MILWAUKEE — Prominent Milwaukeeans are reacting to the news that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has been nominated as the United States Ambassador to Luxembourg. The White House confirmed the news Wednesday.
Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson said in a statement that President Biden has "chosen a proven leader with great experience to represent our nation’s interests and lead the U.S. embassy located in Luxembourg City."
“Tom has a long track record of success, stretching from his time as a state legislator, to his honorable service in Congress, to leading our city as one of the longest-serving mayors in America. His wealth of experience will serve our nation well as he works to deepen our relationship with one of America’s allies. On behalf of the Milwaukee Common Council, I congratulate the Mayor on his appointment. We will continue to work closely with the Mayor during this time of transition. Until he decides to step down he will remain in that position, and the business at City Hall will continue," Johnson said.
Milwaukee's city charter states Common Council President Johnson would become acting mayor until a new mayor is voted into office.
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley tweeted "Wow big news Milwaukee! Congratulations @MayorOfMKE on his nomination to become the next U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg and to President @CavalierJohnson who will be just the second African-American in history tasked with running the City of Milwaukee."
Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce President Tim Sheehy said in a statement that Barrett has been a "consistent champion for economic development."
"We look forward to continuing our work to improve metro Milwaukee as a place to invest capital, grow business and create jobs with the respected leader of the Common Council, Cavalier Johnson, in his new role as Acting Mayor," said Sheehy.
The executive director of Milwaukee 7 Regional Partnership, Jim Paetsch, said that Barrett "was an early champion of regionalism, and he recognized that what was good for the region was good for Milwaukee. He put economic development among his highest priorities and on his watch, Milwaukee drew in a significant amount of investment and job creation. We wish Mayor Barrett all the best in his next chapter and look forward to working with Acting Mayor Johnson, who shares our commitment to economic development.”
Omar Shaikh is the owner of the restaurant Carnevor and the under-construction 3rd Street Market Hall as well as Chairman of the Board for Visit Milwaukee.
He said he had been hearing rumors about the potential for change in the Mayor's office. When he heard the news on Wednesday that the mayor was nominated as the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg, he wasn't completely surprised.
"I'm excited to be completely frank. I'm excited for Mayor Barrett, you know, and he's moving on to hopefully a great journey. But excited for new leadership in the city to be honest," Shaikh said.
Although Shaikh said he's worked well with the mayor over the years, and even considers him a friend, he believes new leadership will bring more innovation to the business community and new developments across the city.
"There are a lot of great things that happened on Mayor Barrett's watch," Shaikh said. "There are just a lot of projects that need to continue to move forward and certain organizations that need to be held accountable."
He said his ideal mayoral candidate is younger and bolder, "somebody with vision and somebody that is willing to knock doors down to really move this city forward in a lot of different directions. Someone that's going to partner with the city leaders and really expand all areas of Milwaukee."
State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said in a statement that “I offer my congratulations to Mayor Barrett on his nomination to serve as ambassador to Luxembourg. I am confident he will do an amazing job representing America as our Ambassador. I would also like to thank Mayor Barrett for his distinguished service to our community and state. Throughout the years he has served with integrity and honor, and I know he will do the same in Luxembourg.”
Gary Witt, CEO of the Pabst Theater Group, told our partners at the Milwaukee Business Journal that he supports the change in leadership, but acknowledges that under Barrett's tenure the city has seen great change, from downtown revitalization to the streetcar.
“Change is a harbinger of tremendously transformative possibilities,” Witt said. “We have the ability to see and do things differently.”
Milwaukee developer Kevin Newell told the BizJournal that Barrett's "oversight and leadership of the downtown renaissance is an important part of the city’s history" and hopes future leadership gets more affordable housing incorporated into the overall development effort.