Madison’s Super Singles!

Meet ten of Madison's most eligible

Madison is a great place to go to college. It’s a superb locale to raise a family. It’s a top-notch spot to bike to work, go green or be a foodie. But what’s it like to be single here?

To find out, we asked readers to nominate themselves, their friends, their colleagues—anyone who best represents single life in a city known for working hard and playing even harder.

We learned a lot about Madison along the way. But more than anything, we discovered that Madison’s singles are savvy, involved and passionate. They’re focused on their careers but having a lot of fun, too. They give back to the community and make the most of what makes the city great—its lakes and trails, its local beers and live music, its football games and diverse restaurants.

And so a curiosity about single life in Madison ultimately became a celebration of the city through the eyes of ten unique, accomplished and inspiring men and women.

Styling by Shayna Miller. Photographs by John Cizmas and Noah Willman. Hair and makeup by Debi Offerdahl-Hull, Allen Dolphin and Petra Loeffler, The ultimate spa Salon. On location at HotelRED.

Watch our video to hear Katie Vaughn talk about the Super Singles photo shoot!

Trina Ploor

She might travel a lot for work, but this UW alum is loyal to her beloved Badger state.

Age: 27

Job: Project manager at Epic

How long have you lived in Madison? I moved here in the fall of 2002. I went to school at UW–Madison and just never left.

Your status: I’m happily single but certainly looking.

How would you describe single life in Madison? There’s plenty to do for everyone, lots of fun stuff for couples or singles.

What Madison’s singles scene needs is … a place to dance!

Friends say you’re … the crazy friend, the one who’s always pushing people to do stuff.

Dog or cat person? I love dogs but I travel a lot. So I like to play with other people’s dogs.

Do you have any dating musts? My family and I aren’t very welcoming to people who aren’t Packers fans. It’s the first question my parents ask when they hear I’m dating someone.

Your signature drink: Always beer. I love local microbreweries and when I travel I like to try local brews.

What’s the strangest compliment you’ve received? At a family wedding a few years ago, I ran into a relative I hadn’t seen in a while. She said, “You’ve actually turned into a really nice-looking girl!”

What’s the best concert you’ve attended? I go to Tim McGraw at Summerfest every year. I’m a huge country fan.

Your happy place: At a Badger football game.

Who’s your celebrity crush? Aaron Rodgers.

What celebrity would play you in a movie about your life? Tina Fey.

Are there any rules you believe in breaking? I definitely ignore the rule about not eating a lot on the first date. I strongly believe a woman shouldn’t go hungry just to impress a guy. And if we do end up dating, he’s eventually going to figure out I eat like a trucker.

Jewelry, Bop; shoes, Macy’s; dress, Ploor’s own. Hair and makeup, Billie McKichan, ANiU Salon & Spa (this photo only).

 

John Powless

His tennis awards are almost too numerous to name, but what might be most impressive about this champ is how humble and friendly he is.

Age: 79

Job: Professional tennis player, owner of the John Powless Tennis Center and retired UW–Madison basketball and tennis coach

How long have you lived in Madison? I’ve been here since 1963, when I came to coach basketball at UW.

Your status: I’m happy with my life and open to dating.

What’s the best part about living in Madison? The people. We are the best place in America to live.

What’s your greatest accomplishment? Winning the U.S. National father-son championships with my father and with my son. Nothing exceeds excelling with family.

Friends say you’re … fair and understanding.

Your signature drink: Absolut on the rocks with an orange slice.

If you had a theme song, what would it be? This morning I was humming “Argentina.” I was just there.

Your perfect Saturday night in Madison: Having a driver and stopping at my favorite places for a libation and to say hello to friends and then dinner—maybe at Smoky’s or the Edgewater.

Your perfect Sunday morning: I play tennis every Sunday morning. I play almost every day of the year.

When are you happiest? Every day.

Your ideal Valentine’s gift: I’ve always been fond of roses.

What celebrity would play you in a movie about your life? Myself.

Your greatest indulgence: Dom Perignon.

Do you have a nickname? Most everybody calls me Big John.

