Alder-elect first woman to represent district 8 in over 20 years

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- A 19-year-old newcomer is the first woman to represent District 8 as alder in over 20 years.

Avra Reddy is the alder-elect for District 8. The 19-year-old freshman at UW-Madison is studying philosophy and political science. Reddy said she had heard the District 8 seat might be opening before she arrived at UW, and after encouragement from a friend, decided to run.

"I knew that I was going to be a full time student, and city council is not a joke," Reddy said. "It's a real thing, you have a real job, and you need to serve real people. And so you can't just put it to the side whenever you want. Upon consideration, I decided I wanted to do it."

Reddy said that campaigning was challenging because she was out knocking on doors while managing her schoolwork. She said that on election day, she went from class, to canvassing, to an exam, then returned to canvassing, and finally went to her watch party.

"I'd heard from so many women in my life that when doors open you need to walk through them, instead of letting them close," Reddy said. "And so that was a big influence on accepting this position and deciding to run."

Reddy said being surrounded by students everyday is an advantage because those are her constituents, and said she gets to talk to her peers in class about issues that they have.

"Talking to students, their most common issues were things like affordable housing and public safety, especially for self identifying women," she said. "So those I think were our two biggest issues that we ran on."

Reddy is the first woman to become alder of District 8 for at least 20 years.

"26 years women have not had a seat at the table when it's come to that issue on campus, and so having Avra in this position now is I think really meaningful," said Adam Fearing, a sophomore at UW-Madison who served as Reddy's campaign manager.

"As women we always feel like we have to, I think, follow in men's footsteps, which is not true," Reddy said. "And you kind of have to break rank from that mindset."

Shiva Bidar, who has served as alder for District 5 since 2009, said she is already impressed by Reddy, and said she will be there to provide support as Reddy moves forward in this new role.

"I'm so impressed by her energy, by what she's bringing," Bidar said. "So I'm not exactly sure that I have really words of advice. She probably will hit the ground running, she has so much energy and knowledge already, and ran an amazing campaign."

Madison officials, including the newly elected alders and mayor, will be sworn in on Tuesday. On the eve of being sworn in, Reddy had reminders for herself.

"Walking into tomorrow, I think that I need to remember to stay true to myself, and my beliefs, and that I don't have to do things the way they've been done for 26 years," she said. "I can switch things up."