Starting Young

County Supervisor Hayley Young
 By Lisa Bauer

Hayley Young was in high school in 2011 when Governor Scott Walker signed Act 10 into law, sparking huge protests at the State Capitol. “I watched all that happen, and that’s when I really started getting interested in politics,” she said. This spring, at age 23, she was elected to the Dane County Board of Supervisors.

She acknowledges that even for millennial women, political blockades abound. Young credits networking, encouragement and women paving the way for her early foray into public service.

As a UW-Madison student, Young was active in College Democrats. “At my first meeting, I look to the front of the room at the executive board members and noted there were several women up there,” she said. “Seeing them I thought, ‘I could run for a leadership position.’” She became the vice chair and then chair. January of her senior year, Young started a six-week training program with Emerge Wisconsin, an organization that identifies, trains and encourages Democratic women to run for office, get elected and seek higher office.

She said, “It’s an incredible program. It creates the network and infrastructure to see more women run and get elected.” On the first day of the program, Young heard the director mention that on average, women need to be asked seven times before running for office. “I thought, that can’t be. But looking back on my own experiences, I realized I had to be asked even more than seven times. I think that’s a big difference between women and men.”

Since 2002 Emerge has trained almost 900 Democratic women to run for office. Forty-three percent of Emerge alumnae have run for office or been appointed to local boards or commissions. Of those who have run for office, 60 percent have won.

Young said Emerge taught her skills such as how to write a campaign plan and raise money, but maybe more importantly the program offered a built-in political family. “Your Emerge sisters are your people,” she says.

Young’s Dane County Board district covers most of the UW-Madison campus. She says her goal as a supervisor is to engage and advocate for her constituents while focusing on health policy, human services and barriers to equity. She’s not yet certain of her future as an elected official but knows she wants to serve in some capacity.

Young is guardedly hopeful about the future of Wisconsin women in the political sphere. “I’m optimistic if we are willing to work for parity. But the fact that we’re having these conversations, that Dane County is seeing more women serving, that programs like Emerge exist, this is all very encouraging.”

For more insights and ideas from other area women in or who have run for office—including U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, and candidate for Governor of Wisconsin Mary Burke—see “Run, Women, Run” on P. 61 in the print or online editions of October 2016 issue. 

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