(I’m writing this as a private citizen. My views do not represent my employer or any other organization I work with or for. Also: being pro Jake does not make me anti Dana. Both are strong progressive candidates and I think we need to focus on getting progressive voters to the polls and not on infighting, please.)
I want Jake Woodford to be Appleton’s next mayor.
I didn’t know him as a student at Lawrence and he never took one of my classes. We are friendly but I wouldn’t say we’re friends, and honestly, I’m a little freaked out by how many people seem to be voting for someone because they know them. The good thing about being me is I pretty much know everyone so that’s not an issue.
When I heard Jake was thinking about running, I encouraged him to do so. I was excited at the prospect – as was my wife – for a couple of reasons. He was an extraordinary LUCC president during a complicated time in Lawrence’s history. He listened to understand where other people were coming from, listened to comprehend how different other people’s experiences of both Appleton and Lawrence were, and he read and researched and talked to just about everyone. The one thing I told him was that you can’t lead well if your ego is in it: this is about service to a community. I warned him that being mayor was going to be dealing with criticism every goddamn day.
But it’s his vision for the city that’s really the thing. I haven’t seen anything comparable from anyone else running. It’s got sections on neighborhoods, community, the economy, health and safety, and city management with multiple paragraphs breaking down those topics. Go read it if you haven’t.
He’s a civics dork, and there is no higher compliment I can pay a person. His vision for the city includes ideas about multi modal transit, cybercrime, environmental protections (both in terms of sustainability and response to environmental catastrophe), water quality, youth engagement, neighborhoods and community building.
But it was the fine print that really thrills me. Here’s the list of stuff he read to make decisions about his vision plan, and I have no doubt he actually read all of it:
Development of this document was supported by research and data from Imagine Fox Cities, the Fox Cities LIFE Study, the City of Appleton Comprehensive Plan, City of Appleton Housing Affordability Report, Downtown Appleton Mobility Plan, APA Policy Guide on Collaborative Neighborhood Planning, A Guide for Government Officials Seeking to Promote Productive Citizen Participation – Asset-Based Community Development Institute, AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities, This is Smart Growth – SGN, Valley Transit Draft Transit Development Plan, National League of Cities IYEF Authentic Youth Civic Engagement Report, and dozens of individual conversations and meetings with community leaders and citizens. I am grateful to the many people whose work has indirectly or directly shaped this vision.
I didn’t even know half of this existed, but he does, because this is the kind of stuff he reads for fun. Like I said, civics dork. It may seem boring to you, but to me it’s sexy as hell. I don’t want to have to read that stuff but I do want someone in charge who does and who will.
But the most important thing to me, as someone who is LGBTQ-identified, is that his vision statement was available in Spanish and Hmong and English. This is walking the walk: not just reiterating in a charming way that he plans to be inclusive; this is actually doing it – making sure people who have been marginalized in this very community he will lead know what’s going on.
I would feel safe with him as mayor – not just because I know he’s pro LGBTQ people – but because he does the work, knows and loves this community, knows and understands its problems, and is as concerned as I am about the future. Fact-based, well-researched, and bottom-up leadership is what we need. & That’s Jake Woodford.