Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Council President Jose Perez Reelected

Pérez wins by 10-5 vote over Milele Coggs to lead city's legislative body.

By - Apr 16th, 2024 12:00 pm
Milele A. Coggs. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milele A. Coggs. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

José G. Pérez will serve a second term as Milwaukee Common Council President.

On a 10-5 vote, the incumbent was given his first full term as the head of the city’s legislative body. Pérez, the first Latino to hold the council presidency, was first elected to the council in 2012 and as council president in 2022 after former council president Cavalier Johnson became mayor.

On Tuesday, Pérez defeated challenger Milele A. Coggs. The alderwoman mounted a vigorous campaign for the seat, including a public campaign on social media. The two hugged immediately following the vote.

Pérez will lead the most diverse council in Milwaukee’s 178-year history. For the first time, the 15-member body has eight African American members, six women and two openly LGBTQ+ members. In addition to directing council business and meetings, the council president is responsible for issuing committee assignments and chairmanships as well as numerous appointments. The president also routinely serves as the face of the council at public meetings and during negotiations, with Pérez earning accolades from his colleagues last year for his role in helping to negotiate Act 12, the city-state revenue-sharing agreement.

Eight of the 15 members have been elected since Pérez first became council president.

Pérez, 55, was raised on the city’s South Side and represents a Hispanic-majority South Side today that is anchored by Walker’s Point. After dropping out of high school, he earned a bachelor-of-arts degree in political science from Cardinal Stritch University. 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 then for the city’s Community Development Grants Administration from 2009 to 2010. Pérez was a community activist and real estate developer immediately prior to his 2012 election. His family moved to Milwaukee from Puerto Rico in the 1950s. He lives near Pulaski Park with his wife and children.

He was nominated for the position by Ald. JoCasta Zamarripa.

Coggs would have been the first woman to hold the position. A nonpracticing attorney, she has served on the council since 2008. She previously ran to be council president in 2020, losing to Johnson by a single vote in a race that proved acrimonious for the council. Johnson secured no votes from his fellow Black council colleagues.

In the event of a mayoral resignation, the council president automatically becomes acting mayor. It’s the pathway that gave Johnson the pole position in winning a special election as mayor.

Coggs was nominated by Andrea Pratt. She said Coggs was uniquely suited because of her lived experience, intellect and kindness. “Alderwoman Coggs embodies what it means to be a servant leader,” Pratt said. In addition to her own vote, Coggs received the votes of Pratt, Mark Chambers, Jr., Larresa Taylor and Sharlen Moore.

The council president is paid $94,310, versus the $84,205 paid to council members.

Clerk Reelected

On a unanimous vote, City Clerk Jim Owczarski was reelected as City Clerk. The council-elected position serves as a key manager within City Hall, including leading the licenses division, Legislative Reference Bureau, Historic Preservation Commission and City Channel. The clerk also administers the oath of office to city officials. His oath was administered by his deputy Dana Zelazny. “Members thank you, you have placed on me a great burden, a great debt, and its honor and privilege that can only be discharged by great effort and I promise to do that,” said Owczarski before thanking his wife, son and several employees by name.

Owczarski has served as clerk since 2012, having previously served as deputy.

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Categories: City Hall, Politics

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