Dane County Board district 24 represents most of Monona, and parts of east Madison. There are two people running for the supervisory seat for this district, incumbent Sarah Smith and Clint Keaveny.
Keaveny, another political newcomer, grew up in Monona and has a degree in political science from Boston College. After returning to Monona in 2020, he led the No Bad Cops in Monona campaign, after the Monona police department sought to hire an officer with a history of excessive use of force complaints. The officer eventually had the job offer rescinded.
Keaveny says that he first got interested in politics after experiencing the health care system first hand.
“I didn’t become politically aware until I was late in high school or early in college when I was living with chronic pain that I was unable to afford to treat. That led me to learn a bit about the different systems in our society that aren’t serving folks well. After college, I wanted to get into health care policy. I moved to Washington DC and did some work there in that field and then at the beginning of the pandemic I moved back here to Monona, wanting to get involved at the local level where I thought I could have the most impact,” Keaveny says.
Keaveny has been endorsed by the Dane County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, and the Wisconsin State Journal.
Smith was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2020, and serves on the Sustainability Committee in the city of Monona. She first moved to Madison in 2010 to attend school at U-W Madison, where she got a degree in history and a Masters in Educational Policy.
She says she is running for reelection because she says there are issues that still need to be addressed.
“I’m running for reelection because my work is not finished yet. When I first stepped up to run in 2019, I spoke with folks at the doors about clean water, about housing access, and a lot of those issues have continued, and in some cases, exacerbated by the pandemic, gotten worse,” Smith says.
Smith also has a list of endorsements to her name, including Representatives Shelia Stubbs and Melissa Agard, Dane County Board Chair Analiese Eicher, and Monona Mayor Mary O’Connor.
The Democratic Party of Dane County has endorsed both candidates. So far, the district 24 race is the only race where the organization has endorsed more than one candidate.
Keaveny says that within District 24, he is concerned that the bar for hiring police officers is too low. Citing the No Bad Cops in Monona campaign, as well as another incident where police handcuffed and drew their guns on a man staying in the home of a friend, he says that police in Dane County need more accountability, and that a stricter hiring process is needed.
Keaveny says another one of his biggest concerns is the water quality in Madison lakes. He says that the lakes are one of Madison’s biggest resources, and that it is tragic that the people can no longer swim in the lakes.
Smith is also concerned about the water quality in Madison.
“This is a huge issue that comes up quite a bit, I mean this is a lakeside district so of course the city of Monona is half the district and the other half of the district is in the Madison side, so that’s something I definitely hear about quite a bit. Just this last weekend when I was knocking on doors I spoke with a fisherman who spoke with me about his concerns with being able to eat the fish and being able to feed the fish to his family that he catches in Lake Monona. PFAS contamination in Starkweather Creek and now in Lake Monona has made it very risky and potentially unsafe for people to eat more than one fish per month for certain species of fish that are caught in Lake Monona. People shouldn’t have to be concerned about the safety and the health of the fish in the lakes and of swimming in the lakes,” Smith says.
Keaveny says that his number one priority in Dane County is housing. He says that he thinks that Dane County could see even more people move to the area in the coming decades due to our proximity to clean fresh water.
“County wide, I think the most important thing is to increase the housing supply and make sure that housing is affordable for working families. Within the last 10 years, 75,000 people have moved to the county and it is projected that another 200,000 will be added in the next 20 years. Frankly, I think that might be an underestimate as the consequences of climate change are concentrated on the west coast with wildfires and severe droughts. People are going to be moving to the Great Lakes Region over the next few decades, and if we are not extremely proactive about building housing and building diverse housing so people can have ownership over where they live, we are going to see an even greater increase in inequality and that’s something that we have to address right now,” Keaveny says.
Smith says that she is also concerned about housing in Dane County. She says that it’s not just a city of Madison issue, and that it affects all areas of the county. Smith sits on the City-County Homeless Issues committee, and says that more housing needs to be created so that unhoused folks can have the resources they need to find housing.
If you’re looking at the two candidates and say that they share a lot in common, well you’d be right, and they would even agree with you.
Keaveny says what sets him apart from Smith is a new perspective on how to address the challenges that face Dane County.
“I bring new ideas to the table, both with public safety and with fighting toxic algae blooms, as well as housing issues. I have no issues with Sarah’s voting record, I think we have very similar values, but she is more along the status quo. The Dane County status quo is not bad, I think the Dane County Board does a good job, but I think that we need a fresh perspective on some of these matters, and that’s what I bring to the table,” Keaveny says.
Meanwhile, Smith says that her experience and track record in the seat, along with the endorsements she’s received, set her apart.
“I have a consistent track record and I have consistent values that the people of District 24 can count on. That’s why I’ve gotten the support of local leaders like Monona Mayor Mary O’Connor, Representative Jimmy Anderson, Senator Melissa Agard, and as I announced earlier today, every Democratic woman representing Dane County in our state legislature has endorsed me in this race. I’ve earned that support because they know they trust me, they can count on me, and they’ve seen me achieve things they support at a county level,” Smith says.
The spring election takes place on April 5th.
Photo courtesy: Dane County Board of Supervisors