What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken? They’re all special. But the most special city in the world is Paris.

 

Tonya Ellis

This minister and mother has a heart for helping others.

Age: 33

Job: Minister at Mt. Zion Baptist Church

How long have you lived in Madison? Sixteen years.

Your status: Dating and happy.

How would you describe single life in Madison? It’s great to be single in Madison. The city has great opportunities to develop my own personal interests.

What Madison’s singles scene needs is … more opportunities for socialization that’s not part of the bar scene.

What’s your greatest accomplishment? My two children. They’re fourteen and six.

Friends say you’re … charming and loyal and giving.

Do you have any dating deal-breakers? Being attentive to their cell phones during a date.

Your perfect Saturday night in Madison: I would be out with friends. We’d make it a spa day with dinner and fun in the evening.

Your perfect Sunday morning in Madison: I’m at Mt. Zion every Sunday morning!

What’s the best compliment you’ve received? That my kindness is admirable.

Your ideal Valentine’s gift: Diamonds.

Who’s your celebrity crush? Idris Elba.

What celebrity would play you in a movie about your life? Kerry Washington.

Your greatest indulgence: I put a lot of time and care, and sometimes money, into home decorating. I love shopping at Pier 1 and have lots of African art and earth tones.

Your happy place: I have a home meditation room.

What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken? Virginia Beach. I love being around the ocean.

Are there any rules you believe in breaking? My own personal philosophy is you have to know the rules before you can break the rules.

Dress and jewelry, Boston Store.

 

Todd Maahs

This low-key guy perfectly embodies the work-hard, play-hard mentality of Madison.

Age: 31

Job: Director of partner relations at Discover Mediaworks

How long have you lived in Madison? Since the fourth grade.

Your status: Happily single but always looking for my partner in crime.

Friends say you’re … ambitious, funny and fun to be around.

Dog or cat person? Dog, absolutely, through and through.

Do you have any dating deal-breakers? Cat people. Just joking. I’m pretty open.

Your signature drink: I love local beers and I’m a big fan of whiskey on the rocks.

If you had a theme song, what would it be? “Waiting Room” by Fugazi. They’re a punk band. I have an edgy streak in me.

How do you give back? I get to do a lot of marketing and support work for Angel on My Shoulder.

When are you happiest? I’m happiest right now when I’m in the middle of a meeting, presenting or collaborating.

Your ideal Valentine’s gift: A nice kiss from somebody that I want it from—or something sappy like that.

What celebrity would play you in a movie about your life? Do you remember Jeremy London? People say all the time that I look like him—or Johnny Depp after I get scruffy.

Your happy place: As soon as I get north of Highway 29 in Wisconsin.

Do you have a catchphrase? “Hey, stay out of trouble. And if you can’t, don’t get caught.”

What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken? Visiting London and Edinburgh with my stepfather.

Are there any rules you believe in breaking? Yeah, all of them. I don’t really like rules.

 

James Tye

This downtown dweller’s passion for the lakes extends from his job to the place where he’s most content.

Age: 40

Job: Director of development and external affairs at the Clean Lakes Alliance

How long have you lived in Madison? I was born in Madison, at St. Mary’s.

Your status: Single but always looking for possibilities.

What’s your greatest accomplishment? It has to be either founding the Out Professional and Executive Network or helping the Clean Lakes Alliance grow.

Friends say you’re … there for other people. I’ll drop everything to go help somebody. And I’m pretty even-keeled. I’m more of a fixer than a fighter.

Are you a dog or a cat person? I’m getting a dog this spring, a golden doodle. And the best part is, I’ll get to bring him to work.

Do you have any dating musts? They need to be out to their family and friends and must have an inner fire to be a better person.

Your signature drink: Tanqueray and tonic.

What’s the best concert you’ve attended? Tina Turner live at the Kohl Center. She’s a great performer.

Your perfect Saturday night in Madison: Going out to dinner with close friends and family at the Tornado Steakhouse.

Your perfect Sunday morning in Madison: Brunch at Sardine or Marigold with the New York Times.

