Dick Wagner, Dane County’s first openly gay County Board Chair, dies

Dick Wagner

MADISON, Wis. – Dick Wagner, Dane County’s first openly gay County Board member, died Monday.

Wagner served on the Board from 1980 to 1994, representing District 6.

“While I did not have the privilege of serving on the County Board with Dick, I have been acquainted with him for many years,” Board Chari Analiese Eicher said in a statement Tuesday. “I’m honored to be one of the Chair’s that followed his service in leading the Board.”

Wagner served on multiple committees throughout his time in office, including the Urban Design Commission.

“Dick Wagner was a Madison icon, a true public servant and a pillar of our community,” Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said. “His impact spanned decades and he will be deeply missed.”

Wagner was also a historian and wrote two books on the history of LGBTQ people in Wisconsin.

“Dick Wagner was a deeply inspiring person in my life as a role model, mentor and lifelong friend,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin said. “Dick lived a life that showed to all of us that history only moves in one direction: Forward. For that, I am forever grateful.”

In 1983, Wagner co-chaired Gov. Tony Earl’s Council on Lesbian and Gay Issues, the first of its kind in America.

“Dick Wagner served our community with passion and integrity. Dick brought a unique perspective to the table, informed by his love and knowledge of history and public policy, and his experiences as an early, openly gay elected official,” County Executive Joe Parisi said in a statement. “His courage and skill as a statesman and mentor helped countless people navigate their own difficult waters. He loved our community and people, and was in turn loved and respected by many. He will be missed but not forgotten.”