Tom Barrett took his oath of office on April 21 to officially start his fifth term as Mayor of Milwaukee, shortly after Milwaukee Alderman Cavalier “Chevy” Johnson became the fifth African American Common Council President.

After 15 members of the Milwaukee Common Council were sworn in, their first task was to chose between two nominations for the leadership role of President. Alderman Ashanti Hamilton announced several days prior that he would not run for the position again. First elected in 2016, Alderman Johnson was picked in a close 8-7 vote over Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs.

Council Presidents have traditionally been selected in closed door discussions, without a public vote. Because of the social distancing protocols from the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of Council Members attended the charter meeting and inauguration via remote video. The unusual situation allowed for a debate regarding the candidates, which was a departure from precedent and exposed a split between members.

The 2020-2024 Milwaukee Common Council elected me to serve as the new Common Council President. I am grateful to the members for selecting me to lead in this term, and I can say that I have felt the weight of the office since before the votes were cast. Milwaukee is a city on the rise but it is and has been for some time, a city that has seen its fair share of division. This body is emblematic of that – though it is my strong belief that it doesn’t have to be.

We face challenges in the immediate term like dealing with the fallout of the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) as well as others, including the long-term looming fiscal impact of massive pension contributions. These are all primary issues of concern, just as violence prevention, securing local resources to fund our services, and laying a stronger foundation for our young people must also remain in our focus.

The electorate of this city was wise enough to send to this Council the highest proportion of women to have ever served. A whole third of the Common Council is now represented by strong, fierce, brave and capable women who will lead in this term. The city should be thankful for the service that they will render and the Council will be a better body because of it.

Most importantly, it is imperative for the Council to rectify existing internal obstacles and to unite to best serve the needs of the citizens of Milwaukee. As President I will be working to achieve unification and to rectify any obstacles that are holding us back from doing what the people need us to do. I am looking forward to working every day to make sure Milwaukee rises on a path that lifts all parts of our city, together, toward success, prosperity and hope.

– Common Council President Cavalier Johnson

The 2020 – 2024 Council made history for its diversity, with members consisting of 6 African Americans, 2 Latinos, and 5 women. In his position as Council President, Alderman Johnson would take over the mayoral role if Mayor Tom Barrett was unable to complete his duties for any reason.

Mayors traditionally take their oath of office in the Common Council chambers. Due to City Hall being closed from COVID-19, the backyard of Mayor Barrett’s west side home served as the ceremonial location instead – with Judge Martin Joseph “Joe” Donald presiding. Mayor Barrett defeated state Senator Lena Taylor in the April 7 election.

“I’m very thankful to the people of our community for giving me this opportunity. I love the city. I love the people of the city, and I love this job. It’s really a thrill of a lifetime to continue, while we try to get our city back to normal. That’s obviously the number one goal right now, and we’re going to get through this,” said Mayor Barrett “We’re going to get through this. I know it’s a difficult time, but I remain totally optimistic about the future of this city.”

© Photo and Video

Lee Matz and City of Milwaukee

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