DANE COUNTY BOARD PROVES A SPRINGBOARD FOR WOMEN
February 08, 2018
Sharon Corrigan, County Board Chair 608.333.2285
Berceau, Baldwin among local pols who’ve moved up the ladder
State Rep. Terese Berceau, who announced recently she would not seek reelection to the Wisconsin Assembly, credits her time on the Dane County Board for giving her the confidence as a woman to pursue higher office.
“Serving on the Dane County Board taught me not to be afraid to speak up,” says Berceau who served 10 years on the Board before being elected to the Assembly in 1998.
When first elected to the County Board, Berceau says she tended to keep in the background while her male counterparts would dominate the discussions.
“My experience before I joined the Board was that men in meetings would tend to talk over each other while the women were quiet and waited their turn,” she recalls. “But I once I was elected I realized this wasn’t going to happen with this group, so I figured out pretty quickly I better learn to be assertive.”
Berceau certainly isn’t the only woman to use her experience on the Dane County Board as a springboard to bigger things. Current State Assembly members Rep. Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) and Rep. Melissa Sargent (D - Madison) also served on the Dane County Board before moving on to the Statehouse. And of course there’s U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) who cut her teeth on the Dane County Board before moving up through the political ranks to become one of 21 women currently serving in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C.
“I’m proud to see how the experience gained here can help other women realize their ambition to move on to higher office,” said current Board Chair Sharon Corrigan. “Serving on the Board requires that members learn to work with a diverse group of people. Those are skills you can use for the rest of your career whether in the public or private sector.”
Berceau, who represents the west side of Madison, recalls that the Dane County Board was decidedly male -- and much more conservative -- when she was first elected in 1988. As a liberal, she was also in the minority for 8 of the 10 years she served on the Board.
“There was definitely a curmudgeon mix to it,” she says. “You had a lot of men who had been there a long time and had their own way of doing things. That made it hard on newcomers.”
But times have changed. Today, the County Board counts 14 women among its 37 members.
One of the newest women serving on the Board, Hayley Young of Madison, says she is already picking up valuable lessons from her colleagues.
“I had the opportunity to intern with Rep. Sargent while as a student and work for her from February of 2016 through last November and I feel so fortunate to have had that experience,” says Young. “I feel so lucky to serve with so many amazing women on the County Board and would not have been able to participate as fully in my freshmen budget without their guidance and support.”
With a total budget of over $650 million, the Dane County Board is faced with some major spending decisions on everything from local roads to human services.
“Serving on the County Board you really learn about direct service delivery to citizens,” says Berceau. “That is especially important today.”