Editor's Choice: Four Individuals Worth Their Weight in BOM Gold

It's our turn! Our annual picks for the best of the city.

She’s Got the Beat

In the tiny downtown office of a century-old national magazine founded by Fighting Bob LaFollette, imagine the tempest stirring after news of Governor Walker’s budget repair bill went viral last February. Mere footsteps away, a big, bold, ugly blow to organized labor unleashed a gripping protest movement that inflamed the city of Madison and dominated the national—and sometimes international—airwaves for weeks. With bike, iPhone and reporter’s notebook in hand, The Progressive’s political editor Ruth Conniff tenaciously covered the lefty beat in her very own backyard. Frontline dispatches from inside and outside the state Capitol and the courtroom across the street were timely and often riveting, capturing marquee moments, including the state administration’s restriction of public access inside the Rotunda. Conniff’s straightforward, boots-on-the-ground style makes her unabashedly liberal writing and commentary a fascinating read for Fighting Bob friend or foe.

 

Heart of Dane

Topf Wells was the prototypical politician’s chief of staff. There was never any doubt that for every one of the fourteen years Kathleen Falk was Dane County Executive, he had her back. Wells was simply the most knowledgeable guy in county government, a master strategist who knew every issue inside out. He could finish Falk’s sentences, and frequently did, but always gave Falk credit for every good idea that came out of her office. There was also never any doubt that Wells cared about Dane County and its citizens. He wore his environmentalism on the sleeve of his hunting jacket. He shared Falk’s passion for our lakes, streams and rivers. And he loves the farmers—and the stuff they grow. He never misses a farmers’ market. He’s got a big heart, he’s a generous man, and seeing him and his wife Sally at one of the local restaurants they love is simply a pleasure. Retirement will not diminish any of it.

 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

It takes a lot of chutzpah—or something—to run for Dane County Executive as a conservative. Typically this is a sacrificial lamb-type job for someone perhaps positioning herself for something else later. But whatever it takes, Eileen Bruskewitz has it in spades and she was no sheep in her candidacy. More Best of Madison though was the kind of race she ran after she and Joe Parisi emerged from the
primary. She stuck to her conservative guns and ran hard on the issues, but without personal attacks against Parisi or misleading claims. She accepted every debate offered, pointed out differences, told the truth, and left the rest up to the voters. It seems to us you don’t do that without respecting your opponent, the citizens and ultimately Dane County. Eileen Bruskewitz deserves recognition for that respect.

 

Building Up, Reaching Out

“One Sunday morning I woke up with an urge to go to church,” says Reverend Richard L. Jones of his path from a young lawyer to senior pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, which celebrates its one hundredth anniversary this year. And in addition to looking back and celebrating the congregation’srich history and accomplishments, Rev. Jones is leading the church into its next century of service to the community with a capital campaign for a newCommunity Life Center. Right now, Mt. Zion’s physical footprint is modest, but its ministry is impressively large and growing by the day. The plannedexpansion would include a senior citizen complex, a walking track, shared sport courts with the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County and a youth artscenter. But that’s just a sampling. Jones credits so many past and presentparishioners as “great visionaries and tireless servants” and is humbled bychurch elders and leaders. “That’s the legacy—making a difference in people’s lives,” he says.

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