Raina J. Johnson

A Community Organizer at Heart?

Observers sing praises of Ian Bautista, the new head of the Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative

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Ian Bautista discusses his new role in the Clarke Square neighborhood. (Photo By Raina J. Johnson)

Ian Bautista discusses his new role in the Clarke Square neighborhood. (Photo By Raina J. Johnson)

Ian Bautista, the new executive director of the Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative, said his 15-year-old daughter, who was born with special needs, has taught him “persistence, courage and that no situation is insurmountable.”

Those qualities are likely to serve him well in his new position. While Bautista sees promise and opportunity in Clarke Square, he understands there will be challenges as well.

“There’s a saying in Spanish, ‘No hay mal que por bien no venga.’ It roughly translates to, ‘every cloud has a silver lining.’ I’ve had challenges, but they have all taught me valuable lessons,” Bautista said. “She is my teacher,” he added, referring to his daughter.

A seasoned professional in the non-profit industry, Bautista most recently was president of United Neighborhood Centers of America, which merged with the Alliance for Children and Families in January. United Neighborhood Centers of America worked to strengthen organizations that advocate for children, families and communities.

John Schmidt, a colleague at the Alliance for Children and Families, said that Bautista is “a community organizer at heart.”

“Ian is a passionate advocate for authentic community engagement and neighborhood building. His greatest strength and success here was [as] a relationship builder and convener,” added Schmidt, chief operating officer and chief financial officer of the alliance.

Dr. Michele Bria, chief executive officer of Journey House, noted that “Clarke Square has a lot happening. It’s a vibrant neighborhood. Ian Bautista is a good listener and authentic. He can help deepen relationships and engage residents.

“He brings a wealth of knowledge and has the exact ingredients of economic and community development experience to move the needle for our future,” added Bria.

Bautista, 43, is a native of Kansas City, Kan. He earned bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and political science, a master’s in regional and community planning from Kansas State University and an MBA at Rockhurst University, in Kansas City, Mo.

He and his family relocated to Milwaukee in 2006. His wife, Elsa Diaz-Bautista, is the executive director of Latino Alliance Applying Solutions, which promotes independence for individuals with disabilities.

In Kansas, Bautista was president and CEO of El Centro, an organization he said is similar to Journey House in that it assists families with educational, social and economic development opportunities.

Before relocating to Milwaukee, Bautista had frequent contact with clients in Milwaukee as a management consultant for NeighborWorks America. In that role he developed solutions for Neighborhood Housing Services in the areas of financial management, information technology and community organizing in various states including Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Kansas.

Bautista said that, like his hometown, Milwaukee suffers from racial segregation and an evaporating manufacturing base. “But it also has a lot of assets,” he said. “There is a lot of investment and energy around community development and I’ll be here for the long haul, working with people to accomplish things.

“Every community, every family, all people have great talents and skills that are just waiting to be connected for the betterment of those around them. My role is to unlock, invite, and connect,” Bautista added.

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

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