By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
The Milwaukee Common Council has a new president, and it is Ald. José G. Pérez of District 12.
Pérez was elected on Tuesday, April 18. He is the first Latino to hold the position. Mayor Cavalier Johnson, who served as alderman for District 2, previously held the position prior to winning the special mayoral election earlier this month.
“I want my time as your president to be about hope, about the future,” Pérez said during Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.
Pérez was the only nominee this time around – a contrast to several years ago when Johnson advocated for the position against Ald. Milele Coggs and narrowly won the vote 8-7.
Pérez received 13 votes – Ald. Khalif Rainey was excused and the District 2 seat is currently open following the mayoral election.
Following the announcement, Johnson expressed his congratulations on Twitter.
“I congratulate new Common Council President José Pérez on is election. I have great respect for his work as an Alderperson, and I look forward to collaborating with him to make all of Milwaukee safer and stronger.”
Ald. JoCasta Zamarripa (District 8) nominated Pérez during Tuesday’s virtual meeting. During the nomination she made several remarks and noted that this is an opportunity for the Hispanic and Latino population – the fastest growing constituency in Wisconsin – following the historical win of Johnson as the first Black mayor.
“Ald. Pérez has always challenged the status quo,” Zamarripa said. “He doesn’t hesitate to roll up his sleeves and do the hard work for the benefit of his people, our people…He has the tenacity as well the longevity on the council and the integrity to serve our Common Council and our City of Milwaukee well.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that people of color hold the top four government positions in the city and county with Johnson as mayor, Pérez as Common Council president, David Crowley as county executive and Marcelia Nicholson as chairwoman of the County Board of Supervisors.
Latino Forward, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping Latinos pursue the American Dream, released a statement of congratulations to the alderman.
“President Pérez has proven his ability to look at complex solutions and to not only develop solutions, but to develop consensus around these solutions so they can be implemented…Equally important, he has always been willing to listen to every voice and taken the input into consideration on major decisions.”
The statement concluded with, “Today, Milwaukee’s Hispanic community can take pride in his accomplishment, but more importantly, Milwaukee can take great pride in having city wide leadership that truly represents the majority of our great city.”
Following the election, Pérez thanked his colleagues for their support and for listening to him.
“Serving in this position is impossible without us being together,” he said. “We won’t always agree, but I promise you, we will talk, and we will agree to disagree sometimes, and I will always listen.”
He added that Johnson can find a partner in him and the Common Council and that together they can move the city in a better direction, the region in a better way and the state in a positive light.
Pérez acknowledged that there are divisions among the various communities from Blacks to browns to Asians to Native Americans, but they cannot let those divisions prevent them from working together to address the issues that plague them all.
“We are stronger together, that has always been so,” he said, adding in Spanish, “To my community, I want to tell you that I know your fears and I recognize your joys. I can’t be someone else I can only be who I am, and this is for you. Hold me responsible, keep me honest and please, always stay by my side and keep me in your hearts.”