Dane County Supervisor Dana Pellebon (District 33-Fitchburg) is joining the race to be the next Dane County executive. The executive director of the RCC Sexual Violence Resource Center and longtime community activist will make it official with a press conference this morning at the Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club.
In an exclusive interview with Madison365, Pellebon says that she is the right person with the right background and experience for the job.
“I believe that I am uniquely situated and positioned to help take Dane County to the next level. I have spent years doing executive work. I have run nonprofits. I’ve worked with city and county agencies and know how the systems run,” Pellebon tells Madison365. Pellebon is also the former director of housing and operations for Porchlight and has extensive experience working with persons experiencing homelessness. “Being on the county board made me realize that as much as I enjoy the legislation part, the real work gets done by the staff and being able to support the staff with a dynamic vision.
“My experience as a Black woman living in Dane County has been a variety of different things and I have the intersectional lens to be able to focus on those that are most vulnerable,” she adds. “By virtue of focusing on those most vulnerable, we help all of the people in Dane County.”
If elected, Pellebon would be Dane County’s first African American county executive. Pellebon says that two major areas she will focus on are health and human services and criminal legal reform.
“Being that the two largest budgets in our county are health and human services and criminal legal system, those are the two areas that I have had the most impact in Dane County for over 30 years,” she says.
“One of the main things that the county has purview over that I’ve spent a lot of time working through is criminal legal reform. And that’s something that has to happen. We are at the precipice in this space and in this work and we have got to determine what we want for Dane County moving forward with how our reforms look and what collaboration looks like between agencies,” Pellebon adds. “So that is a major focus because that goes straight to the quality of life and the resources that are expended in 17 different ways. It costs more to incarcerate someone and to send someone through a legal system than it does to do the things that are necessary to stop these spaces from being harmful in the first place.”
Pellebon joins the race for county executive that already includes State Sen. Melissa Agard, Madison Alder Regina Vidaver, Wesley Sparkman, who announced last Friday, and Robert Harlow, who was briefly a 2018 Democratic candidate for governor of Wisconsin.
The candidates will be vying for the position that Joe Parisi has held since 2011. Parisi is retring this spring, a little less than a year before his term ends. When Parisi steps down in May, the board chair will appoint an interim executive. Whoever wins the election in November will have to turn around and win an election again in April of 2025.
“My work experience is extensive working as an executive. I think that this position is different than most elected positions in that this position is actually an executive position. This is not just a legislative position,” Pellebon says. “This is someone who is managing departments, and managing people, and I have the extensive experience doing that for large organizations.
“When we talk about diversity, equity, inclusion and those who are most in need, that is a very specific segment of our population,” she continues. “And we are more than happy in our county to put people of color in spaces that are essentially incarceration spaces, and we don’t necessarily put Black woman, specifically, in these spaces that they can make the biggest impact to help the community that needs the most help.”
The primary election will be held in August and the general election is Nov. 5. Coinciding with the presidential election, voter turnout will be really high.
“I think with the November turnout, we will definitely get a larger portion of Dane County to say this is what it is that we want and this is what it is that we feel our leadership needs to be,” Pellebon says.
Pellebon is also the co-founder of the Loud N Unchained Black Theater Festival and the principal of the Madison Theatre Collective. She is a theater professional who has directed plays that focus on social justice issues, working with minority casts and playwrights, and producing shows for local companies like the LNU Black Theater Festival, Broom Street Theater, and the New York International Fringe Festival. She is a part of the team at The Center for Black Excellence and Culture.
Last night, Pellebon officially launched her campaign website, Dana for Dane.
“I think that my biggest asset is my ability to bring people together to manage people to work on all sides of the table. Not just both sides, all sides. I want to bring consensus to folks, and even if we all don’t like the results – it’s not the thing that we exactly wanted – it is a thing that we all can work with and we can live with,” she says. “That was made very clear with my collaborations with the [Dane County] sheriff [Kalvin Barrett]. The sheriff and I came in on opposite ends of many of these conversations. However, through those conversations, we were able to collaborate, we were able to compromise, and we were able to move forward both reforms and what was needed to build a facility.”
Pellebon will hold a press conference to formally announce her intent to run for Dane County Executive this morning at 8:30 a.m. at the Madison Concourse Hotel, 1 W. Dayton Street.
“I would like to help Dane County go to the next level. We’ve had a lot of really great leaders here in Dane County. And I not impugning anything we have done but more that we need to look to the future. We have had someone in that space for a very long time and they have done really amazing things. There are new things that need to be done in Dane County, and I’m here to be a part of that new work.”