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Friday, December 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 26.0° F  Overcast
The Daily
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Citizen Dave: Jimmy Carter, my post-mayoral role model
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Madisonians have been clamoring for news about what I've been up to since leaving the mayor's office in April.

Well, OK, the truth is that one guy I ran into on the street the other day asked what I've been up to, and when I started to explain, his eyes glazed over and he said he was late for a meeting.

So in response to this intense public demand for information about me, here's what I've been doing with myself outside of daytime television and napping.

I started my own consulting business, DCA Consulting, which stands for Dave Cieslewicz & Associates. This is an optimistic name, as it anticipates a time when I might actually have associates.

Now, I know the joke about a consultant being a guy with no job and a briefcase. But in my situation this is not true because I don't own a briefcase.

And as of last month, it's also not true because I actually have a couple of paying projects. I'm working with Meriter and St. Mary's hospitals and with the UW-Madison and MG&E on the revitalization of parts of the Greenbush and Vilas neighborhoods, which abut the hospitals and UW campus. The idea is that with students moving to new buildings even closer to campus, there's an opportunity to convert a good deal of housing back to single family or duplex owner-occupied housing, or into rentals geared at employees of the hospitals, the university, and other employers. In addition, there might be some opportunities for new infill housing and for revitalization (PDF) of the Regent commercial corridor.

I'm just getting started on this project by talking with lots of stakeholders and getting up to speed on the excellent planning that's already been done. If you would like to have input, just send me an email to davecieslewicz@gmail.com.

I'm also doing a little political consulting for the forces of truth and justice. Enough said on that one.

My other paying gig is this very blog. Isthmus pays me extravagantly to share my wisdom with you. In fact, the other day I was on Regent Street to purchase the twin fuels of the writing trade: strong coffee and brandy. I plowed my entire week's earnings and then some right back into the business. It's just this kind of reinvestment that our entire economy needs more of right now.

Then there's the volunteer stuff. I am continuing on the boards of two organizations I helped found, the environmental group 1000 Friends of Wisconsin and the urban policy think tank called the Mayor's Innovation Project.

I've also joined the boards of the Friends of the Waisman Center, which supports the Center's great work on brain research (just the thing many of my constituents had suggested I needed when in office), the Urban League of Greater Madison's Workforce Development Board, the Simpson Street Free Press, and an informal group of volunteers who are helping raise money for the new Central Library.

At the request of state Sen. Mark Miller, I'm serving on the new Wisconsin Commission on Transportation Finance & Policy, hoping to move that body toward recommending more funding for transit and bike facilities while fixing current roads and bridges, and finding an equitable way to pay for all of it.

I'm also doing special appearances when a nonprofit will settle for someone who will work free and has slowly eroding name recognition. For example, along with speaking at conferences promoting biking in cities around the U.S. and Canada, I'm introducing Parker Palmer at the Wisconsin Book Festival, speaking at the Capital Area Planning Commission's conference titled "Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities" on October 27, and most importantly, bowling in a fundraiser for the East Madison Community Center on November 12.

Finally, I'm getting more than five hours of sleep a night, eating meals that actually require a fork and knife at a table that includes my wife, doing some running, riding my bike everywhere, reading lots of things that I'm really interested in, and living and dying with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Look, I won't mince words here. I loved being mayor. It was the eight best years of my life, I wasn't ready to give it up, and losing the last election was the worst personal blow I've ever endured. It took me months to recover from it. But, despite the occasional pang of regret, I pretty much have recovered.

Am I ready to get back into electoral politics? Well, a person I deeply respect suggested I consider running for Congress. But I told my mom that I didn't think I wanted the lifestyle of a congressman, and there were plenty of good people running without me needing to get in. So, I passed.

What I'd really like to do is figure out how to contribute to this community without being in public life. I've admired how Jimmy Carter has handled being an ex-president. If I could do that kind of thing on this much smaller stage, that would be just great. I also have a wood shop.

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