Dave Cieslewicz

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Dave Cieslewicz
Dave Cieslewicz.jpg
56th Mayor of Madison
In office
April 22, 2003 – April 19, 2011
Preceded by Susan Bauman
Succeeded by Paul Soglin
Personal details
Born (1959-02-17) February 17, 1959 (age 57)
West Allis, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Dianne Cieslewicz
Alma mater University of Wisconsin, Madison

David J. Cieslewicz (/ɛsˈlɛvɪ/;[1] Polish pronunciation: [t͡ɕɛɕˈlevit͡ʂ]; born February 17, 1959) is an American politician who served as mayor of Madison, Wisconsin from 2003 to 2011. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

Personal life and early career[edit]

Cieslewicz was born and raised in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, and came to Madison as a student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is of Polish descent, and grew up in what he identified as a Polish neighborhood as a child.[2] His wife is Dianne Cieslewicz, chief of staff to state Senator Fred Risser, and they reside in the Regent Street neighborhood on Madison's near-west side.

Prior to seeking the mayor's office, Cieslewicz served as executive director of "1000 Friends of Wisconsin," a land use advocacy organization that successfully lobbied for Wisconsin's Smart Growth planning law. He had additional political experience as a staffer in the Wisconsin State Legislature, as a lobbyist for the Nature Conservancy, and as an elected member of the Dane County Board of Supervisors. He also lost a state Assembly race in 1992 to Tammy Baldwin, now representing Wisconsin in the United States Senate.


Cieslewicz was not a household name in Madison when he announced his candidacy for mayor. Although relatively unknown, the prominent support of popular Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk quickly made him a household name, if a mispronounced one (his campaign materials prominently featured phonetic pronunciations of his Polish last name).

Cieslewicz replaced Susan Bauman as mayor of Madison in 2003, after beating legendary activist and former mayor Paul Soglin in a close contest (results). He was easily re-elected to a second 4-year term in 2007, defeating Republican businessman Ray Allen (results). In 2011, Cieslewicz ran for a third term as mayor losing in a tight race to opponent, former Mayor Paul Soglin, whom he had defeated in 2003.

Accomplishments in office[edit]

Since his election, Cieslewicz has been an active executive and has implemented many of his campaign's promises.

  • In conjunction with former Alderperson Brenda Konkel, the city enacted a mandatory inclusionary zoning ordinance, which required most new housing development to provide 15% of its units at affordable prices to people of modest incomes in exchange for density bonuses and other incentives. A focal point of his campaign, the Mayor announced in his April 2009 state of the city address that this had been a failure.[3]
  • A municipal minimum wage was successfully enacted in March, 2004 with the leadership of Alder Austin King. Scaled to rise to $7.75 per hour by 2008 and thereafter to be indexed to inflation, Madison's wage ordinance made it the fourth city in the country with its own minimum standard. Madison's efforts prompted Milwaukee, La Crosse and Eau Claire to establish their own municipal minimum wages. This resulted in a statewide compromise in May 2005, where Wisconsin's minimum wage rose to $6.50 per hour in exchange for prohibiting wage modifications at the municipal level.
  • A number of updates to city infrastructure were also implemented, including new automated recycling and refuse collection programs, a merger of the city's civil rights departments, the creation of a comprehensive city planning process, and the creation of the city's first municipal swimming pool.
  • Supporter of an initiative that eventually defeated the opening of a casino in Madison.
  • Cieslewicz and the city council implemented a citywide smoking ban, that prohibited smoking in any public space, including bars and taverns. The ban went into effect in July 2005.
  • He is a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition,[4] a bi-partisan group with a stated goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets." The Coalition is co-chaired by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
  • Cieslewicz has also launched the New Cities Project,[5] an organization of mayors and chiefs of staff dedicated to fostering progressive metropolitan leadership.

Political activity[edit]

In the 2004 presidential election, Cieslewicz provided a key endorsement to Sen. John Edwards the week before the critical Wisconsin presidential primary. Edwards finished a surprisingly strong second, behind Sen. John Kerry.

Cieslewicz endorsed Edwards again in the 2008 campaign. When Edwards withdrew from the race, Cieslewicz endorsed Sen. Barack Obama. Obama went on to win the Wisconsin primary.


Cieslewicz has his critics, primarily in the business community. Madison's regulatory climate has been called difficult for businesses, and critics see Cieslewicz as keeping with that tradition.[6] In response to those critics, Cieslewicz unveiled in December 2004 a vision for economic development with support from the Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Commission, Convention and Visitors Bureau, and other business organizations.[6]

Mr. Cieslewicz is a supporter of recreational marijuana use, but has not used marijuana "in recent years."[7][8]


Cieslewicz has appeared in Episode 6 and Episode 8 of the hit web video series Chad Vader.


  1. ^ Miss Pronouncer: Hear how to pronounce; The Wisconsin pronunciation guide for cities, counties, Indians & lawmakers)
  2. ^ http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=41173
  3. ^ Capital Times Inside City Hall
  4. ^ "Mayors Against Illegal Guns: Coalition Members". 
  5. ^ "New Cities Project". 
  6. ^ a b Mayor's Economic Development Commission
  7. ^ http://badgerherald.com/news/2009/03/03/mayor_wants_pot_lega.php
  8. ^ Cieslewicz, Dave (February 10, 2011). (Speech). University of Wisconsin – Madison Geography / Urban Planning 305 Guest Lecture. The University of Wisconsin – Madison, Madison, WI.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Susan Bauman
Mayor of Madison
Succeeded by
Paul Soglin