By Karen Stokes
After over an hour and a half of questions and answers, on Tuesday Feb. 6, the Milwaukee Common Council appointed Dr. Patricia McManus as interim Health Commissioner for the City of Milwaukee.
McManus, a Milwaukee native and executive director of the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin was approved for the Health Commissioner by a 13-1 vote. The job pays from $118,000 to $165,000 a year.
The vacancy occurred on January 11, when Bevan K. Baker resigned as health commissioner following information that surfaced that thousands of families were not properly notified when high levels of lead were found in children in the city of Milwaukee.
In her opening statements McManus displayed confidence in her qualifications for the position. “I’ve always been a public servant, I am capable of doing it, I have the skills, I have the credentials.”
Her credentials include a BSN, MSN in nursing from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee and a Ph.D, in Urban Studies-Health Systems.
After appointing Paul Nannis, Mayor Tom Barrett soon withdrew his appointment of Nannis after it was clear that he did not have the votes to be confirmed by aldermen. On Monday, a resolution to appoint McManus was introduced by Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton.
“I am responsible and accountable to the mayor and the Common Council for what I do for whatever time that is but I’m not taking a loyalty oath,” McManus said. “I know how it works, I’ve worked in government before. It’s important that my loyalty is to the community.”
During the lengthy meeting there was support and resistance to McManus’s appointment, at times heated. Her history, past work with the Black Health Coalition and outcomes were scrutinized.
McManus handled all questions confidently and professionally.
“I’m good at what I do. I’ve done it a long time,” McManus said.
“She’s handling the questions like a champ,” said President Hamilton.
Alderman Terry Witkowski suggested that the process was being rushed and there was little opportunity to scrutinize the appointment.
“I was gone on vacation and I came back to an overwhelming groundswell of support for Dr. Mc- Manus,” said Alderperson Chantia Lewis. “This is what the community is asking for and we need to listen to the community.”
“There has been conversation of the process of this appointee, it’s extremely important for us to have the priority of community trust,” said Hamilton.
“I began to reach out to others in the medical community about someone we could work together with to get past this conflict. Dr. McManus was on all those lists.”
“I thought it was imperative to move at the speed of Justice and not just necessarily the regular
process,” Hamilton said.
McManus almost unanimous approval vote included the only “no” vote coming from Alderman Terry Witkowski and Ald. Murphy abstained, wanting a public hearing.
Dr. McManus’s plan is to take a leave of absence as executive director of the Black Health Coalition to fulfill her duties of the interim health commissioner. She explained that she will meet with Mayor
Barrett and her staff at Black Health Coalition prior to making a decision on an extended appointment.
The mayor’s office released a statement Tuesday that before Barrett signs the file, he will meet
Barrett is set to appoint a permanent health commissioner in early April.