Jael Currie said she never planned to run for political office. But as a social service provider in 2020, she feels it is her duty.
“I feel my ethical call as a social service provider but also as a Madisonian wanting desperately to see change for our community,” Currie told Madison365. “And specifically for those who have been underrepresented and oppressed in local political decisions.”
Currie is running for District 16 of the Madison City Council. Ald. Michael Tierney announced in November he is not seeking re-election of his seat that he has held for the past two and a half years.
Currie will be running against Greg Dixon and Tyson Vitale for a district that represents the area east of Lake Mendota and Lake Waubesa. The spring primary is set for Tuesday, February 16, and the top two candidates will move on to the general election on Tuesday, April 6.
Currie is the housing director at the YWCA. She is the vice-chair of the Homeless Services Consortium of Dane County, which aims to bring together various organizations and individuals to eliminate homelessness.
Although this is her first time running for office, in her job she has worked with different Madison committees, such as the Finance Committee, and the Common Council to advocate for housing and more financial resources.
“Within the last two and a half years I’ve really seen from a macro perspective, how much government federal, state and municipal law impacts the way I can provide services or the way that colleagues I work with provide services,” Currie said. “I never saw myself as a person driven to policy or interested or even wanting to advocate on a large scale for it. But as a social service provider, this is my duty to advocate, to advance social, racial and economic justice.”
She said the biggest issues that Madison faces are affordable housing, public safety and preparing for an economic rebuild caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. She hopes her experiences as a Madisonian, a teen mom and now a mom with children in Madison Metropolitan School District, growing up in a pro-union home, and having used public health benefits and social services will provide an important perspective to the Madison Common Council.
She said people in the community know her for her work as the housing director, but that is not all she brings to the table.
“Obviously with my background and looking at my resume and some folks probably know me from my work in the community. I don’t want folks to think that that’s all I’m focused on. I noticed that it was a huge issue in the city and I wanted to use my connections, my experience and knowledge of what was available to spur action but that’s not all that I bring,” she said.
It is a personal intention of hers to observe and listen to constituents, and their needs, she said.
“What really makes a leader is having your own thoughts and plans but also being able to listen to those of others and be flexible to meet the needs of what residents say they need,” Currie said. “We need to trust that communities know what they need and that individuals know what they need now. As an elected official, it is our responsibility to listen and use our privilege and influence to benefit everyone who calls Madison home.”