Dane County Board district 36 represents the village of Cottage Grove, as well as portions of east Madison and Sun Prairie.
The two candidates running for that seat are incumbent Melissa Ratcliff and challenger Andrew McKinney.
Melissa Ratcliff has lived in the district for the past eight years, and works as a paralegal at Eisenberg Law Offices. She was first elected to the seat of district supervisor in 2018. She has also served as a trustee for the village of Cottage Grove and the Cottage Grove Plan Commission.
Here are some of her top issues:
“I want to work on addressing our county’s broadband needs, whether it relates to gaining access to areas without it, helping people to gain access through affordability, or helping them to gain access through reliability. I also want to work toward addressing the needs of our senior population, including transportation and housing, and look forward to hearing more from the newly-formed regional housing with the county,” Ratcliff says.
Her challenger, Andrew McKinney, declined to be interviewed for this story. But, WORT did speak with McKinney in 2018, when he ran for a seat on the Monona Grove School Board. He beat out three other challengers in that election, and currently serves as the vice president of Monona Grove school board. McKinney also serves on the Dane County Youth Commission. In 2020, he lost a bid for state senate to current senator Melissa Agard.
McKinney grew up in Gary, Indiana, and moved to Dane County when he was in high school. After serving in the U-S Army, McKinney went on to get a degree in business management and a masters in Education Counseling from Concordia University.
McKinney told WORT in 2018 – when he was running for Monona Grove School Board – that he considers himself an underdog.
“I have learned… I went to the military because I failed out of college the first time I went, because I was not prepared. I want to bring all that back, from the military, and what I’ve learned in my life, and bring that back to the table for kids who need that direction. Again, I’m a very tall Black man so, a lot of things have come as an underdog, and I’ve been turned from a lot of things. But my passion of coaching, mentoring, teaching, counseling kids, I just want to do well for my community and hopefully I can get everybody’s vote,” McKinney said.
In an interview with Madison 365, he says, as a disabled veteran, one of his biggest focuses is providing resources for underrepresented and ignored communities. He says that, as a Black man who grew up in Gary, Indiana and later Madison, he understands the racial disparities that exist in Dane County.
Ratcliff says that one of the biggest issues facing the county is equal access to broadband. Ratcliff is the chair of the Broadband Task Force here in Dane County, which was created last year to study internet access in Dane County and to figure out how to expand access to underserved communities.
“Broadband access is a huge issue that affects everyone, especially our rural areas in Dane County, because our current maps through the PSC (the Public Service Commission) are inaccurate. It makes it look like Dane County has really good access to broadband when we know that’s not the case,” Ratcliff says.
That task force is set to present their findings on how to address broadband access later this summer.
McKinney says that a main priority for him is eliminating racial disparities in Dane County. His campaign website mentions improving mental health and homelessness services in Dane County as top issues.
One place where they seem to agree is the Dane County Jail Consolidation Project.
McKinney told the Wisconsin State Journal that the project needs to happen. He believes that a new jail could work with nonprofit organizations in the community to address the racial disparities with the criminal justice system.
Ratcliff helped to lead the charge to get the project moving forward again, after the price tag for the original jail skyrocketed over the pandemic. With the help of other supervisors, she co-wrote a new plan that would allow the aging jail in the City-County building to close, while bringing the project closer to its original budget.
Ratcliff and McKinney will face off during the April 5th spring election.
Photo courtesy: Dane County Board of Supervisors