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4 of Milwaukee's top leadership positions are held by Black men, for the first time in history

Milwaukee Top Positions
Posted at 4:30 PM, Apr 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-07 19:56:40-04

MILWAUKEE — It’s a historic moment for Milwaukee. For the first time ever, both the city and county’s top executive and top law enforcement officer are Black men.

“To see myself and now Mayor Johnson in these positions, it really shows you how much we’re moving forward as a community,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley.

Crowley and Mayor Cavalier Johnson spoke with TMJ4 News about this historic moment.

“For the first time in so many people’s lives, they can look at the two highest office holders, the two principal leaders in executive positions in Milwaukee and Milwaukee County and see their own reflection. That helps to change things because when you grow up in neighborhoods like that, those kids will be what they see,” Johnson said.

James Kelly Jr.
James Kelly Jr.

Johnson and Crowley round out a group of four Black men in top governmental leadership. They serve in both executive and law enforcement positions.

Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas and Police Chief Jeffrey Norman are the other two.

“It’s pretty good because it inspires you,” said James Kelly Jr., a 9-year-old student who recently won a spoken word contest honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

History made: Johnson, Crawley talk about rise to leadership

“It was about making the community a better place,” he said.

Black Milwaukeeans said they are happy to see the representation while they also understand challenges persist in communities of color.

“There are serious problems in our community and holding political office is not the total answer to solving those problems,” said Clayborn Benson, founder of the Wisconsin Black Historical Society.

Clayborn Benson

Benson has had a unique front row seat to Black history in Milwaukee; both as the founder of the society and even as a TMJ4 News photographer years ago.

He said getting economic power to Black and Brown communities is key.

“The power is not in the legislators’ hands. It is in the business, the structure that makes this system work,” Benson said.

Johnson said representation is a small step to inspire kids to help make a difference in the future.

”Kids will be what they see, and now they can see themselves in the Mayor's office or the County Executive’s office and that’s powerful,” he said.

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