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Q&A with Dane County Executive race candidates: Joe Parisi & Mary Ann Nicholson

Published: Mar. 24, 2021 at 1:56 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 24, 2021 at 6:38 PM CDT
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DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) - The role of Dane County Executive will be in the hands of voters in less than two weeks. In the April 6th Spring election Mary Ann Nicholson is taking on incumbent of 10 years, Joe Parisi, for the role.

NBC15 spoke with both candidates virtually for a question & answer session Wednesday, touching on topics from the past year and their goals moving forward.

If Parisi wins, this will be his fourth term in the Dane County Executive office. Mary Ann Nicholson has not been campaigning since the loss of her husband, but with the help of a team of volunteers, has continued to promote her candidacy.

“If I’m elected I will accept the position and I will move forward. It’s just that I had a little bit more important things that I needed to deal with,” said Nicholson.

Further answers to these questions and additional questions can be found in the full video interviews below.

WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR DANE COUNTY EXECUTIVE?

Joe Parisi: “This is the best job one could ever dream of. I was born and raised in Dane County and having the opportunity to be in a position where I can give back to this community that’s given me so much has been one of the greatest honors of my life.”

Mary Ann Nicholson: “I think that the county deserves to have a fresh perspective on issues that are surrounding the county right now.”

WOULD YOU CHANGE ANYTHING ON HOW THE COUNTY RESPONDED TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC? WHAT DO YOU THINK THE COUNTY DID BEST DURING THE PANDEMIC?

Joe Parisi: “What we tried to do was do what was in the best interest of public health. Which has born fruit, we’re seeing that we have one of the lowest infection and lowest mortality rates not only in Wisconsin, but if you compare Dane County to communities its size across the nation, we have one of the lowest rates of infection and one of the lowest death rates.”

Mary Ann Nicholson: “It was very important that we took the leadership to do the first shutdown and do everything in our power to learn how we could work together and make it so that nobody was getting sick. After that initial start I think there needed to be a little more communication with school districts, because we have seen school districts in other portions of this state open up in September last year. I think the complete utter lockdown of the schools and not having any in-person, I think was a little bit excessive.”

DO YOU THINK THE COUNTY NEEDS TO DO MORE TO ADDRESS SOCIAL ISSUES, SUCH AS RACISM?

Joe Parisi: “When it comes to equity we have to first lead by example. Let people know that racism will not be tolerated in this community and when we look at the long-term effects and we look at, for example, racial disparities in the criminal justice system, racial disparities in the economic system, we need to make investments to make sure everything Dane County has to offer is available to everyone.”

Mary Ann Nicholson: “I want to facilitate people being able to come together, to talk and to figure out how we can move forward. That means I want to include business owners, I want to include faith-based, I want to include non-profit, I want to include health-care, mental health-care people. People that deal with this stuff every day and try to work with those organizations and with the black and brown community and law enforcement all together to figure this out.”

WHAT ARE THE IMPROVEMENTS OR CHANGES YOU’D PRIORITIZE IF YOU WIN THE ELECTION?

Joe Parisi: “We have to go full speed ahead on the recovery. We have to continue our very successful vaccine rollout. Making sure that people are taking care of the testing. That we do everything we continue to need to do to get people healthy so we can continue to open up the economy. We need to focus on getting businesses back open safely and soundly. We need to look at helping people who have suffered during the pandemic get caught up. Whether it’s help with rent, whether it’s help getting a business back up off the ground.”

Mary Ann Nicholson: “What I first want to see is happen is to start to get our businesses, our small businesses, back open and running. The other thing would be to start working on social and economic issues facing the county. Both in the Black and brown communities, but also in the entire county. Then we’ll need to look at revenues. I think we can’t expect the taxpayer to supplement the loss of revenue that has been experienced with COVID.”

WOULD YOU CONTINUE TO EXPAND CONSERVATION AND RENEWABLE ENERGY EFFORTS IF YOU WIN?

Joe Parisi: “We’re talking about the planet that we’re leaving to our children and grandchildren and we owe it to them to do everything in our power to heal some of the damage that generations before them have caused. Our renewable energy projects in Dane County are saving energy, cleaning the air and saving tax dollars.”

Mary Ann Nicholson: “I am open to protection of all of our resources, our lights, our trails. This is a very, very important part, but I am not an expert so I will look to others to help me move forward on programs that are already existing and then also looking at other ways that we can do renewable energy in a more cost effective way for all of the citizens of Dane County.”

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