Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

The Ann Wilson Problem

Mayor's chief of staff promises she will be replaced on Fire & Police Commission. But when?

By - Jun 24th, 2021 12:11 pm
Mayor Tom Barrett and Ann Wilson accept a grant in 2018. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett and Ann Wilson accept a grant in 2018. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Everyone says they like Ann Wilson.

But not everyone wants her to continue to serve on the Fire & Police Commission (FPC), especially after the board unanimously demoted police chief Alfonso Morales and engulfed the city in a lawsuit.

It’s a problem that is now causing acrimony between the Common Council and Mayor Tom Barrett‘s office.

Wilson’s term expired in 2018 and in March the Common Council rejected Barrett’s belated reappointment of Wilson. But she, as city rules allow, continues to serve on the commission.

Council members asked Thursday during a meeting of the Public Safety & Health Committee why Barrett was making three new appointments to the FPC but not replacing Wilson.

“We still don’t know what the plan is,” said Alderman Jose G. Perez regarding Wilson and possibly filling all nine positions.

“The mayor feels strongly that she is a good voice of the community and adds a lot of value to the committee and there needs to be a really solid replacement to fill that position should he choose to go that way,” said Barrett’s chief of staff Jodie Tabak.

Wilson, 73, has served on the commission since 2013 and is well regarded, particularly for her role as manager of the Hillside Terrace Resource Center for the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee.

“If Ms. Wilson was so valuable I don’t understand why she was on the commission for years with an expired term,” said Perez.

Multiple sources told Urban Milwaukee that was because she legally couldn’t be reappointed. She no longer lived in the City of Milwaukee and wasn’t eligible to even continue to serve, though she did.

Voting records indicate Wilson lived in Glendale from at least February 2018 to April 2019. She now lives on the East Side.

Barrett, at the time, said Wilson agreed to stay on until a replacement was found. He nominated Denise Bartlett, a retired Milwaukee Police Department civilian employee, to replace Wilson in 2019.

Bartlett, who is white, told the council she would bring diversity to the commission as part of her role replacing Wilson, who is Black. That was one of many issues that caused the council to spar with Bartlett. The council rejected her on a 3-11-1 vote in May 2019.

But council members and the mayor’s office appear to have forgotten that battle. Both sides made comments Thursday indicating that the mayor never nominated someone to replace Wilson.

Perez called it an “abuse” by Barrett to leave Wilson on the commission after the council denied her reappointment.

“When I saw Ms. Wilson wasn’t being replaced it was a bit of thumbing the nose at the council,” said Ald. Scott Spiker of the three new appointees. The appointees will replace two members with expiring terms and a vacancy created by a resignation.

Tabak said the mayor is working on a replacement for Wilson as part of a strategy to go from seven to nine members.

“I can tell you the mayor is in communication with someone that he feels would be an appropriate replacement for her,” said Tabak. She said Barrett spoke with the potential nominee on June 19th.

It was the first time the mayor’s office has publicly confirmed a replacement for Wilson is coming.

“This is why there is such a strained relationship between the council and mayor’s office,” said Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, citing a lack of communication. “This process is botched at best.”

Spiker said he didn’t think his relationship was strained, but said more communication was needed. He asked for the timeline.

“Both the candidate and the mayor understand the urgency,” said Tabak.

“That’s a canned response there,” said Spiker.

“Would you like me to say it differently?” asked Tabak.

Committee chair Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic called for an end to this back and forth.

“It’s a dynamic situation that has been evolving,” said Tabak.

Until then, Wilson continues to serve on the commission. She is slated to cast a vote for the next commission chair at the board’s July 15th meeting.

For more on the confirmation of potential new FPC members Joan Kessler, LaNelle Ramey and Edward Fallone see our other coverage of the Public Safety & Health Committee.

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.

One thought on “City Hall: The Ann Wilson Problem”

  1. chico21 says:

    Ann Wilson is one of the heroes in Milwaukee. Ask anybody who has lived in the Hillside Apartments just north of the Bradley Center where she has run the Resource Center for decades while also serving on the board of the Milwaukee Housing Authority. Or talk to active students or faculty at MATC where she has served on the board not as a resume builder or an apparatchik for Chamber of Commerce honcho Tim Sheehy, but rather as an advocate for MATC’s mission to serve the least privileged students in our community.

    The fiasco of first appointing Alfonso Morales to be Police Chief, then firing him without due diligence by the commission, is being blamed on Wilson. She, indeed, supported both of these moves by voting with the majority. But it is absurd to blame these mistakes solely on her. To her credit, she has taken this abuse without pointing her finger elsewhere. But I’ll be happy to. City Attorney Tearman Spencer and the staff of the Fire and Police Commission screwed up royally in giving faulty advice to the Commissioners when they fired Morales.

    And Mayor Barrett is doing Wilson no favors by leaving her hanging out to take abuse from some Alders and the media.

    She’ll eventually be replaced on the Commission.

    But her legacy is intact: this is merely a hiccup in a life of service to the people of Milwaukee. We need more Ann Wilsons.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us