I’ve got slanted eyes, just because I’ve got an accent, you’re no better than me.” I’m not a minority because I’m minority; I’m a minority because there are less of me than your kind. As far as up here (points to head) there is no such thing as minority.
Tell me about your work with aspiring firefighters?Every two years they recruit firefighters. Once they pass a written exam, the city of Madison invites them for an interview. We are the first panel to interview these people, and there are seven or eight panels and it’s all day long, five days a week. What I look for is, do I want this person to come and give me CPR? What kind of demeanor do they have? There was one year three of the people I interviewed were hired. I was so happy.
Know Your Madisonian 2020: a collection of profiles from our weekly series
"If you don't interact with people you're going to get some bad vibes and your day is just going to be screwed up."
Paul Schwoerer grew up in Madison but learned his dumpling-making craft in Alaska.
Eric Sarno's book, “Stroke Runner: My Story of Stroke, Survival, Recovery and Advocacy,” was released in October.
Ian Santin, 16, is using his self-taught coding skills to crank out software and video games he hopes to one day turn into a business.
Amber Gilles, the only full-time female patrol officer at Madison Area Technical College, is on the committee for the Rainbow Scholarship, which helps students who identify as LGBTQ or an ally pay for school.
Know Your Madisonian: Madison-Area Urban Ministry's executive director of 14 years says she's proud she gets to make a dent in creating systemic change.
Paul Hendrickson just took over Savory Sunday's main fundraiser -- Grillin' 4 Peace, held annually on frozen Lake Wingra.
"Who doesn't like to just touch a dog and pet them for a minute and talk about their own dogs or their own families?" Pam Prestegard says.
Michelle Somes-Booher helps anyone from entrepreneurs with an idea written on a paper napkin to owners of growing small businesses who need to learn to manage larger teams.
"We are seeing nearly double the amount of people in need ... and making sure everyone stays as safe as possible," Chris Kane says.
Charles McLimans said the coronavirus outbreak has put considerable strain on area residents, boosting demand for the nonprofit's services.
Dr. Nasia Safdar helps lead UW Health’s response to COVID-19 and assists in explaining the pandemic to the media and the public.
He's known for The Gomers and many other Madison bands, but Biff Blumfumgagnge also has been the guitar tech for King Crimson's Robert Fripp for the past 15 years.
TJ McCray managed virtual schools before coming to the Madison School District, which is now teaching all students online due to COVID-19.
City Information Technology director Sarah Edgerton says the IT department spent 591 hours in March setting up digital meetings.
For the past three months, with students not in school and unable to come to the center, Terrence Thompson's been at a loss.
After years in Washington, D.C., working on legislation related to rural and agricultural life, Kelliann Blazek is leading WEDC's new Office of Rural Prosperity.
Jake Baggott talks about the biggest pandemic decision UW-Madison made and how he tries to avoid "Zoom fatigue."
UW-Madison associate professor Ajay Sethi has paid close attention to misinformation related to COVID-19.
Laurie Warren Jones has turned her North Side home into a one-woman assembly in the past five months to churn out thousands of masks to be donated.
Justin Stuehrenberg never used a public bus until he went to college and was impressed with the efficiency and value of a good bus system.
Ayomi Obuseh said she and her peers wanted to show the community where the youth stand.
Maria Redmond is the director -- and so far only employee -- of the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, which Gov. Tony Evers created to transition Wisconsin to carbon-free electricity by 2050.
Jacob Frost, who was born with a form of muscular dystrophy, is Dane County's first disabled person to serve as a judge.
"I didn’t want to be the agitator. I didn’t want to be the disruptor. But in real life that’s just who I am," Brandi Grayson said.
DJing is "more of an outlet for me because my job is so heavy," Vanessa McDowell says. "When I'm DJing, it's not work for me. I'm having fun."
In high school it was kind of, "Oh, it's a high school job."
Dr. Ryan Westergaard is one of the main public faces of the state’s response to COVID-19.
As an IT consultant for the state judiciary and a youth soccer coach, Matt Kohl has found himself adapting to the fluid environment of COVID-19.
Armstrong has dedicated nearly 40 years of his life to restoring local landscapes in Wisconsin.
"There is no fraud. It's not like you can just pick (a bag of ballots) up and go shopping. I think these people are concerned because they don't know the process."
In this Series
- 21 updates