Home Madison Fitchburg Common Council candidate Donald Dantzler focuses on housing, transportation and education

Fitchburg Common Council candidate Donald Dantzler focuses on housing, transportation and education

Photo by Robert Chappell.

“I’m a suburban guy,” Donald Dantzler said when asked why he chose Fitchburg as the place to put down roots.

He made that choice in 2019 and is now running to join the Common Council to represent District 3 on the city’s northeast side. He spoke about the campaign Friday on the 365 Amplified podcast.

Listen to the interview:

A native of Joliet, Illinois, a suburb south of Chicago, Dantzler made his way to Wisconsin to play basketball at UW-Parkside in Kenosha. He transferred to UW-Whitewater for his senior year, then headed to Amsterdam to play professionally for nearly two years. He said that experience made him “grow up quickly.”

“I was 22 years old … over there by myself,” he said. “But it was a great experience, and opened my eyes to a lot of culture …  It taught me early on how to deal with different types of people, even when there’s language barriers (or) cultural barriers.”

Returning to Wisconsin for graduate school, he earned a master’s degree in higher education leadership in 2013 and enrolled in a doctoral program in education leadership and policy analysis at UW-Madison shortly thereafter. In 2019, he moved to Fitchburg, at least partly because it reminded him of home.

“Fitchburg kind of mirrors the neighborhood where I grew up,” he said. “It’s safe, it’s clean, there are small businesses around the area. And the biggest thing is that it’s expanding and that it’s growing.”

Managing that growth will be one of his priorities if he is elected to the common council.

He said he chose to run for common council soon after incumbent Shannon Strassman announced she would not seek reelection.

“I wanted to provide more representation and voice to the district and ensure that someone was in office that was able to really listen to the constituents of District 3 and make really informed data-driven decisions for the entire city of Fitchburg.”

He identified three main priorities: housing, transportation and education.

Housing has to be affordable and diverse, he said.

“We want to have those single-family homes. We want to have those apartments. We want to have townhomes. We want to have the condos to basically meet the needs of every individual that will potentially be moving to Fitchburg as the city is growing,” he said.

He said the city’s commitment to education doesn’t necessarily involve school districts. Fitchburg residents attend schools in both the Madison and Verona school districts.

Rather, he said, the city can make use of “some of the supplemental support services that can fill some of the opportunity gaps that we’re seeing in our schools for our children. It can’t just be solely on the school district. We’re going to have to use our community partners to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of the whole child and whole family.”

He said some of those partners include organizations like the Boys and Girls Club or the city’s teen center, which is currently in the planning stages.

Dantzler’s public service resume includes membership on the Fitchburg Police and Fire Commission and the chairmanship of the Madison College District Board of Trustees.

He said one of the challenges the Police and Fire Commission faces is the ability to attract and retain talent. He hopes a new police facility will help that. While a $50 million proposed facility was rejected by the current council after public backlash, Dantzler hopes a more modest proposal will produce a facility that will make quality police officers want to come to Fitchburg and stay – noting that the current police headquarters is in the basement of city hall.

“Most people go work for places because they like where they work,” he said.  “They definitely have to get out of the basement, move forward and get that new facility.”

Dantzler sees continued growth for Fitchburg.

“As we bring more diversified types of housing, and people start to move here, we’re also going to see the businesses come as well,” he said. “But (growth) has to be done in a way where we’re preserving some of the vitality and what makes Fitchburg, Fitchburg.”

Dantzler faces Patrick Wilson in the general election Tuesday.