Meet NIKKI CONKLIN, neighbor at Wexford Ridge Apartments and new District 9 Alder. Read on to find out more about this amazing woman, mother, and scholar.
Nikki Conklin was born and raised in Montello, WI, as the youngest sibling to her older brother and late sister in the predominantly white town of roughly 1500 people, the same town her mother is from, and where her parents still reside to this day. Nikki states, “I was an independent kid, and I learned from my parents early that everything you want, you gotta work for.” So she started working when she was 14 years old at the local grocery store and has never forgotten that advice. Nikki thrived in Montello all through K-12 schooling, before graduating high school and moving to the Madison area where she has resided ever since.
Even as a child, Nikki was so sure she knew what she wanted to do, recalling “I wanted to be a hairdresser for as long as I can remember. I always loved doing hair. And in Montello there’s no real opportunities, so I just felt like Madison was where I needed to be.” She enrolled in MATC for cosmetology and waitressed to put herself through school. There she met her older children’s father. At 19 years old Nikki was pregnant with her first child, Andre, and just under two years later she would be blessed with her second child, Zaria.
“I was trying to navigate the system, figure out financial aid, and working while going to school, and it was just too much… I dropped out of school and really dove deep into being a mother, raising my kids, and trying to figure out life.”
Now a mother to 13 month old Xyla, 14 year old Zaria, and 16 year old Andre, Nikki has come a long way from where she was at just 19. She and her family moved to Wexford ten years ago, and that’s when she found the LCEC. Her favorite story goes, “I got the flyer underneath my door talking about a free community dinner, and I’m like ‘Well, what’s a community center? Free food? Games? Alright kids, we’re going!’”. She goes on to talk about how it felt to first walk into the Center, remembering, “I’ll never forget that feeling. Everyone was so welcoming, so friendly, a smile on everyone’s faces. Everyone just welcomed us with open arms.” Shortly after, Nikki was enrolling her kids in the after school and summer programs, and she herself was volunteering as a reading buddy for kindergarten through 2nd grade students.
When asked what motivates Nikki to be a neighborhood leader, she says, “I really didn’t know I was a neighborhood leader until others pointed it out. I have always been the type of person to advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves. Starting way back when my big kids were in elementary school. I would volunteer in their classrooms, read to the kids, chaperone field trips and attend their events. I always believed if you see something that is not quite right, you have to say something. I know how important it is to be an involved parent and working at the center really shaped me into the deeply-rooted neighborhood leader I am today.”
Despite her commitment to supporting the people around her, Nikki never envisioned herself in politics or as an elected official. Luckily the people in her corner recognized her leadership and helped create and promote her District 9 Alder campaign.
“That’s what brought me here. People seeing me, that I am a community leader, and a community organizer, and my community needed me. They needed my voice to represent them and their thoughts and their concerns, and get their questions to the table to be answered.”
Nikki has lived in Madison for her entire adult life, and she has lived in the Wexford Ridge Apartments for 10 years. On April 20, 2021 she was sworn in as the District 9 Alder, and for the first time in Madison history, Wexford Ridge residents will have someone who lives in the Wexford Ridge Apartments representing them. When asked why she decided to join the race, she states, “I want to be a role model for people, and for anyone who hears my story. It’s possible! Know that a single Black mother, raising her three children on low income, who put herself through school, got an associates degree and a bachelor’s degree in human services, and has now run a campaign that beat out the incumbent of 20 years. It’s possible.”
Thank you, Nikki, for using your leadership and kindness to bring the voice of your neighbors to the attention of the decision-makers in the city of Madison. The LCEC is so grateful to have you as a part of this community.