Know Your Commissioner: Grant Foster
For the first installment in our new Commissioner Profile series, we sat down with CARPC’s newest Commissioner, Grant Foster, to learn more about the unique blend of interests and experience he brings to the Commission. Photo courtesy of the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District.
Grant Foster, or Alder Foster as he’s known in Madison’s District 15, joined the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) in December 2019 at the request of Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. His appointment was a logical fit given his concurrent involvement with the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) and the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board (MATPB). In addition to his experience on related commissions, Grant brings with him a regulatory background, strong communication skills, and an extraordinary commitment to public service.
A Chilton, Wisconsin native, Grant first came to Madison to study Spanish and Global Cultures at UW. He furthered his education with study abroad experiences in Spain, Brazil, and Portugal. Before entering public service, Grant worked in the education and healthcare fields as a teacher, medical interpreter, and healthcare administrator. Through these experiences, Grant built skills in communication and gained familiarity with navigating a regulatory landscape. He also developed a combination of patience and tenacity that would later help him maneuver bureaucratic processes to create change.
Commissioner Trivia: Commissioner Foster speaks six languages (admittedly some more fluently than others).
Commissioner Foster’s foray into city government began with winter biking. After his first season of braving the snow and ice on his daily commute, Grant composed a letter with suggestions for improvements to the City’s bike infrastructure. His suggestions, which included actions such as clearing City bike paths on weekends, were met with a standard response. Unsatisfied that his voice had truly been heard, Grant started attending public meetings, and from there became increasingly more involved until he ultimately ran for Common Council.
As alder, Grant is now in the position to meaningfully influence the issues he cares about. This year, he was able to see one of the items from his initial letter come to fruition with the passage of a budget for clearing snow from City bike paths on the weekends.
These days, Grant Foster is a man of many commissions. In addition to representing the 15th District on the Madison Common Council and participating with MMSD, MATPB, and now CARPC, he serves on the City’s Transportation Policy & Planning Board, Transportation Commission, Solid Waste Advisory Committee, Economic Development Committee, and Common Council Executive Committee.
Grant’s main area of interest is transportation, and he looks forward to learning more about its connections to land use in his work with CARPC. He also appreciates the Commission’s regional viewpoint, as he recognizes that most issues don’t stop at municipal borders.
Commissioner Trivia: The longest Grant has ever ridden on a bike in one stretch is an astonishing 190 miles!
Of all his public service activities, he is most passionate about efforts that lead to real world effects. One past example is his involvement in the mission to save a 300-year-old oak tree while still accommodating needed repairs to Buckeye Road. One of his current projects is working to change public communications systems so that alders can more easily connect with their constituents.
Strong values guide both his personal and professional decisions; for all the issues he champions in the public arena, Commissioner Foster truly walks the walk in his home life – or in his case, bikes the bike. Grant’s east side household – which includes a wife and two children – is impressively car-free. His hobbies include gardening, sustainability (including installing solar panels on his house), and volunteering with community organizations, especially parent-teacher groups and groups that work with kids. Although he acknowledges that cats are cool, he is sadly allergic; his family’s pet-of-choice is a dog.