County Board Supervisor Paul Rusk Dies
October 12, 2020
County Board Chair Analiese Eicher, (608) 571-6823
County Board Supervisor Paul Rusk died over the weekend at his home. He was 65 years old.
Supervisor Rusk was a long-time member of the County Board, having first been elected in 2002 to represent District 12 encompassing the Village of Maple Bluff and the Northside of Madison. He was a proud Northsider, and was passionate about serving his district, working collaboratively with area leaders to make sure their voices were heard. He was always available for a community meeting, a phone call, or a cup of coffee to discuss issues, brainstorm ideas, or just listen and offer support.
Paul served as the chair of the Dane County Board’s Public Protection and Judiciary Committee for twelve and a half years, stepping down from that role in the Fall of 2018. Currently he served as a member of the Public Works and Transportation Committee.
"Paul was a good and principled man," said County Board Chair Analiese Eicher. "I will dearly miss his friendship, as well as his intellect and sound counsel, as the County Board addresses the challenges ahead."
In the dozen-plus years that Paul led the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee, from 2006 to 2018, the county addressed many challenging issues throughout the criminal justice system. When he assumed the chair in 2006, the county had just opened the new courthouse. In the years that followed, the committee dealt with the crisis with the Public Safety Communications Center; the 2009 report detailing racial disparities in the criminal justice system and the priority of facing head on and changing this reality; the creation of the Criminal Justice Council to bring key officials together to solve problems; and the community-driven process created by 2014 Res-556 to address the issues of racial disparities and mental health in the jail and throughout the criminal justice system. Paul worked to find a way to close the outdated jail facility in the City County Building, provide desperately needed programming and medical beds, and decrease the number of jail beds. His focus was how to best protect public safety while providing a fair and just system.
Paul grew up in Daly City, California and spent his adult life in Madison. He worked for U.S. Representative Robert Kastenmeier, Wisconsin State Senator Calvin Potter, and as the director of the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin.
"Paul cared deeply about Dane County, and his dedication, hard work, and compassion changed our community for the better," said Eicher. "He made a difference."
Paul graduated from UW-Madison in 1977 with a degree in horticulture, and earned a master’s degree in public policy from the UW in 1991. As a student body leader and senior class president, he spoke at the 1977 spring commencement, saying, "We must always remember that we–the people of this nation–should and can be ‘the powers that be’." Decades later, Paul commented, "I wanted to leave a message that we, as new, young graduates, had our whole lives in front of us, and we really could substantially make changes in the world."