You’re happiest when … I’m with my nieces and nephews. I have four—two of each.

Your ideal Valentine’s gift: Flowers at work.

Your greatest indulgence: Eating out at local restaurants. The cheese curds at Graze are the best.

Your happy place: On my 1946 Sea King wooden boat in the middle of Lake Mendota.

What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken? Mykonos. I was there with my best friend.

What’s a rule you believe in breaking? When I was young, my mom’s best friend told me, “When they say ‘everybody’, it doesn’t mean you.”

 

Patty DeSmidt

This stylish grandmother’s zest for life is downright contagious.

Age: 80

Job: Retired

How long have you lived in Madison? All my married life. I moved here when I was twenty-two and my husband was still going to the university.

Your status: Widowed twice; now dating.

What Madison’s singles scene needs is … more singles groups.

What’s the best part of living in Madison? There’s just so much to do!

What’s your greatest accomplishment? Raising a wonderful family. I have four children (I lost my oldest son to melanoma) and thirteen grandchildren.

Friends say you’re … pretty outgoing. I love life and I love my kids. And I’m easy to get along with.

Your signature drink: I always have a whiskey old-fashioned.

If you had a theme song, what would it be? Something by Andrea Bocelli or Josh Groban. I love opera. My first husband and I would drive to New York to see the opera and then drive back.

How do you give back? I do a lot of knitting for St. Mary’s, mostly mittens and baby hats and comforters.

Your perfect Saturday night in Madison: Going out for dinner and having a cocktail and good conversation.

Your perfect Sunday morning in Madison: I always go to church and sometimes have breakfast with some of my kids. And then I pick up one of my granddaughters for some one-on-one time.

You’re happiest when … I’m happy a lot.

Your ideal Valentine’s gift: I love flowers, and a box of candy is always appreciated.

What celebrity would play you in a movie about your life? Betty White—I think she’s so full of life!

Your greatest indulgence: I can always find an excuse to buy a new outfit.

Your happy place: I always love Florida in the winter—in Venice, right on the beach.

What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken? Turkey. We spent a month there and it was just delightful. Every day was new and exciting.

Cardigan, Jan Byce; necklace, Lane Bryant.

 

Ricky Belgado

Long hours at the hospital doesn’t keep this passionate Madisonian from his loves of sailing and making music.

Age: 27

Job: Registered nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital

How long have you lived in Madison? Since coming to UW–Madison in 2002.

Your status: Career-focused but open to finding the right person.

How would you describe single life in Madison? There are a lot of activities, which is great for dating ideas.

What Madison’s singles scene needs is … more dancing venues, especially for salsa or swing.

What’s your greatest accomplishment? Working at a job I really like, in the cardiac ICU, where I get to help people and see them go from their sickest to walking out the door. And keeping up with my piano; we’re actually doing a recording soon.

Dog or cat person? Dog.

Do you have any dating musts? I want someone who’s passionate about something and goal-oriented and has a creative side.

Your signature drink: A brandy old-fashioned press.

If you had a theme song, what would it be? Anything Motown.

How do you give back? I volunteer as a sailing instructor at Hoofers and at Agrace.

Your perfect Saturday night in Madison: If it’s summer, going sailing with friends or going out to a music venue.

Your perfect Sunday morning: I’d go for brunch and go for a hike or a bike ride.

When are you happiest? When I’m listening to good music or traveling.

Your greatest indulgence: I spend most of my time sailing.

Your happy place: Hiking down the Inca Trail and seeing Machu Picchu for the first time.

What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken? Thailand—the culture, the people. I got to live with a family there.

 

Helen M. Kinsella

This bright political mind is passionate about her adopted city.

Age: 44

Job: Assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

How long have you lived in Madison? I moved here September 2005.

What’s the best part of living in Madison? I live in an incredibly supportive and entertaining neighborhood, and my son and I have found Madison very welcoming.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? Easy. The first is my son (although he is not my accomplishment—he is his own), and the second is the publication of my first book last April.

How do you give back to the community? I participate and support Lily’s Fund for those suffering from epilepsy. I support the work of Planned Parenthood, the Road Home and the YWCA of Madison.

