By Eelisa Jones
Attorney Danielle Bailey, the newest County Executive nominee to the Milwaukee County Human Rights Commission (MCHRC), is in the final steps of her appointment confirmation. Earlier this month, Bailey and John Zapfel, the County Executive’s Deputy Chief of Staff, appeared at a Judiciary, Safety, and General Services Committee meeting to introduce Bailey to its seven members.
The Committee unanimously voted in favor of confirmation.
Born in Seattle, Bailey moved to Milwaukee when she was about nine-years-old.
After graduating from high school, Bailey traveled internationally and received her bachelor’s degree in International Studies from University of Illinois – Chicago.
In 2009, Bailey returned to Milwaukee and enrolled in Marquette University’s law program. She received a J.D. cum laude from Marquette in 2012.
Bailey said that her father played a pivotal role in her career path choice. “He really instilled a sense of fighting for what is right,” Bailey said.
“His whole life was dedicated to civil rights work…. He took every opportunity to teach us the importance of fairness and equality in the community and workplace.”
Bailey decided to contribute her own skills and talents to the Milwaukee community in the same way that her father had – through legal support and representation.
She identified her father’s civil rights work and involvement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as significant influences on her selection of employment litigation as a subfield.
Employment litigation attorneys work to protect the rights of individuals within the workplace.
Employment litigation often involves issues of racial and sexual discrimination.
Bailey said that this type of work was the only option she felt passionate about after graduating from law school.
“I saw myself working for more disenfranchised and underserved communities,” said Bailey.
“This was a way for me to get experience and try to start having an impact right away.”
Last fall, Bailey became founder and president of the LGBT Bar Association of Wisconsin.
Bailey said that she noticed a general lack of legal institutions dedicated to LGBT rights in the state.
She said that she wanted to fill that gap in order to increase the visibility of LGBT people within Wisconsin’s legal profession.
In addition to her work as an employment litigation attorney and president of the Wisconsin LGBT Bar Association, Bailey volunteers as a board member for True Skool, Inc. – a community organization designed to empower urban youth through art and education.
True Skool offers workshops on a number of urban arts including graffiti, “b boying,” “b girling,” DJing, and MCing. True Skool supplements its arts programming with workshops covering social justice, community service, and entrepreneurial skills.
At the end of its workshop sessions, True Skool hosts a showcase event in which their students display their artistic and educational achievements.
Bailey learned of her nomination for MCHRC appointment earlier this year when she was approached by Rayna Andrews, the County Executive’s director of community relations.
“I was pretty honored when I was contacted about the pending appointment,” said Bailey. “I think I have a lot to offer to the Commission.”
If confirmed, one of Bailey’s main goals as a Commission member will be to increase awareness of workplace rights, she said.
Bailey has recently received authorization to publish and distribute “Know Your Rights” cards for the LGBT community under the LGBT Bar Association of Wisconsin.
She said that this type of project exemplifies some of the efforts she plans to push for in the MCHRC if confirmed.
“Knowledge is power and a great tool,” said Bailey.
“As a biracial, bisexual, female county resident, I understand how the intersection of race and gender and class affect relationships with the county.”
Bailey and her partner were expecting their first child at the time of her Courier interview.
She said that she is dedicated to creating a just and equal community not only for herself, but for her family as well.
The MCHRC consists of seven members who are appointed by the County Executive. Each member serves for a two-year term. The MCHRC acts as a review and advising entity for all county government departments. Since 2011, the responsibility of MCHRC appointment has fallen to County Executive Chris Abele.
In addition to MCHRC appointments, the County Executive is responsible for appointing members to over two dozen boards and commissions, including the Election Commission, Ethics Board, Personnel Review Board, and the Social Development Commission.
Abele said that, prior to being County Executive, he noticed that many members of Milwaukee’s boards and commissions were unversed in their responsibilities.
Upon observing this trend, Abele said that he became aware of the need to appoint individuals who “are not just competent [in], but knowledgeable” of their roles as board and commission representatives.
“When I got the chance to appoint someone like Danielle – who is bright and experienced, knows the field, and is passionate about it… It makes choices of this kind really easy,” said Abele.