Madison voters spoke loud and clear in Tuesday’s mayoral election: They’re ready for new leadership and a more collaborative style at City Hall.
Satya Rhodes-Conway, the wonky think-tank manager and former City Council member, won big against longtime if not legendary Mayor Paul Soglin.
Voters chose a fresh face with lots of ideas and a more relaxed and optimistic style over Soglin’s 22 years of experience as mayor, many successes, supreme confidence, and prickly personality. Soglin had changed his mind about leaving office last fall after running a failed bid for the Democratic nomination for governor. That about-face surely turned off some voters.
But it was Rhodes-Conway’s spirited campaign and theme of pulling people together that was refreshing and proved a winning formula. She didn’t just win on the Isthmus and Downtown, where she was expected to do well with younger and more progressive voters. She won across much of the city.
Rhodes-Conway, 47, represents a new era for Madison. She’s part of a new generation taking over positions of power long dominated by baby boomers. And nobody signified the old guard who protested in the 1960s more than Soglin, 73.
We thank Soglin for his dedication to the city all of these year. He helped foster a healthy economy and exciting Downtown. He pushed for the creation of State Street Mall and Monona Terrace. More recently, he has succeeded in reducing deadly shootings and encouraging growth to help pay for improved social services. His tenure at the top may never be matched.
But voters were right. It was time for a change.
Rhodes-Conway will draw on her experience helping mayors across the country tackle problems and pursue opportunities in new ways. Rhodes-Conway will be Madison’s first openly gay mayor in a city that loves to celebrate diversity, yet has struggled to close stark racial and economic disparities.
We urge Rhodes-Conway to follow through on making Madison a more welcoming, innovative and prosperous city for all. She highlighted many worthy goals during her campaign, including more affordable housing, a better bus system, a vibrant State Street and incentives for minority entrepreneurs. We didn’t agree with her on some priorities and issues, but we were happy to endorse her, and we wish her great success.
“I am so looking forward to working with all of you as your next mayor,” Rhodes-Conway said at the end of her victory speech Tuesday night at the Prism Dance Club on the Near East Side.
We look forward to her working with everyone, too, including repairing the city’s relationships with Dane County and School District officials.
Cooperation beat confrontation Tuesday night. And we hope that continues in the coming months and years of Rhodes-Conway’s tenure.