It is with a mixture of sweet sadness and hope for the future that I inform you of my intention to step down as county executive next April.
That will mark the 14th year since I was first elected in April of 1997. I have given this job my all. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity the people of Dane County have given me. Together, we have done important and meaningful work on the problems people care about, work that has made a difference for our County, for our fellow human beings, for our future.
I have been elected more times than any previous Dane County Executive; I have served a full five years longer than any other Dane County Executive; and I believe I am the third longest serving county executive in the history of the state. My election as the first woman Dane County Executive was historic; I am grateful those days are a distant memory and that now any woman can believe she has the opportunity to serve.
Some wise person once said that there are no mysteries in life, just facts we don’t know. Let me remove any mystery about my stepping down by giving you the facts: I am healthy, happily married, and , of course, I am replaceable. I am not angling for another political job and there is no ulterior motive.
Quite simply, this is the right decision at the right time for the right reasons.
I have served as County Executive for 14 productive and successful years. The three principles I tried hard to follow were taught to me by my parents and grandparents: Don’t waste land, don’t waste money and don’t waste kids. I’d like to think they’d be proud of my 14 year record on each – and I’m handing out a list of some of the work we’ve accomplished. We’ve created unique programs to help moms and dads get jobs so the next generation has a healthy start and can move out of poverty; we’ve created national “firsts” for environmental protection and we’ve protected over 10,000 acres of land for future generations to enjoy forever. And we’ve proven you can have both progressive policies and fiscal restraint can – and ought to -- go hand-in-hand. I have fulfilled the two promises I made when I was last re-elected in April 2009: to build the first ever community manure digester in the nation to keep phosphorus out of our lakes (and we’re working on the second); and to launch real cultural change around the big costs and wholesale suffering from our community’s abuse of alcohol – and our coalition has already made a difference!
As I looked at what I set out to do, what we have done and where I can best serve, the answer was clear: as I approach the 7th decade of my life, it is time for me to find that next chapter of how I can make a contribution. By announcing my intention now, the new County Executive can be elected during the regularly-scheduled April 2011 election. And, there is ample time for anyone who wishes to enter what I expect will be a spirited and competitive race.
I don’t know what the next chapter is for me; but changing the world is what I will continue to do! I ask for your counsel to help me find it and I ask for your continued confidence in me. I will leave with profound gratitude for the honor of serving the one-half million Dane County citizens; and for serving with 2500 hardworking county employees and elected officials – and especially my immediate staff who gave 110% of the highest level of integrity and public service every single day. Thank you all for all that you have done to help me serve.