Do you have any dating deal-breakers? A lack of humor, or a lack of manners.

Your signature drink: If I am at Smoky’s I may drink a martini, otherwise it is all gin.

Your perfect Saturday night in Madison: It would have to be with my friends, but it would no doubt include a choice of cocktails at Merchant or the Distillery, dinner at Alchemy or Lombardino’s and a show at the High Noon or Barrymore.

What’s your greatest indulgence? A workout at the Monkey Bar and then bike ride to Lazy Jane’s for scones.

Do you have a nickname? A three-year-old in my neighborhood started to call me Honey because he could not quite pronounce Helen, and it has just stuck (as you might imagine with a nickname like Honey).

What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken? Guatemala will always be a place to which I return, but my reunions with friends in New York City are perhaps the best.

Dress, Terese Zache Designs; jewelry, Twigs.

 

Jamie Swenson

Adventure just might be the middle name of this thrill-seeking Wisconsin native.

Age: 31

Job: Teacher

How long have you lived in Madison? I was born here, and I moved back in 2008.

Your status: Single but looking.

What’s the best part about living in Madison? Madison is a good place for music; there are a lot of smaller venues and local artists. And I like that there are a lot of bike trails and farmers’ markets and lakes.

Friends say you’re … adventurous and curious.

Dog or cat person? Dog—a big dog.

Do you have any dating musts? Somebody who’s willing to explore and be active with me.

Your signature drink: White wine or a white Russian.

How do you give back? Volunteering at the Arboretum and teaching children’s church.

Your perfect Saturday night in Madison: A summer night with friends at the Terrace.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received? When someone notices my spontaneity.

What’s the best concert you’ve attended? Ryan Adams and Counting Crows—both put on amazing shows.

When are you happiest? When I’m outdoors with people who know me well.

Your ideal Valentine’s gift: Going someplace new—exploring a new part of town or the state.

Who’s your celebrity crush? Ryan Reynolds.

What celebrity would play you in a movie about your life? Zooey Deschanel.

Your greatest indulgence: Gummy bears. Any candy, really.

Your happy place: In the woods.

What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken? Australia and New Zealand—climbing glaciers, surfing, bungee jumping, skydiving and just taking in the scenery.

Are there any rules you believe in breaking? I don’t believe in driving the speed limit.

Dress, shoes and jewelry, Bop.

 

Rob Franklin, aka Rob Dz

This musician, writer and actor is a modern-day Renaissance man.

Age: 30-something

Job: Musician, editor of The M.A.D. (Music, Arts and Dialogue) magazine and actor

How long have you lived in Madison? On and off since 1998.

Your status: Single but dating.

How would you describe single life in Madison? In Madison you can be in so many different social settings. You can maneuver around and have fun with lots of different people.

What’s your greatest accomplishment? Going into alternative schools and teaching hip-hop to kids that aren’t traditional, mainstream students. That’s more so than any of the awards I’ve won. That’s why I do hip-hop, to reach out.

Do you have any dating deal-breakers? If a woman swears like a sailor—I want to have a conversation with a lady, not a girl—and doesn’t have a belief in God or a higher power.

If you had a theme song, what would it be? “Paid the Cost to be the Boss” by James Brown.

How do you give back? I volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County in my work with the Black Star Drumline there.

Your perfect Saturday night in Madison: There’d be a game that the Badgers had just won and I’d go to my favorite watering hole, Genna’s. Then I’d hang out somewhere along King Street.

Your ideal Valentine’s gift: Give me a Valentine’s Day card! I would like to receive one.

Who’s your celebrity crush? Honestly, it would be Kerry Washington or Elizabeth Berkley … with Erykah Badu and Zoe Saldana always being mentioned in the conversation!

What celebrity would play you in a movie about your life? Heavy D.

Your greatest indulgence: I’ll be honest: Culver’s.

Your happy place: The studio. Any emotion I’m feeling I try to put into a composition.

 

Katie Vaughn is managing editor of Madison Magazine.

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