Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk shook up county politics Monday by announcing she'll step down mid-term next April after 14 years in office.
In her statement about the decision, Falk acknowledged how baffling and confusing the announcement would likely seem. "Let me remove any mystery about my stepping down by giving you the facts: I am healthy, happily married, and, of course, I am replaceable. I am not angling for another political job and there is no ulterior motive."
That clears up the "why not" but does little to answer why Falk is stepping down early. Asked if she's bored with the job, she responds, "this is not a boring job." But her explanation is likely to leave people guessing: already, rumors were floating on The Daily Page Forum.
Falk says there were two promises she made when she ran for reelection in 2009: to build the first manure digester to clean up the lakes and to address alcohol abuse. "I got them done," she says. Construction on the digester began this summer and will be operational in a couple of months; another is in the works. On the alcohol front, the progress is less definitive, but Falk points to the formation of the Coalition to Reduce Alcohol Abuse.
Falk says part of the decision, which she made recently, came about because of her age: "As I approach the seventh decade of my life, I believe it is time for me to find the next chapter of how I can make a contribution."
But she gives no hint of her plans, other than to say, "I'm open to the world. I have nothing lined up. [The work] has to involve changing the world."
The decision gives time for successors to consider running and raise money and support. Nominating petitions go out in December for the normal April election. Her spokesman, Joshua Wescott, says avoiding a special election, "which costs money," was also significant to Falk's timing.
Falk says she does not have a successor in mind, but intends to support someone. "It's important to me that we elect another progressive county executive."