Ever since Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk lost the race for state attorney general in 2006, she's seemed a little lost. Sure, she's been out campaigning for Hillary Clinton and faithfully fulfilling her county duties. But often when Falk talks about county issues, she seems a bit bored.
Eleven years in the same job -- with your hopes for advancement repeatedly dashed -- can do that to you.
But now Falk seems to be finding her footing again. She recently announced a new initiative to combat Wisconsin's love affair with alcohol. And Falk, whose father died of alcoholism, seems to have a spark inside her again.
"A lot of you are thinking -- 'C'mon Falk. Lighten up. Have some fun and let the rest of us have some fun!'" she said in a speech to Madison's downtown Rotary Club on Wednesday afternoon.
But Falk cited statistics showing that the state's tolerance of alcohol misuse sets it apart from the rest of the country. Wisconsin, she noted, has the nation's worst rate of binge drinking. The worst rate for underage drinking. The highest percentage of fatal alcohol-related car crashes. And twice the national average for drunk driving.
"We are not normal," she said. "No state is worse than we are."
Falk has not unveiled any specific proposals for what the state, or even Dane County, can do. She's hired two new staff members to help her research the issue in the next six months and come up with some recommendations.
In the meantime, she wants the community to have a serious dialogue about the issue. "It isn't about stopping drinking to celebrate," she says. "It's about stopping the celebration of drinking. We all need to look inside ourselves and think twice about what we're willing to accept. Our county can be different."
Especially if it has a leader who's excited about the job again.