MADISON, Wis. - Madison Mayor Paul Soglin sat down with News 3 Now for an exclusive interview on his last day in office. The incumbent was beat by challenger Satya Rhodes-Conway on April 2. She will be sworn in on Tuesday.
News 3 Now met with Soglin at Meadowood Community Neighborhood Center Monday. The mayor said he wanted to spend part of his last day in an office there because it is near to his heart.
“It represents the greatest challenges and the greatest successes in our community,” Soglin said.
Meadowood is located on city’s southwest side, an area which has seen its share of challenges. Soglin said it encapsulates just how far the city has come in improving race relations.
“We were one of the worst cities in the country in 2011 in regards to racial disparity,” he said.
He said eight years ago African American unemployment was at almost 27 percent and is now under 7%, according to census data. He also said the number of African American children living under the poverty line has dropped by a third.
“There’s more to do but those are really big achievements, achievements that area really unmatched around the country,” he said.
Soglin’s quest to improve the city as mayor spans nearly five decades. He considers decreasing racial gaps, increasing housing, and lowering the homicide rate during his run as major successes.
He was first elected in 1973 and served on and off in the role for a total of 22 years. His administration is responsible for the construction of the Monona Terrace and turning State Street into a walking mall. Soglin was first elected in his 20s. At the time, he was seen as a disrupter and beat an established incumbent. Earlier this month he ironically lost to a candidate who seemed to represent a breath of fresh air to this generation’s voters.
“There was the desire, the excitement of electing the city’s first lesbian mayor,” Soglin said.
Soglin said the troubled Tree Lane housing development and his choice to jump into the race after saying he would not did not do him any favors. .
“Basically the decision to run for governor and then for mayor made me vulnerable.”
Soglin said he has confidence in Rhodes-Conway and has enjoyed meeting with her during the transition period.
"We've had a wonderful time and I've actually enjoyed the time that we've discussed the issues and the challenges," Soglin said.
Rhodes-Conway took 62 percent of the vote, Soglin took 38 percent. Despite some apprehension he said he is looking on the bright side of shedding the title.
“As disappointed and difficult as the election result was, the next morning there was a feeling of freedom, of liberation, looking forward to whatever the next chapter is.”
Soglin would not go into detail about what that next chapter is. He told News 3 Now he will not run for any public office including mayor.
“I think this time I can say that with confidence and plus I’ve got the added benefit that I don't think the people of Madison would want me.”
Regardless of the message the people of Madison sent to Soglin on election night, he said he is committed to continuing his work on improving the city in the private sector.
“I hope that whatever skills I’ve got I can share somewhere," he said.
Soglin said he wants to be remembered as a leader who improved Madison and made it a model of what a city can and should be, but he said he doesn't think he'll ever finish, like the work is ever finished.
"I don't think I'd ever feel that the job was done. As long as there was one family in poverty, one household without health insurance but looking where we were at and looking at the changes that took place, I get great satisfaction in what we did."
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