OK, Jen, Zach, Shiva, Mo, Renee, Karen, Scott, Rachel, Aaron, Nia and Bob: It’s been a year since you were introduced as the “New Face of Madison Leadership” on the cover of this magazine. How’s it working out for you so far? No pressure.
Actually, it is grossly unfair to go searching for some kind of profound, wide-reaching change in our community, or in the lives and/or careers of the people we identified as the next generation of civic leaders. But that won’t stop us from at least taking a look at what has transpired over the last 12 months for our designated cohort of new Madison leaders.
However, we must acknowledge the first
defection from the group. Sad for us, if not for her. YWCA Executive Director Rachel Krinsky is moving to the Seattle area, a place she and her family have wanted to relocate to, for a great job. The move is also a positive reflection of Krinsky’s vision of the YW and the quality of the team she has built there. It’s a loss of a talented and strong voice for Madison. But it’s been interesting to watch the trajectory of the other 10 “faces,” and more importantly, the interactions within the group. We remain convinced the leadership mantle is being passed and that this community is in good hands.
Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jen Cheatham is perhaps the most visible with her high profile job and frequent media attention. The measurables of year three of Cheatham’s strategic framework stand out, and her leadership profile is solid. Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon led the chamber through an exemplary headquarters move to accommodate Dane County’s new homeless day shelter, and the chamber’s role in marrying greater Madison to a global, innovation-based economy grows ever more important. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff was named UW Health’s first chief diversity officer in 2016. The public “Post-Election Popup Summit” that City Alderman Maurice Cheeks organized to talk through the November election results was but one example of his leadership efforts. Renee Moe had her first full year and successful annual giving campaign under her belt as United Way of Dane County president and CEO. Centro Hispano Executive Director Karen Menéndez Coller helped lead a historically significant, collaborative Latinx community comprehensive strategic plan. Scott Resnick watched the StartingBlock project he is leading come tantalizingly closer to reality. Aaron Olver did the same for the University Research Park’s growth. Urban League of Greater Madison Board Chair Nia Enemuoh-Trammell gave the keynote address at the AFRICaide International Women’s Day 2016 Celebration and is an influential contributor to the YP Spotlight column in The Capital City Hues. And Bob Sorge merely spent the year preparing the Madison Community Foundation for its next 75 years of existence.
But here’s what I find most important and encouraging: These folks are talking to and with each other. These leaders of some of Madison’s most important civic institutions and organizations are sharing ideas, questions, wisdom and experiences. They are supporting each other and taking advantage of the assets and skills they bring to their work and to the shared responsibilities of leadership. That continues to be the great promise of this group, a like-minded approach to building and sustaining a healthy community, a commitment to inclusivity, a rejection of hierarchical silos and a respect for a common good. They’re talking about what leadership looks like, and what it could look like. They’re identifying opportunities for, and barriers to, change. We’ll give them another year, or more. But change is already here and more is coming. No more defections for a while though, please.
I’m a sucker for useful books to make one a better writer. I have three—that’s right, three—copies of William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White’s “The Elements of Style” on my desk. I’ve added to the collection “Grammar For People Who Hate Rules: Killer Tips From The Ruthless Editor” because I like it and because it is written by part-time Wisconsinite Kathleen Watson. It’d make a good textbook in case anyone is interested. Visit RuthlessEditor.com if you are.
I’m also a sucker for big ideas, and that’s just what a new city of Madison public-listening campaign is looking for. Imagine Madison is using community meetings, an interactive website, social media discussion, diverse and inclusive resident panels and more to gather good ideas about issues facing the city. More information can be found at imaginemadisonwi.com.
Kudos to the city of Middleton residents for overwhelmingly passing two climate change referendum questions in the November election. One calls for city policies to reduce risks of global warming and the other endorses a federal carbon fee and dividend program. Middleton is the first city in the country to pass a carbon cap and trade endorsement referendum, which is kind of cool. These local initiatives are where the real action is these days. Middleton is leading the way on this one.