By Karen Stokes
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley has lofty goals for the county and for communities of color. He has bold ideas for reaching those goals but his number one priority is getting through the pandemic.
Crowley is the first Black man elected to the county executive position. Prior to Crowley, Lee Holloway and Marvin Pratt both served as interim county executive.
Last week Crowley gave his first State of the County address where he focused on unity and discussed his steps to address Milwaukee’s racial disparities.
“When we lift up our most vulnerable neighbors and prioritize communities who have been historically marginalized, we all benefit,” he said.
Crowley said his administration has been working to ensure that county leadership reflects the county population.
“We can and must do better because representation is important, not only to make sure that voices and perspectives of all our communities are heard but also so the next generation of leaders can imagine themselves serving their community,” Crowley said. “The first thing you have to do is make sure you build a broad enough table to allow people to be at the table, that includes myself as an African American male in the community.”
Last year, when Crowley was sworn in, he pledged that by the time he leaves office, Milwaukee will no longer be among the most segregated communities in the nation.
“We have to continue these conversations internally and externally throughout Milwaukee county,” Crowley said. “That is a big and bold statement I made, and people may look at me and say that is impossible but if we are not willing to have these tough conversations and come up with big, bold ideas and goals for us to reach, it’s going to be hard for us to even think about getting ourselves off that list. We’ve been on this list for almost 10 years yet we haven’t done enough to make sure we’re completely off this list. We can’t continue to fluctuate between first, second and third place on this list.”
For Crowley, the most important goal for 2021 is getting through the pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic last year, there have been 1,283 deaths of Milwaukee County residents, and there more than 107,000 confirmed cases according to Milwaukee county.
“Getting through the pandemic is our number one priority. We think about the vaccine, now we have a third vaccine that just got emergency approval. It’s time for us to think about what this recovery will look like and what we are doing to make sure businesses that are the staple of the community continue to strive,” Crowley said. “The only way we can bounce back from this pandemic is by investing in equity and fixing the systems that brought us here in the first place.”
Crowley continued, “When we talk about uplifting people of color, especially Black people in Milwaukee County, it’s going to take all of us to play some type of role. We are talking about stepping outside of our comfort zone, being comfortable, being uncomfortable so we can break down these barriers. We have to focus on the employment of many of these individuals and supporting our Black owned entrepreneurs making sure that they can continue to have success because in turn when you think about Black business or businesses of color they tend to hire individuals that look like them and live in the community. We have to make sure that we are supporting each other throughout this journey of reaching racial equity.”