Falk will resign next April - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Falk will resign next April

At news conference At news conference

MADISON (WKOW) -- At a news conference Monday, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced her resignation, effective in April.

"I'm not angling for another political job and there's no ulterior motive,"   Falk told reporters as a dozen supporters flanked her, including her husband,   former state representative Peter Bock.

Falk was elected to a four-year term in April of 2009.

At the news conference, Falk said it was the right time to move on, citing progress on 2009 campaign pledges to establish community manure digesters to help control farm runoff into lakes, and to kick-start alcohol abuse prevent prevention and education programs.

Falk, who turns 60 next year,  said announcing her resignation intentions now allows candidates time to mount runs for the office she's vacating, and allows voting for her successor to along with regularly scheduled municipal elections. 

Some of those closest to Falk expressed surprise over her decision.

"I was shocked, but I obviously respect her decision,"   Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said.

Developer Nancy Mistele, who was defeated by Falk for county executive in April 2009, said she was not surprised because Falk has attempted to leave her county post mid-term by seeking state office twice previously, with unsuccessful runs for governor and attorney general.

Falk told reporters she has no concrete future plans, but did not rule out a run for another elected position, or a move outside of Wisconsin.

"I don't know what the next chapter is for me, but changing the world is what I'll continue to do."

Among her accomplishments, Falk cited promotion of job creation for the county's lower income population;  creation of nationally recognized environmental protection programs; and shielding over 10,000 acres of county land from any future development.

Mistele criticized Falk for what she said was neglect of county highway needs and 911 Center emergency communications problems.  

The mishandling of murder victim Brittany Zimmermann's 911 call for help in April 2008 produced criticism of Falk's oversight of 911 Center operations.   Falk supported more funding for increased staffing and technological upgrades after the Zimmermann incident.  

In office since 1997, Falk is Dane County's longest serving executive, and first woman to be elected to the position.

"I'm grateful those days are a distant memory and that now any woman can believe she has the opportunity to serve."

County Human Services Director Lynn Green said Falk has made sure the county's safety net for its most vulnerable residents remained intact, especially for adults with developmental disabilities.

"She's been committed to sustaining the resources, to growing resources, to challenging us to do things differently."

Former state health secretary Helene Nelson, who also served in Falk's administration, said Falk is a problem solver.

"We worked on a lot of things around jail diversion and mental health, and alcohol treatment in lieu of jail time as way to be smarter on crime."  

"There are few people I have more respect for than Kathleen Falk,"   Cieslewicz said.

Mistele said Falk strayed from a focus on Dane County and her mid-term resignation is more proof.

"I would only be her personal ambition that takes her to other places, because she's not interested in being the executive any more."

Falk said she'll work hard on the county's budget this fall and consider her future later.

"I don't know what the next chapter is for me, but changing the world is what I'll continue to do."

Mistele would not rule out a run next year for county executive, although Mistele said she's focused on the launch on an online registry of tea party groups nationwide.  

Others who are believed to be considering a run, or have considered running for county executive in the past, include county board chairperson Scott McDonell and state commerce department executive assistant Zach Brandon.

Falk lost in the Democratic primary for governor in 2002, when she became the first major party woman candidate for governor in Wisconsin history.

Before becoming county executive, Falk was an assistant attorney general in the Wisconsin Department of Justice for 14 years.

Online reporting by Breann Bierman and Tony Galli.


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