Madison, Wisconsin-based Satya Rhodes-Conway has worked for the last 13 years at the Mayors Innovation Project ( MIP ), a learning network committed to encouraging innovative work on shared prosperity, environmental sustainability, and efficient government at the municipal level.
"It's my job to find and share progressive and innovative city policies with our network of mayors all across the country," Rhodes-Conway said. "So I've been working on city policy for a long time."
Rhodes-Conway is now seeking to put some of that experience to even more practical useshe's in a runoff election against longtime Madison mayor Paul Soglin. Should she win in the April 2 contest, she would be the first openly queer mayor of the Wisconsin capitol.
Rhodes-Conway said she was motivated "by a desire to work on a set of issues that Madison is facing, knowing what it's possible to do from the mayor's office."
She is focused on four prioritiesaffordable housing, rapid transit, racial equity and climate change, and emphasizes that she is running a campaign to be a mayor, not a campaign focused on unseating Soglin. She thinks her work at MIP, and a stint on the City Council "prepared me to bring new and needed ideas here to Madison."
She nevertheless said that a "collaborative leadership style" sets her apart from Soglin.
"One of the issues that we face right now is that the mayor basically has a non-existant relationship with the county executive, and a very contentious relationship with the city council. That makes it hard to get things done. … I think it's important to have those working relationships."
Rhodes-Conway said that her being queer has not been a major issue in the course of her campaign and said that she gave Soglin a lot of credit for respecting that as they've competed against one another.
"He knows me and my partner personally, so it hasn't really been an issue with him," she explained. She noted that a few voters seemed uncomfortable felt she was too forward in stating that she's part of the LGBTQ community, however.
"It's not that we've gotten any negative comments, but some ask, 'Why are you putting this in my face?' Rhodes-Conway added. "But for the most part, it's been a very positive reaction. Certainly, the queer community is very excited. … Wisconsin has a long and proud history of openly LGBT officials."