Jeramey Jannene

Perez Elected Common Council President

Ald. Jose Perez is first Latino to lead council. Fills vacancy created by Johnson's election as mayor.

By - Apr 19th, 2022 10:46 am
Alderman Jose G. Perez speaking at a 2016 ribbon cutting. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Alderman Jose G. Perez speaking at a 2016 ribbon cutting. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

For the first time in Milwaukee’s history, the city’s legislative body will be led by a member of the city’s Latino community.

Tuesday morning, the Common Council unanimously elected Alderman Jose G. Perez as Common Council President.

“I want my time as president to be about hope, to be about the future, to be about shared purpose,” said Perez in thanking his colleagues, friends and family. “Serving in the position is impossible without us being together. We won’t always agree, but I promise you we will talk.”

The new president said he is a “willing partner” for his predecessor, newly-elected Mayor Cavalier Johnson.

Perez’ election had none of the public acrimony that beset Johnson’s 2020 election to the post. Johnson was elected by a single vote over Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs, with none of Johnson’s fellow Black council members voting for him.

“We have always been stronger together, this has never been more so,” said Perez.

Perez was first elected to the council in 2012 after he successfully challenged incumbent Jim Witkowiak to serve as 12th District alderman. The district includes Walker’s Point and surrounding near South Side neighborhoods. Perez won that election by 88 votes, and was re-elected in 2016 and 2020.

The new president was formally nominated for the post by Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa. “Jose has worked hard to get here,” said Zamarripa, first elected in 2020. Then a state assembly representative, she said she was honored to be the first elected official to back his bid. “Alderman Perez has always challenged the status quo. He doesn’t hesitate to roll up his sleeves and get to work,” she said.

The president position grants a pay bump from $73,222 to $82,749, additional office staff and the power to unilaterally dole out committee assignments, including powerful chairmanships. The president also serves as the acting mayor in the event of a mayoral resignation and often serves as the public face of the council at events and during negotiations.

Perez, 53, was raised on the city’s South Side. After dropping out of high school, he earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Cardinal Stritch University, where he earned experience for his current role by serving as the first Latino president of the university’s student government.

The new council president has a wide variety of work experience. He interned for Congressman Gerald Kleczka and Mayor John Norquist, served as executive director for Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH), worked for the Department of City Development from 2006 to 2009 as an economic development specialist and later worked for the city’s Community Development Grants Administration from 2009 to 2010. Perez was a community activist and real estate developer immediately prior to his election.

Perez, whose family moved to Milwaukee from Puerto Rico in the 1950s, lives near Pulaski Park with his wife and children.

“I congratulate new Common Council President José Pérez on his election. I have great respect for his work as an Alderperson, and I look forward to collaborating with him to make all of Milwaukee safer and stronger,” said Johnson in a statement after Perez was selected. Johnson resigned on April 13.

Ald. Khalif Rainey was excused from the meeting, but the alderman had already let the cat out of the bag at a Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee in February. He called Perez, the committee chair, “Mr. President,” then laughed and said “not yet.”

Perez will maintain his council seat in addition to his duties as president, but two special elections are expected. One will be needed to fill Johnson’s already vacant seat. A special election will also be necessary to replace Ald. Nik Kovac, who was nominated Tuesday morning by Johnson to serve as city budget director. Both are expected to be scheduled to coincide with the dates of this fall’s partisan elections, which include an August primary and November general election.

Categories: City Hall, Politics, Weekly

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