Mayor's Bio

Image: Mayor Paul R. Soglin Photo Credit: Michael Kienitz

Mayor Paul R. Soglin

Mayor Paul R. Soglin is the 51st, 54th and 57th Mayor of Madison. He was elected seven times as Mayor of Madison, most recently in 2011, and three times as a Common Council member.

Paul Soglin was raised in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. He attended Hyde Park High School (now Hyde Park Career Academy), and graduated from Highland Park High School in 1962. He enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) in the fall of 1962, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts with honors in history in 1966 and after spending three years in the UW History graduate program, a Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) degree from the UW - Madison Law School in 1972.

In 1962, he was elected treasurer of the UW-Madison chapter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In October of 1963, Soglin joined 200 classmates at a rally on the steps of the Memorial Union protesting the presence of U.S. military advisers who were suspected of active participation in the Vietnam conflict.

In the late spring of 1965, Soglin and a dozen other college students, as part of the North Shore Summer Project (NSSP) set out in Chicago suburbs such as Winnetka, Wilmette, and Kenilworth, going door-to door with petitions calling for real estate agents to show and sell homes to African-Americans. Before the summer was out, volunteers had contacted over 600 home sellers and over 1,500 other residents. The culmination of the project occurred on July 25, 1965, when the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. addressed a crowd of 8,000 on the Village Green in Winnetka. The following Monday, July 26, 1965, Soglin, and his NSSP partners, joined Dr. King and Chicago activist and school teacher Al Raby, on a march to Chicago's City Hall.

While a graduate student in the University of Wisconsin-Madison History Department, Paul Soglin was elected to Madison's Common Council in 1968. He was re-elected in 1970 and 1972 and was elected the youngest Mayor in Madison history on April 3, 1973.

Mayor Soglin served as mayor of Madison for three terms, from 1973 to 1979, followed by a fellowship at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. After working for nearly a decade as a lawyer in Madison, Paul Soglin returned to office in 1989, serving three additional terms as mayor until 1997. Following an unsuccessful bid for the United States House of Representatives in 1996, seeking to represent Wisconsin's 2nd congressional district, he resigned as mayor in 1997.

In 2003, he sought election again as mayor of Madison and was defeated by a narrow margin by Dave Cieslewicz. Soglin was a candidate in the 2011 mayoral election, this time defeating incumbent Cieslewicz in a close race. Mayor Soglin took the oath of office for his third stint as mayor on April 19, 2011.

Mayor Soglin and, his wife, Sara, lifelong Madison residents, were married in 1982 and reside in the Hoyt Park neighborhood. Sara, a graduate of West High School, is a hairdresser and enjoys painting (winter) and gardening (the rest of the year) in her spare time.

Mayor Soglin and Sara have three daughters all of whom completed their entire education in the Madison public schools, graduating from West High School. Rachael is an actress in Chicago; Alex is a realtor with Century 21 Affiliated, and is getting her culinary degree at Madison College; and Natasha, a UW-Madison graduate, works at Filament Games LLC, as a graphic artist.

Mayor Soglin's terms are noted for the balanced investment in human capital and appropriate municipal infrastructure. Whether it was the bicycle path around Lake Monona, or the Monona Terrace and Community Convention Center, or thousands of units of low income and senior housing, or neighborhood centers and community gardens, the focus has been on equity and developing a tax base that can support human services.

Mayor Soglin's seventeen years in office are noted for:

  • A major commitment to public transit with record setting ridership levels competitive with cities three times our size
  • The development of Madison's first bicycle routes and lanes
  • The design and construction of the State Street Mall resulting in one of the strongest downtown locally owned retail sectors
  • The development of Madison's Civic Center which was the basis for the world class Overture Center for the Arts

In his current term, Mayor Soglin has introduced many new innovative policies and programs such as the MadMarket Double Dollars program, a collaborative program with local hospitals and the Community Action Coalition and the Make Music Madison project where he collaborated with local musicians and the developer community to create matchmaking software.

Under Mayor Soglin's leadership, City government has become more transparent, by creating various opportunities for citizens to engage and participate in the decision making processes throughout City Hall.

Mayor Soglin's focus and priorities of this administration are:

  • Developing a better sense of place in all Madison neighborhoods.
  • Growing the property tax base with a commitment to denser but better designed projects that will maximize the utilization of infrastructure, particularly public transit.
  • Measuring every city project against the finest standards for livability, equity, and sustainability.
  • Supporting the Madison Metropolitan School District to produce the best educational system for every student, through Madison Out of School Time (MOST) and other partnerships.
  • Improving Madison's Walkability rating by increasing public transit, increasing access to bicycle routes, and ensuring that all basic needs are within walking distance of every neighborhood so that residents can walk more and drive less.
  • Enhancing Madison's reputation as a food accessible community by eliminating food deserts, and by building public markets, and food hubs.
  • Eliminating the critical racial and ethnic disparity in educational achievement, income, and incarceration.
  • Working to ensure equity in city employment and public contracting for employees and contractors.

Mayor Soglin currently serves on:

  • US Conference of Mayors, Transportation and Communications Committee, Vice Chair for City Livability/Bicycling
  • US Conference of Mayors Advisory Board
  • US Conference of Mayors Task Force on Food Policy, Co-Chair