Dana Pellebon Is Running for Dane County Executive: Running to Make Things Better

Dana Pellebon

Dana Pellebon has gained a wealth of experience in the private, non-profit and public arenas that she would bring to bear as the Dane County Executive.

Part 1 of 2

by Jonathan Gramling

Dana Pellebon has been active in the Madison area community for the past 30 years although she hasn’t Always been very visible. Raising an autistic son — who is now 19-years-old — with the help of his father and working demanding private-sector jobs makes life a go-to-work-by-day, be-mother-at-night existence.

But within those demands, Pellebon has done what she can for the community while learning valuable skills in property management, which involves not just taking care of buildings, but also managing the people living within them.

“I’ve worked my way up in every company that I have ever been in,” Pellebon said. “And when I started in housing, I started doing property management. I was lucky to have a very good mentor. And as my time there progressed, it was a 16-year time span for my first professional job. That’s where I learned budgets and finance and construction. It is where I learned contract negotiations. It’s where I learned how to not just create a budget, but also to implement the budget and also pivot when things weren’t going right. It taught me how to make the most out of sometimes what very little I had.”

Pellebon left Wisconsin Property Management to become the director of Housing & Operations for Porchlight, which gave her valuable non-profit management skills and led her to look at the big picture.

“I managed multiple groups of people, properties, budgets, timelines and projects in addition to hidden service work,” Pellebon said. “I had been doing that informally in my former position because any time you deal with housing, there is human service work that is involved. And working at

Porchlight made that more of a formalized portion of the work that I did. In addition to the regular life of how do you manage this business, how do you look at profit margins, how do you look at any issues that arise that need to be treated holistically and not a pinpoint problem for one specific area. How does this affect not just the company, but also the community of people who are engaged with that company and the community at-large.”

Most of Pellebon’s work has involved working with and dealing with people. She and her former husband owned and operated “The Frequency” in downtown Madison for 10 years. And she has learned that it is how you engage with people that goes a long ways in determining the ultimate achievement of your goals.

“The biggest thing has been my work with people on an executive and managerial level in addition to all of the finance, all of the construction, all of the contracts,” Pellebon said. “I have built workplaces and workplace culture that is sustainable, that is caring, that is supportive and energizing. You can ask many of my former employees — I have a lot of former employees in this area — and the one thing that I am very proud of is that they all say that I am a compassionate and fair employer. That’s important. Even through this work over at RCC — I’ve been the executive director there — I formulate the vision and direction for this company. And not just for this company, but for services for sexual violence survivors throughout the county and in some areas, throughout the state. So being able to lead, to lead with vision, compassion and the ability to know what works and what doesn’t work because you’ve done the work with people in addition to managing those people and managing the budget and time around them.”

A little over two years ago, Pellebon decided to take her community activism “public” so to speak and ran for the Dane County Board and won, representing a good part of Fitchburg.

“When you are a change maker, there is only so much you can do from outside of a system,” Pellebon said. “So when the opportunity came to run for county board supervisor, I felt that was the space that I could make some definitive movement on some of the issues that I have been working hard on for the last 30 years. My last two years doing this work has borne that out. There have been a lot of things that we have been able to push forward.”

And when Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced that he wouldn’t be running for re-election, Pellebon decided to take the opportunity to have an even bigger impact.

“I just felt that was an easy next step,” Pellebon said. “And by easy, I mean it isn’t an easy step. I’m saying it is an easy choice to say, ‘This is the next level to continue to further the work that is being done.’”

Next Issue: Priorities as County Executive