Bruskewitz: 'The progressive label is almost humorous.'
In states like Mississippi or Tennessee, Eileen Bruskewitz might be considered a liberal or at least a moderate. But on the Dane County Board, she's been a conservative leader, pushing for low taxes, property rights and development interests, while at the same time advocating for human services.
Redistricted out of her Waunakee district last year, she decided not to run for reelection after 13 years on the board. Isthmus spoke with her last week about her experience on the board.
Isthmus: What's been your proudest achievement on the board?
Bruskewitz: There were three things: the North Mendota Parkway, moving that forward; preventing excessive shoreline zoning from going into affect; and the no-tax for tracks. Those things saved taxpayers millions of dollars on things they really didn't want.
What do liberals get right?
You're really going to have to make me think about this.... Conservatives have many of the same goals. There's a lot of agreement on what should be done -- protecting vulnerable citizens, people with developmental disabilities. We want the same things in most cases. We want clean lakes. How do we get there is really the difference. Cow power, manure digesters are great. But government shouldn't be doing them, the private sector should be doing them.
What do liberals get wrong?
The liberals are absolutely unwilling to give new ideas a chance. The progressive label is almost humorous. A lot of what they do is almost regressive. Their agenda is closed. They're not looking at success in terms of outcomes for the county. Their success is measured by the achievement of an agenda item. Take a look at shoreland zoning. "Let's get ordinances passed" is the progressive view.... They've targeted homeowners when the major contributors are agriculture and government.
Do you have any regrets?
One big thing I regret is I voted for putting something on a referendum [about the landmark Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission]. Now they're saying I supported their position. I definitely don't. I voted for a referendum because I thought people should have a voice.
What will you miss most about the job?
I had an opportunity to give voice to a lot of people who didn't think they had a voice. I really enjoyed that because I got to meet so many people.... I really like people. The job was well suited to me because I had a chance to talk to people and I was formulating positions on what people were telling me. I definitely will not miss having every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at a committee meeting. It really takes a lot of time to serve.
Do you plan on running for office again?
[Supv.] Dianne Hesselbein announced that I was running for a new Assembly seat. I thought about it. I haven't made any decisions. There are a lot of people in politics right now that are trying to keep up this divisiveness of name calling and personal nasty attacks. It's really unfortunate. In many ways I see it as a desperate attempt to hold on to power and to demonize really good people.
Any advice for new supervisors?
The people who are in charge of things will continue on the same path, I'm quite sure. One of the issues they have to look at is reining in borrowing and not borrowing for operating costs, which is going to get the county in deeper trouble as time goes on.