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Dane County executive 2011 candidate introduction: Zach Brandon
Zach Brandon
Zach Brandon

Isthmus sent email questionnaires to each candidate for Dane County executive. Here is what they had to say about themselves, why they're running and what they hope to achieve.

Zach Brandon
Age: 37
Current employment: Deputy Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Commerce
Campaign website:
Relevant experience (in 75 words or less): I'm a job creator, budget hawk, innovator, manager and entrepreneur. I've managed an agency with 400 employees and a $366 million budget. I've created and implemented dozens of innovative economic development, job creation, and green technology initiatives that have created and retained tens of thousands of jobs. I was elected three times to the Madison Common Council. Most important, I'm the only candidate who has signed the front of a paycheck, not just the back.

Please answer the following questions in 100 words or less.

1. Why are you running?
We need a County Executive who brings a radical, innovative approach to create and retain jobs. I am the only candidate with a proven track record of job creation, innovative economic development, and entrepreneurship. Lots of candidates talk the talk about jobs; I am the only candidate who has walked the walk. I am also the only candidate who, as an elected official, developed a reputation as a watchdog of taxpayers' dollars. We need a leader who understands that revenue means money out of taxpayers' and businesses' pockets, and who will guard taxpayers' dollars and fight for their best use.

2. What do you think is the single most important issue facing Dane County?
Lack of private-sector job creation. Small businesses and start-ups are the primary creators of new jobs. This lack of job creation -- rather than job losses -- is at the heart of the Dane County's economic challenge.

A recent report by Thrive highlights a chilling fact: Despite the UW-Madison undertaking $1 billion in research -- making it one of the largest research universities in the nation -- we trail our peers in job growth and business establishment growth. This is the canary in the coal mine. It isn't too late, but we must act now in a bold and decisive way.

3. Name an official recently elected in Wisconsin whom you admire? Why?
State Rep. Kelda Helen Roys (D-Madison). When I served on the Madison Common Council, Kelda and I worked together to pass landmark legislation to ensure that women have access to emergency contraceptives. We also worked together to create jobs. With Kelda's support, we overhauled nearly all of Wisconsin's Economic Development programs, developing nationally recognized initiatives like Enterprise Zones, Accelerate Wisconsin, and the Green to Gold Fund.

Kelda just finished her first term, but has already earned the respect of her colleagues and was recently elected to Democratic leadership. Kelda is strategic, smart, and bold -- exactly what elected officials should be, and more.

4. Can you name two specific areas in which you think county spending could be cut?
End the practice of borrowing for operating expenses. I stopped this at the city level. The county's capital budget is being misused to pay for operating costs. Borrowing should pay for items that last at least as long as the repayment term. This debt-service has grown to be an increasingly large portion of the budget, shrinking the resources for vital functions such as human services, public safety, and economic development.

Merging service delivery in regional planning, parks, public safety, human services, and public works would reduce expenses and allow more dollars to be put into service delivery instead of overhead.

5. Identify one or two areas in which the county could raise new revenue.
The creation of new jobs is the best way to generate new revenue and that is where our focus needs to be, not on what else can we tax. Government should not be motivated to find new ways to spend money. New revenue doesn't come out of thin air -- it comes directly from taxpayers and businesses. We should be focused on budgeting for specific desired outcomes, and focused on growing and diversifying the tax base to create budget stability and economic vitality.

6. Name an initiative or program that you would launch?
As part of my commitment to a new way of doing business in Dane County, I have pledged to unveil at least two radical ideas each month of the campaign.

These initiatives will include efforts to promote responsible borrowing, outcome-driven budgeting, municipal collaboration, and linking human services with jobs. I will also unveil innovative ideas for business, workforce, and entrepreneurial development.

My radical ideas will be posted on my website, and sent out to local media.

My first radical idea, released on Dec. 20, is to streamline regional planning so that land-use and transportation decisions are not made independently.

7. If you were forced to drop out of the race unexpectedly, which of the remaining candidates would you vote for and why?
Politics-as-usual says punt on this question and use it as an opportunity to highlight my strengths and my opponents' weaknesses. I suspect at least one, if not all, of my opponents did exactly that. And while I won't do that, I really don't see an upside to making a hypothetical endorsement for a hypothetical and highly unlikely event.

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