Tom Barrett talks arena, poverty, more at RC
Tom Barrett

Although he’d never set foot before at Ripon College, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was delighted by his first visit.

“I’m blown away by the beauty of the campus and how friendly everyone has been here,” the three-term leader of Wisconsin’s largest city told more than 150 people gathered Friday in the Dahm Heritage Room of Pickard Commons.

He explained that he was friendly, too, when he began his career in public service in 1978 as a campaign volunteer for Milwaukee mayoral candidate and Ripon College alumnus Dennis Conta.

Barrett had graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison two years earlier and received his law degree from the same school in 1980. But during that summer of ’78, he answered the call for volunteers to lick envelopes for a mayoral campaign.

After showing up and discovering he was the only one there, Barrett completed his task but then made himself a promise: “If I ever get involved [in a campaign] again, I’m going to be the one running.”

And he did.

Only 28, he launched an unsuccessful campaign for the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1982, but won a seat two years later.

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