Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Kessler Resigns From Fire-Police Board

Retired judge's resignation delays mayor's push to create full, 9-member Fire & Police Commission.

By - Sep 19th, 2022 03:37 pm
Joan Kessler. Photo from Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

Joan Kessler. Photo from Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson‘s bid to fill the Fire & Police Commission with nine members for the first time in its history suffered a setback last week when one of its newest members stepped down.

Joan Kessler, a retired state appeals court judge and U.S. attorney, resigned. The board is responsible for oversight of both the Milwaukee Police Department and Milwaukee Fire Department, including hiring, firing, discipline and policy. Her resignation comes just before two new members were to be confirmed.

Chair Edward Fallone announced the news at the start of the commission’s regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 15.

“She resigned for personal reasons and she has expressed her thanks and appreciation to her fellow commissioners and fellow staff,” said Fallone. “Commissioner Kessler’s work ethic and leadership served as examples for her fellow commissioners.”

Kessler’s resignation was effective Sept. 6. “She will be missed,” said the chair.

“I really appreciated Commissioner Kessler’s attention to detail. I will try to take the way she was very thorough in her evaluations, examinations and all of our business moving forward and just want to thank her for her service,” said Commissioner Amanda Avalos, the vice chair.

“Commissioner Kessler will be sorely missed,” said Commissioner Dana World-Patterson. “I really appreciated her style.”

Kessler joined the commission in July 2021 alongside Fallone and LaNelle Ramey. The appointments, made by Mayor Tom Barrett, marked a key turning point in moving the commission beyond its botched demotion of police chief Alfonso Morales, its repeated tie votes on selecting a new chief and other controversies.

She is married to former state representative Fred Kessler.

Kessler served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin under President Jimmy Carter from 1978 to 1981. She then practiced as an attorney with Foley & Lardner, rising to partner, before winning an elected seat on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in 2004. She held that post until 2020.

The Common Council is set to confirm retired Milwaukee police Lieutenant Ruben Burgos and retired Milwaukee Fire Assistant Chief Gerard Washington to serve on the commission.

Commissioners serve in a part-time capacity, earning $6,600 per year for participating in regularly-scheduled, evening meetings. They are appointed for a five-year term.

Mayor Johnson, as part of a broader public safety plan, committed to filling the commission with nine members. The state increased the maximum size approximately a decade ago, but former Mayor Barrett never appointed a full complement of members.

If the council confirms the two nominees, as expected, it would be the first time in its history that the commission has had more than seven members.

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