Gloria Reyes announces candidacy for mayor of Madison

Former Madison school board president and vice mayor Gloria Reyes announced Thursday that she intends to run for mayor in the 2023 spring election.

If elected, she would be the first person of color to hold the office.

“We are at a critical moment in the city. People are looking for a change,” she said in an interview before the announcement. “As we come out of a pandemic and respond to and deal with the critical issues facing our residents today, we need a strong leader who understands the community very, very well to move us forward… Have the pulse of the community and experience in leadership and city ​​government, bringing them together is much more critical now than ever.”

Reyes indicated earlier this fall that she was considering running, prompted by other members of the community.

“Right now, the people encouraging me to run feel like there is no sense of urgency (in the current administration) and no larger vision of where Madison will be in the next five to 10 years.” she said.

Incumbent mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway defeated incumbent Paul Soglin in 2019. She has not formally announced her candidacy for a second term, but a spokesperson for her campaign said in an email to Madison365 that she “loves her job and has no plans to continue “. anywhere.”

She is working to deliver a balanced budget that focuses on our city’s priorities and will have an official announcement at a more appropriate time,” wrote Amy Westra, spokesperson for Satya for Madison.

Daughter of immigrant workers

Reyes is the daughter of migrant farm workers who followed seasonal work across the country. Every August, they ended up in Wautoma, Wisconsin, where she was born. They were among about 30 farmworkers who, inspired by Cesar Chavez and his farm labor movement, marched from Wautoma to Madison in 1966 to demand fair wages and better working conditions. Reyes said they walked down Bascom Hill and down State Street and realized the commitment that the Madison community had to education, which they wanted to offer their children.

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“They fell in love with the UW campus and (realized) that the education system was really going to be our way out of poverty,” Reyes said.

In the early 1970s, they returned to Madison to stay; with the help of organizations such as UMOS and the Urban League, they were established. Reyes’ father became a welder and his mother a nursing assistant.

Reyes grew up in the Madison public school system, graduating from Madison East and then attending Madison College and the University of Wisconsin, earning a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science.

He says that his youth was not necessarily calm.

“In high school, I was getting into a lot of trouble, I had no direction, I didn’t know what my path was going to be here in Madison,” she said, crediting members of the community for helping her. “They helped me get off track and really gave me the support that I needed at the time. I made a lot of mistakes in high school, but they never gave up on me. They continued to push me to be better, to really hone my leadership skills as a high school student at East and in my professional career… I feel a sense of responsibility, right now, to give back to a community. who has supported me throughout these years, and has seen me grow, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes. I am so honored that this community feels and has the confidence in me to be able to lead the city at this critical time.”

After graduating from the University of Washington, she went on to work as an investigator for the state public defender’s office and joined the Madison Police Department in 2002. She joined the Soglin administration in 2016, first as director of the department of city ​​civil rights and then as vice mayor. . She remained director of community development for the first six months of the Rhodes-Conway administration before taking over as executive director of Briarpatch Youth Services.

She also launched Forward, an organization to support people of color running for office, and served a term on the Madison school board from 2017 to 2020, the last year as president.

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Through all that experience stands out the founding of Amigos en Azul – Friends in Blue – as a Madison police officer in 2005.

“My proudest moment was… starting to really build that community trust between our Latino community and the Madison Police Department. And I am proud to see how it has continued,” she said.

“Never one or the other”

Surveillance has been a hot topic in Madison. The City’s contract to provide police officers in schools was a contentious topic of debate before the murder of George Floyd brought policing into a national spotlight.

As board president in 2020, Reyes surprised many observers by casting the deciding vote to get police out of schools.

“A common sense approach is really needed… Yes, I support officers in schools,” he said. “But we were at a critical point in our city where we just saw a black man killed on video, and how that… further elevated the problem that we have in our community. It had nothing to do with our Madison police officers. It was the national narrative, and it wasn’t fair, both on the side of our community and on the side of law enforcement, to keep law enforcement in a place where tension would continue.”

She said that’s the kind of balanced approach she’ll take to every tough issue as mayor.

“For me, it’s never an either/or narrative. I worked alongside one of the most progressive police departments and top-tier police officers who love this community, who serve this community every day,” she said. “I have also served alongside Black, Latino, people of color, LGBTQIA people who are afraid of the police. (I am) able to connect with that community as well, and understand their struggle with law enforcement. I also had that struggle with law enforcement as a kid. I understand that. It is not an either-or narrative. it is very complex. This is the type of leadership that I bring. I can understand both sides of the issue and make a decision based on what the community needs at the time.”

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She said that she would be looking forward to playing an active role in working with the 20 members of the Common Council.

“I think as mayor, she can’t just facilitate a meeting, she really has to guide and lead the Council on the issues,” she said. “As mayor, I will have the pulse of the community. I will understand where the community is leaning on any particular issue. Not that we always agree, that’s not the point. There are certain issues where I will have the pulse of the community and the council will not agree, whatever. But it is a level playing field for our community where her voice along with the voices of other alder constituents come to a council meeting to make a decision.”

If elected, she would be the first Latina and the first person of color to hold the office.

“Putting aside being a woman and a woman of color. My experience speaks for itself. My leadership speaks for itself,” she said. “I think what makes me unique is that because I am a woman of color, I have experienced this community in a different way that will benefit our community. I not only understand the issues of our people of color in this community and the challenges, but I also understand how to operate and live in a system and work within a system that has not always welcomed us. I’ve been able to work through those barriers.”

Former Common Council Chairman Syed Abbas and former Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, who supervised Reyes as a police officer, spoke in support of Reyes at the announcement event.

Candidates can begin circulating nomination papers on December 1 and must submit sufficient signatures by January 3. If more than two candidates appear on the ballot, the primary election will be held on February 21. The general election is scheduled for April 4.