I am very lucky in that I know both of the Democratic candidates for the 62nd District Assembly race. Randy Bryce and Melissa Lemke will be competing in Tuesday’s primary for the Democratic spot on the November ticket. I am also lucky because I am not a voter in this district and I do not have to choose one over the other – which would prove difficult!
Randy and Melissa have done a great job at displaying their qualifications and motivations for running in this race. They are both very outspoken and heartfelt about their positions and determination to make a difference.
Sometimes it helps to see elected officials as fellow human beings, as neighbors, as individual personalities. And that is what I wanted to write about today. I want the public to get a glimpse of these candidates as people – not simply as perspective elected officials.
Randy grew up on Milwaukee’s Southside in a typical middle class household. The son of a Milwaukee Police Officer (dad) and a Medical Assistant (mom), Randy has a younger sister and brother. In high school, he played the trombone and was on the football team. And in one game, he even had to do both – proving at an early age he can take on multiple tasks.
Growing up, Randy always knew he wanted to help people. At the time, he envisioned himself being a doctor. But he followed another path and this path included building our communities and the security of our country.
For three years, Randy was a member of the XVIII Airborne Corps in the U.S. Army. He then went on to pursue a future as an ironworker. When asked what the best part about his job is, Randy answered, “The men and women who I work with. We look out for each other. Our lives depend on it.”
Randy also appreciates the value of a hard day’s work, “I love the fact that after a day at work, I can feel that I’ve earned my money.”
And he wants that feeling to be had by all. One of Randy’s biggest concerns for our society is its citizens having the ability to provide for their families. Having been laid off in the past, Randy knows first hand what it is like to worry about his family having what they need, including healthcare. Another issue close to his heart is the alarming rate of homeless veterans.
There is no doubt that Randy has been a pretty busy guy lately. But when he has time, he enjoys a good game of chess and relaxing with his blue-eyed cat, Frankie (named in honor of Sinatra). But most of all, Randy’s biggest joy is spending time with his five-year-old son, Ben.
His bit of advice for all children is that we always need to try our best at whatever we do.
"And we can only make the present moment as good as it can possibly be," he said. "The past is behind us and there are a lot of good moments in the present which will make sure our future is great.”
I asked Randy where he sees himself in five to 10 years.
“I see myself being happy wherever I am. I’ll have those years to create change that will benefit others. Retirement isn’t even a thought; I just see too much needing to be done.”
Melissa grew up the daughter of an Electrician (dad) and Medical Technologist (mom) in Kimberly, WI, a paper mill community just outside of Appleton.
While growing up, she would watch with great interest as local farmers tended to their crops. However, instead of going into farming herself, she decided she wanted to work more directly with the community.
Melissa currently works in Public Health and Research with the UW system. She loves that her job provides her with a sense of bettering the health of the people in our area.
“For example, I know that the youth nutrition and senior physical activity programs which we work on could potentially impact the health of residents in the community in very positive ways,” she said.
In five to 10 years Melissa would like to follow along the same path of giving back to society.
“I have always tried to give back to the community whenever I have the opportunity. Over the next decade, I would like to continue to expand on that work,” she added.
Melissa is very involved with her church, Emmaus/Emaus. She has also participated with Big Sisters of Racine, the YWCA and Americorps Alumni.
I asked what she thinks her closest friends would say about her.
“I think they would probably say that I have a good heart, integrity and that I am a good listener," she said. "I am very driven by service to my community and so are most of my friends.”
Melissa is a big pet lover and enjoys spending time with her two dogs, Sawyer and Josie. With only one class left to go, she will soon complete her Dog Therapy Certification.
One of the issues that means the most to Melissa is community safety.
“Ensuring that our neighborhoods are safer and working to ensure that no one has to be a victim of violence is very important to me,” she said.
Working with young people and mentoring is also big with Melissa. She would like kids to grow up realizing that you make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give.
Randy and Melissa both feel that there are barriers to overcome. They both agree that the ability to remain civil and listen to all points of view is crucial. They have respect for each other and have conducted very clean, friendly campaigns – something to be admired in this day of stone-throwing and name-calling.
Whether you vote for Randy or Melissa, you will be making a good choice. Do your homework, talk to the candidates and decide which decision for you will be a great one.