Sharon Corrigan/Dane County Board

After her first day chairing the Dane County Board, Sharon Corrigan said she is excited to bring female leadership to the board, which has only seen one other female leader in its history.

Corrigan was elected as board chair after two years as the Personnel and Finance Committee chair and years of involvement in different committees on the board after first being elected in 2010.

The last woman elected to serve as board chair was Mary Louise Symon, who was elected in 1980. Symon was the first woman to ever chair the county board.

“It’s exciting to be re-breaking that ground in a way,” Corrigan said.

Corrigan said she believes having a representation of not just both genders but of all kinds of diversity on the board makes for a better government, better able to tackle issues that divide communities.

Some of the issues Corrigan said she wants to focus on are the concerns over racial disparity, homelessness in the county and the cleanliness of the lakes and drinking water.

She said she plans to address these concerns by continuing plans to open the county day shelter by this winter and continuing initiatives such as Project Big Step, which trains disadvantaged individuals in the building trades to attain those family-supporting jobs, to address racial disparities.

The county will also continue work in the criminal justice system, including a pilot program to keep youth out of the criminal justice system, Corrigan said. She said the board will also need to tackle whether a new county jail needs to be opened.

Regardless of the decision, the county still must still address the need for mental health care in the criminal justice system, she said.

After serving on the Lakes and Watershed Commission for four years, Corrigan said keeping the county’s lakes clean is also critical.

“It is essential for citizens in Dane County that we have those lakes for recreation. They are also a huge attraction for the county and an important thing for the economy in our area to have those lakes clean,” Corrigan said. “We need to work on that.”

The county has partnered with University of Wisconsin on this issue, Corrigan said. She said the UW Center for Limnology has worked with the county to research the state of the lakes. The county must work toward cleaning up the phosphorus as well as the salt that has made its way into the lakes and drinking water, she said.

Corrigan said she hopes to continue the county’s efforts collaborating with UW on various county issues and said she sees the university’s presence as an important asset to the county.

“I’d really like to see partnerships with the university and the county because I think as we are looking for innovative solutions we’ve got some answers down the street at the university,” Corrigan said.