By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
More than a week after the Common Council named Patricia McManus as the interim health commissioner, on February 15, 2018, during a press conference Mayor Tom Barrett announced he did not sign the appointment file approving their selection.
After the resignation of former health commissioner Bevan Baker in January, the Common Council began a search to replace him. Baker had been in the position for 13 years and resigned in response to the handling of lead in Milwaukee. Before McManus had been chosen, Barrett placed previous health commissioner Paul Nannis in the temporary position.
According to the Journal Sentinel, McManus was voted as interim in a 13-1 vote.
Barret expressed his displeasure at the Common Council’s actions claiming that the decision was rushed and made due to political gains over the priority of the public’s health. He said that due to the rushed nature of the decision the public was not granted meetings with the potential interim.
However, he added that the public and more importantly the children affected by the lead, “do not deserve an extended controversy.” And that he will be constructing a support team for McManus while she remains in the position.
Given that McManus is only in the position short term, the Common Council will continue to receive applications for the position full term until February 23, 2018. Barret expressed his hopes that he and the Common Council can move forward together and with thoughtfulness to choose someone.
It is possible that they will have an appointment with a full-term commissioner as early as April Barrett said.
According to Barrett, he and McManus have known each other for a long time and were able to have a candid conversation to discuss priorities and concerns. They have agreed that the Lead Program is the main priority and they will be focusing on removing lead paint from older homes.
In response to the possibility of lead being in the water, he and McManus plan to work on distributing water filters to affected homes.
He also said, “There is no lead in our water mains.”
In any case, water filters need to be replaced every six months to work efficiently and Barrett advised running the water for a few minutes every morning to ensure water purity.
Barrett said that although McManus does not plan to be in this position long term he plans to support her.
“I want her to succeed,” he said.