Barrett Appoints First Board of Health
City's first health oversight board is proposed to be filled almost entirely with women.
The appointments are in for the first members of the City of Milwaukee’s Board of Health.
The nine-member commission, formed following the controversial resignation of longtime commissioner Bevan K. Baker, will provide direct oversight to the Milwaukee Health Department and other city public health initiatives.
The board has been long required by state statute, but was never formed by the city. Following Baker’s January 2018 resignation and subsequent revelations of a cascading series of failures in the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, Alderwoman Chantia Lewis sponsored the creation of the board. The council unanimously approved the measure in early February.
“This is a wonderful moment in the history of our city to be quite honest,” said Kowalik when the proposal was before the Public Safety and Health Committee in January. “I firmly believe that the Health Department wouldn’t be in the situation that it’s in if we had this board of health.”
But it’s Mayor Tom Barrett, not Kowalik, who gets to make the council-confirmed appointments. Barrett is required to appoint one council member, five individuals with formal training in science and public health and three individuals with education credentials in the fields of social determinants of health including policy, law enforcement and commerce. All appointees must be city residents.
Barrett’s nine appointments include seven women.
The mayor picked Lewis to represent the council, a position she previously told Urban Milwaukee she wanted.
Nominated to join Lewis are consultant and former health department member Ruthie Weatherly, Milwaukee Enrollment Network program manager Caroline Gomez-Tom, UniteMKE executive director Bria Grant, Ascension parish nurse Julia Means, Milwaukee Public Schools director of black and latino male achievement LaNelle Ramey, Children’s Hospital Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marylyn Ranta, Greater Milwaukee Center for Health and Wellness CEO Ericka Sinclair and Milwaukee School of Engineering professor Dr. Wujie Zhang.
The nine members reside in six of the city’s 15 council districts. Lewis, Means and Ramey are all residents of the city’s ninth district on the far northwest side. Lewis affectionately calls her district “the new ninth.”
The board, according to its authorizing ordinance, is required to meet at least quarterly. A call for applicants issued in March requested that members be willing to meet monthly for the first year.
Terms are to be for a period of two, three and five years, but the nominations do not list specific appointment lengths.
The appointments are in the control of the Public Safety and Health Committee which is scheduled to meet on June 27th. An agenda has not been published.
If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.