By Chesnie Wardell
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.
Jackie Q. Carter is a woman who refuses to accept limits.
For as long as she can remember, Carter knew she had to stomp out stereotypes and erase doubts.
She was particularly keen on doing this because although Carter wasn’t a teen mom, teenage pregnancies were something she often saw in her life.
“The message we used to get was, if that happens, then your life is pretty much done,” Carter said.
She now encourages people to remain optimistic throughout life’s ordeals.
Carter, who was raised in Washington Park, is the first Black person and first woman to lead Port Milwaukee, which oversees operations of the 467 acres that make up the Port. The Port also promotes shipping and commerce throughout the region by allowing access to domestic and international ships, rail and other transportation.
More recently, she was the finance and administration officer for Port Milwaukee, where she oversaw business operations, including financial, human resource and administrative operations.
And she has served at local nonprofits for more than 20 years.
She says her continuing mission is to support the regional economy in Wisconsin by making sure businesses can get their commodities to market. She took her oath of office in February.
Her duties include overseeing staff who work in various fields such as engineering, marketing, finance and administration, operations and trade development.
Rooted in family
Carter’s family is the driving force for who she has become.
“My interest is rewriting the legacy or creating a new legacy for my family,” she said.
Carter is a wife and mother of three adult children. Her family also consists of many siblings, two of hers and five of her husband’s, along with their siblings’ children.
“When we get together, it’s a big group,” she said.
A commitment to others
Carter believes in volunteering, donating and mentoring. All these things often come together at her church, Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church.
Because of her strong financial background and love for people, she is excited about her new role.
Though “we are not considered a public service agency in the city, you’re still supporting the public good because you’re looking after the interests of the collective people,” Carter said.
Initially, she wanted to be an accountant, which is why she obtained an associate degree at Milwaukee Area Technical College in accounting.
She would eventually earn her bachelor’s degree with a double major in business and management and professional communication from Alverno College. At Concordia University Wisconsin, she received a master of business administration with an emphasis in public administration.
The business of connecting
Along the way, she learned that business isn’t always about entrepreneurship.
“It’s all about connections,” she said.
Carter knows how to connect people to resources after growing up in a community that didn’t have much. This honed skills that she hopes to use to develop policies and strategies to make sure the needs of businesses are met.
As the director of Port Milwaukee, Carter knows she will be serving as an example. And she savors the opportunity.
“It was a moment of triumph,” she said.
Her friend of 20-plus years, Joy Parks, knew this moment was coming for Carter and feels she deserves this milestone. She describes Carter as genuine and a God-fearing woman.
“She is able to effectively lead from any seat that she sits in,” Parks said.
This kind of support for one another is one purpose of a group Carter and Parks are in – the “Sister Circle.”
“It’s a safe space for you to express yourself freely” where you “can feel love, give love, give prayer and be prayed for,” Parks said.
They even have a moment they call “getting each other together.” This is the help they give when anyone in the group is discouraged, doubtful or steps out of character.
“When I’m not sure of which way to go, they’ll help me with that,” Carter said.
Carter knows this new position represents beating the odds and notes the absence of Black people and women in her industry.
“To be able to be one of the people who can step into that space and be a picture of the possibility is really important to me,” she said.