Madison Mayoral Candidate Maurice “Mo” Cheeks
Yearning to Serve
Maurice “Mo” Cheeks is originally from Matteson, Illinois
and has been a Madison alder since 2013.
school during my middle and high school years,” Cheeks recalled. “We would play basketball and that is where I learned hard work. For him, it was really
important. I’m the oldest of three boys and so it was really important for him to teach us the discipline necessary to go to college. He wanted his sons to go to
college.”

He also wanted Cheeks to learn about teamwork and loyalty.

“I remember one day my dad woke me up at midnight,” Cheeks recalled. “I knew it wasn’t the right time. I asked, ‘What are we doing dad?’ He said, ‘We’re going to
the job site. We’re on strike. I want you to see that.’ My dad was a truck driver and construction worker. He’s a Teamster. They were striking for a raise. He brought
me out there that night and over the course of that evening and the conversations that we had, he really made it real for me. Working hard is not just about you and
your own personal success. It’s about being able to work together to get something meaningful done. It’s about the betterment of community. And that was really
interesting because all along, this discipline and hard work that he had been teaching, I really felt like that experience really expanded that for me so I understood
that it just wasn’t about myself. It was about being a part of something to move a cause forward.”

Cheeks went on to attend Eastern Illinois University where he pursued a career in teaching. But then one day, a professor asked him to attend an event that would
change the trajectory of his life.

“I had a professor come to me and say, ‘Hey are you going to come hear our senator speak,’” Cheeks recalled. “I said, ‘No. Who’s our senator?’ I had to be honest
that I was just a regular 21-year-old. I wasn’t super-engaged in politics. This was around 2005. He said, ‘His name is Barack Obama. And they are saying that he
might become the first Black president.’ I laughed out loud because it seemed like such a bold statement. I didn’t know who Barack Obama was at the time. But it
was intriguing, this suggestion that this guy may become the first Black president. I went to the event with about 200 people standing around listening to him speak
on some of the most important issues facing my generation. He was talking about the student debt crisis facing our country. He was talking about energy
affordability going into the future. He was talking about climate change and the wars that we were in at the time. And as he was talking about all of these big,
important issues, he kept bringing it back to this idea that we have to work together to get anything meaningful done. I realized that he was telling the same story
that my dad was telling. It was also in that moment that it occurred to me that I had never seen a leader like this before. I had never seen someone who looked like
me raise the bar for what it might mean to be an American in ways that we can contribute to society, not up close and personal like that. I think that day planted a
seed for me. It expanded my conception of what I might be able to contribute to society and what I might be able to contribute in this life. I think that day planted the
seed that I thought maybe running for office and being a public servant like this guy might be something that I could do. It’s a concept that had never crossed my
mind before that.”

After graduation, Cheeks got as job with Apple working with their K-12 programming in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He could have chosen any city
to live in within the boundaries of his service territory. He chose Madison, fell in love with it and sought to create his space within it that included public service.

“Over the course of the first several years that I was in Madison, as I was falling in love with this city, I was trying to figure out what that was going to look like for
me as I figured out how to contribute to a place that I live in,” Cheeks said. “I was involved on the planning committee for Badger Rock Middle School. I was
tutoring in schools. I tutored at Memorial High School through the Schools of Hope program for a couple of years. I joined the board of the Foundation for Madison
Public Schools. And I joined a couple of city and county committees. At the age of 28, I decided to run for the city council. At the time, but for the student district,
there were no young people on the city council. There were no African Americans on the city council. As a professional, I was spending my time in Madison’s
burgeoning high tech community and spending my volunteer time in Madison schools. People were talking about this tale of two cities. And I was seeing it every
day. I realized that our community was perhaps growing rapidly and diversifying. And at this critical juncture, we needed to make sure that the next generation had
a voice and a seat at the table because we were planning the future of our city. I thought it was critical.”

And so Cheeks decided to take the plunge and decided to run for the District 10 aldermanic seat that represented areas as diverse as the Allied Drive and Nakoma
neighborhoods.  He won the seat in 2013 and has represented the area ever since. And in July 2018, Cheeks decided to take his level of service up to a higher
level and announced his candidacy to become Madison’s next mayor in 2019.

Next issue: Cheeks’ vision for Madison
Part 1 of 2

By Jonathan Gramling

Maurice “Mo” Cheeks, a candidate to succeed Paul Soglin as mayor of Madison in April, hails from a
middle-class, working-class family in the south Chicago suburb of Matteson. Cheeks’ father, a truck
driver, had dreams of a college education for his children, something he was never able to attain for
himself.

And while Cheeks’ father couldn’t tutor his children on the subject matter that a college education
would entail, he could prepare his children as if he were their higher education coach, giving them
the fundamental qualities they would need later in life.

“When I was growing up, my dad would wake me up early in the morning to go play basketball before