Two University of Wisconsin students and political newcomers are seeking the District 5 seat on the Dane County Board of Supervisors, which includes the UW campus.
Wyndham Manning, a senior from Jacksonville, Fla., and Conor O�Hagan, a freshman from Appleton, hope to represent the 13,000- to 14,000-person district.
�I have always had a passion to have a say in progressing my community and society,� O�Hagan said. �I think running for District 5 supervisor is the best way to use my attributes to contribute to Dane County and the campus.�
As a high school student in Appleton, O�Hagan was the lead college adviser to Youth in Government, a YMCA program that gives youth a mock government experience. Having also worked for the Boys and Girls Club during high school, O�Hagan said he has experience managing his time, a vital skill for a full-time student and a Dane County Board supervisor.
Music and environmental studies have been Manning�s concentration for the past four years at UW. He was director of the Wisconsin Union Directorate�s Music Committee and currently works as a booking agent in Middleton.
�I don�t have a political background, and to be honest, I�m glad that I don�t,� he said.
For Manning, the motivation to run comes from a need to give back to the Madison community he said has given him so much over the years.
�I want to bring Madison back to the forward thinking city it was,� Manning said. �I feel a sense of complacency among students. I want them to feel a connection to this random entity they couldn�t care less about.�
Missions if elected
O�Hagan said he is looking to increase tourism in Madison, specifically by renovating the Vilas Zoo, to bring in more money for students. He also wants to better the situation of Madison�s homeless population and work on preserving parks.
In his campaign, Manning plans to tackle issues like the quality of the lakes and homeless situation from a common sense perspective in order to foster more support from students.
Scott McDonell, the current chair of the County Board, said both candidates seem fairly strong to him. Even though four years separate O�Hagan and Manning, either candidate will look young when compared to the other board members, McDonell said.
According to O�Hagan, being a freshman will not affect his ability to represent District 5 effectively.
�Younger generations are equally capable of making decisions that affect the community and the county, as are members of the community who have college degrees,� he said.
McDonell said age is not the biggest factor when it comes to a board supervisor.
�It�s more about do they connect with the voters, do they have contacts that will help them,� McDonell said. �The nice thing is that all the topics before the county board are topics that affect students. Some years the campus has felt left out; I don�t think you can say that this time.�
Ashok Kumar, current Dane County Board supervisor for the 5th district, said the job has taught him how to author legislation and organize campaigns.
�It�s a lot of listening to concerns and translating them into institutional change,� Kumar said.
In his two-year term, Kumar said he attacked issues that had a broad societal impact like alternative incarceration for drug and alcohol abusers and housing options for low-income families.
Graduating in May, Kumar said he plans to go back to working in activism from a grassroots level, a field he is passionate for.
Manning and O�Hagan are currently busy familiarizing themselves with city policies and issues, introducing themselves to people in the district and working on endorsements.
�My makeshift office at home is cluttered with notes,� O�Hagan said. �This is a very big undertaking, but I�m excited and ready for the challenge of the election.�
Manning said he has learned a lot from working with his campaign manager Jesse Russell so far, although the learning curve is very steep.
�This is an intimidating process for me,� Manning added. �I don�t feel like I can make mistakes.�
The board consists of one representative from each of Dane County�s 37 districts. The elected representatives for the 2008-10 term will be sworn into the supervisor position in late April following the April 1 election.
Their duties include attending county board meetings twice per month and working with an assigned standing committee, like the finance, public works or transportation committee.