Making History: Top executive positions in Milwaukee are now all held by African American men

April 21, 2022

By the time voters in the City of Milwaukee elected Cavalier Johnson as mayor during a special election on April 5, 2022, about half of the 100 largest U.S. cities by population had already elected an African American mayor, according to the U.S. Census Bureau; but the inauguration of Mayor Johnson on April 13, 2022 still represented what Mayor Johnson described as a “generational transition” for the city. Five of the top executive positions in the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County are now all held by African Americans. In addition to Mayor Johnson, the five are: County Executive David Crowley, Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell R. Lucas, Milwaukee Chief of Police Jeffrey B. Norman and Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith P. Posley.

“This is a generational transition and a departure from Milwaukee’s long custom of deriving executive leadership only from men of European background,” said Johnson in his April 13 inauguration speech. “We are a diverse city. I embrace that diversity and the change that has arrived in Milwaukee.” According to the 2020 US Census, Milwaukee ranks 30th in population with 586,503 residents. Approximately 39 percent of those residents are African American. Johnson was elected with strong bipartisan support, receiving 72 percent of all votes cast to complete the remaining two years of Mayor Tom Barrett’s term after he resigned in December to become US Ambassador to Luxembourg.

“The election and elevation of black leaders is more than symbolic,” Mayor Johnson told The Milwaukee Times. “These new voices bring life experience along with new ideas to meet the challenges ahead of us.”

Dr. Posley was the first of the current five to achieve executive office when he was named Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools in October 2018. When contacted by The Milwaukee Times during the week that Mayor Johnson was inaugurated, Dr. Posley noted the important role education played in bringing about this new era.

“As I look at my colleagues leading the city and the county, we all have a footprint in Milwaukee Public Schools,” he said. “Education is where it started for all of us and has led to endless opportunities. This huge accomplishment comes with a huge responsibility. This should be encouraging to our young people as well as the citizens of Milwaukee as they deserve our best.”

Dr. Posley was followed into office by Sheriff Lucas, who was elected Sheriff on November 16, 2018. “I am humbled to live in a time where we see African Americans in decision-making roles that will shape the course of our city, state, and the region for generations to come,” he said.

When reached by The Milwaukee Times, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley also described the current moment as a historic one for Milwaukee. “We have an opportunity to move our County forward by working together to meet the needs of people who’ve historically been left behind,” he said. “In addition, I hope the young people across Milwaukee County are inspired by seeing leaders who look like them, or are the same age as them, talking about the issues that directly affect their lives. This is a real opportunity to cultivate the next generation of leaders and ensure the future remains bright for all of Milwaukee County.”

Milwaukee Police Chief Norman also noted the historic moment for Milwaukee. “I am proud to serve our community alongside the new era of leadership throughout the Milwaukee area. I look forward to working together to build a safer and better Milwaukee for all,” he said.