Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


County Executive Joe Parisi retiring, hopeful for future

Parisi encourages student voting, continued environmental work
Photo Courtesy of Dane County Executive’s Office

After 27 years of service, Joe Parisi is retiring from the Dane County Executive Board in May 2024, according to a press release from Dane County. After retiring, he looks forward to spending more time with family and being out of the public eye for the first time in three decades, Parisi said.

In his time as Dane County Executive, he accomplished almost everything he set out to do and looks forward to seeing someone come in with fresh ideas and visions to serve, Parisi said.

“One of the reasons I wanted to run for County Executive was because in this position, you really can accomplish a lot of things,” Parisi said.


Parisi started working on the Building Bridges Program 10 years ago to provide mental health resources to young people and their families. The program provides funding to bring teams of two mental health workers into nearly every school district in the county, according to Parisi.

Parisi also directed millions of dollars into helping Dane County’s vulnerable populations get access to shelter and affordable housing. The Beacon Day Resource Center was created to offer resources and basic needs for those at-risk or experiencing homelessness.

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During the pandemic, food insecurity increased and local farmers were losing customers, according to Parisi. He addressed these issues with a project that bought from local farmers and donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank to further distribute.

The Mayor of Madison Satya Rhodes-Conway commended Parisi’s contributions to Dane County through his time in office in an online statement Oct. 4.

“He was a calm, steady voice during the pandemic, reassuring county residents that local government would be there for them with testing, vaccines and critically important food and housing supports,” Rhodes-Conway said in the statement. “He wisely used federal funds to support those in greatest need, relieving the suffering of our most vulnerable and stabilizing the regional economy.”

Addressing climate change at the local level is something he was very passionate about, Parisi said. Parisi created the Office of Energy & Climate Change in 2017 when he saw a need for leadership in the federal and state governments surrounding climate action.

Director of the Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change Kathy Kuntz regularly works with Parisi to discuss progress for the county’s energy projects and applauded Parisi for his work dedicated to climate change.

The county had set a goal to offset the amount of emissions from electricity at the county government offices by 2025. This goal was met last year, two years earlier than planned, according to a press release from the Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change. Dane county was the fourth county in the nation to do so, setting an example as a leader in climate action. Their next goal is to be carbon neutral by 2030, according to Parisi.

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Parisi and Kuntz have given talks at numerous high schools and in classes at the University of Wisconsin, with the aim of motivating young people about climate action and informing them of the county’s projects, according to Kuntz.

“To some extent words fail me because [he’s] just so spectacular in terms of hearing them and taking them really seriously — their perspective,” Kuntz said. “I was really lucky to get to be in those discussions with him and just see him lean into all of those conversations with young people.”

Young people in the current college generation are inspiring, Parisi said. They know climate change is real and are aware of the issue it presents. He encourages students to know the power they have to inspire change and use their voices to let leaders know this issue is critical to the future.

“This is not something that you have to fix tomorrow, because that’s on all of us, especially people in my generation,” Parisi said. “We want you to be involved. We want to listen to your ideas and your concerns and give voice for that and help empower you. But I also don’t want young people to be robbed of their ability to enjoy their college life and to learn. If you’re interested in climate change, then take classes about it, learn about it, get yourself educated about it so that when you go out into the world after college, you can be even more effective and more impactful.”

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Parisi’s work has created a strong foundation in the county so climate action is anticipated to continue even after he leaves office. It is something the community wants and is something they hope the next candidate will come to understand, according to Kuntz.

Part of the responsibility to make sure the next County Executive will push forward with climate change issues falls on the student vote, as they make up a portion of the eligible voters of the community, Kuntz said.

As of now, Kuntz and Parisi are not aware of any potential candidates running for the County Executive position. The election for Parisi’s successor will be concurrent with the presidential election in the fall of 2024.

“I hope there’ll be a vigorous election with a lot of people stepping forward,” Parisi said. “Hopefully it’ll be someone with great ideas and vision. Someone who’s willing to listen to the community and take some chances when necessary. Our community is growing and it’s changing and it’s probably not a bad time for someone new to come in and take a fresh look at how things are and bring their ideas forward.”

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