Jose G. Perez

Alderman José G. Pérez represents the 12th District on Milwaukee’s South Side, and won the April 2012 election against incumbent Jim Witkowiak.

Perez grew up in the district he now serves, at S. 10th and W. Walker streets, and was the oldest of two children. He told the Journal Sentinel his grandfather came from Puerto Rico in the early 1950s when agents from the Grede Foundry went to the island to recruit labor.

According to his official biography, Perez dropped out of high school and started college at age 26, after early work experience ranged from investigating welfare fraud to developing gang prevention and youth development programs for non-profit organizations. Perez later enrolled at Cardinal Stritch University and was the first Latino Student Government Association President and the first recipient of the Multi-Cultural Image Award that is now institutionalized at the university. He also served as an intern for Congressman Gerald Kleczka in Washington D.C. through the Hispanic Congressional Caucus Institute (1996), for Milwaukee Mayor John O. Norquist (1997) and for the Milwaukee City Clerk’s office (1998). Perez obtained a B.A. in political science from Cardinal Stritch in May 1999.

Perez soon became MICAH’s executive director and led the organization in creating the Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods Coalition, a group of labor and community organizations that worked to ensure the Park East Land Corridor development would benefit the entire city. He also served as Hispanic/Latino Advisory Committee member for former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold.

In February 2004, José joined the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrialized Organizations as a National Field Representative, and he next joined the City of Milwaukee’s Department of City Development (DCD) in January 2006. He served DCD as an Economic Development Specialist working on business development, real estate development, planning, permitting and public housing until September 2009. Jose then became a Program Officer for the City of Milwaukee’s Community Development Grants Administration, where he managed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects.

In addition to his university studies, José pursued many educational programs, attending several institutes and receiving certifications in finance, real estate, economic development, multicultural entrepreneurship, youth service, management skills and advanced leadership. Perez received The Business Journal’s Forty under 40 Community Leadership Award in 2008.

He ran for alderman as a champion of small business, and won by just 88 votes. Witkowiak fought for a recount, but Perez’s victory was upheld.

Though Pérez says he does not support the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin’s pending lawsuit against the city in regard to women and minority enterprise programs, he otherwise supports the overall goals of the HCCW.

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