Let's start with full disclosure: Dorothy Conniff is one of my heroes. Starting as the city of Madison's first child-care specialist, she has devoted her career to quiet, tireless public advocacy on behalf of children and low-income families. She is part of that cadre -- dominated by heroic women but also including a number of heroic men -- who labor on behalf of the city's core social ideals.
Today comes the announcement that Conniff, now director of the city's Office of Community Services, will retire on Sept. 4 after serving 30 years under five mayoral administrations
During her tenure, the city's child-care accreditation program has expanded from nine accredited centers to more than 80 -- a measure of the city's commitment to such markers as quality programs, workable child/caregiver ratios and improved education thresholds for child-care staff.
Under Conniff's stewardship, the Community Services Office has, moreover, engaged with local nonprofits as an instigator of programs ranging from Girl Neighborhood Power and The Rainbow Project to the Latino Family Resource Center and neighborhood-based initiatives serving populations at risk.
"The city can be proud of these accomplishments," Conniff is quoted in the official press release announcing her September departure, "and I am proud to have been part of building an innovative, responsive human services program within the city. Nobody requires us to provide these programs. We do it because we care, and that makes Madison a better place."