By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Cavalier Johnson knew he was going to be mayor some day and that day has arrived. Johnson, who previously served as alderman of District 2 and as president of the Common Council, recently won the special mayoral election against former Ald. Bob Donovan.
“This is a generational transition in Milwaukee,” Johnson said during his inauguration. “It is a departure from our city’s long custom of deriving executive leadership from only men of European background. We’re a diverse city. I embrace that diversity.”
Johnson’s mayoral inauguration took place at the Harley Davidson Museum, 400 W. Canal St., on Wednesday, April 13. Amidst a crowd a supporters, family and friends Johnson took his oath of office, officially becoming the City of Milwaukee’s 45th mayor and its first Black one.
Johnson, who will be finishing the remainder of former Mayor Tom Barrett’s term, has his work cut out for him. But all indicators suggest he is more than ready to rise to the occasion.
He plans to address issues such as gun violence, reckless driving and community and police relations. He wants to grow Milwaukee with family-supporting jobs, investments and improvements in infrastructure.
Johnson’s overarching goal is to create a city fit for this generation and the next, a place where everyone and anyone can feel proud to call it home. This begins with partnerships, he said, adding that the work ahead will be more successful and productive when people work together.
“Cooperation is the best path forward,” Johnson said. “This is particularly true as we address public safety.”
He noted that no one wants violence in their neighborhoods or reckless drivers on their streets.
Police play a role in this, he said, and he wants the department to be sufficiently staffed and for the police to be respectful and constitutional. The Office of Violence Prevention is also part of this work as it involves prevention and intervention, he said.
Johnson added that residents and the economy play roles in creating a safer city.
“I strongly believe the most important ingredient needed for neighborhood stability, safety and hope is a strong economy,” he said. “That means good job and good pay and increased opportunity.”
He wants more homeowners, less hunger and more hope, a reduction in trauma and more school attendance and more. The city itself cannot achieve these alone, he said, but it can facilitate them through partnerships.
“We need to see growth and investment in neighborhoods across Milwaukee,” he said, not just Downtown.
Johnson said he intends to take an active approach to the office and will be out in the field and engaged with the various departments.
“I am a listener, a planner and a champion for positive change,” he said, adding that his colleagues on the Common Council are too.
Milwaukee plays a critical role in the region and in the state, he said, when the city is vibrant, the region and state benefit.
Speakers included Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Gov. Tony Evers, County Executive David Crowley and Johnson’s second grade teacher, Carolyn Neumann.
Crowley told Johnson to consider three principles in his new role: collaboration, compromise and conscious. He offered his office as a partner to Johnson.
“Mayor Johnson, I am present, I am active, and I am ready for more,” Crowley said. “You can count on that level collaboration from not only me and my office but from all of Milwaukee County.”
He continued, “Mayor Johnson, we must usher in a new leadership in local government. One with empathy and care for all. I’m asking you to be that superhero. I need you to be Batman for the City of Milwaukee.”
Dominque Johnson, the mayor’s wife, also spoke during the ceremony. She spoke on the renewal and hope that Johnson will bring the city and of his character.
“The people of Milwaukee have invested in our city and Cavalier as mayor, it is not taken for granted,” she said. “I believe that Cavalier was elected on that hope, the hope that Cavalier will be a mayor we can trust to do the right thing, lead and represent us all to create a brighter future.”
Above all else, Johnson hopes he’s an inspiration to the next generation. That they’ll realize no matter their background or the mistakes they’ve made, they can achieve great things.
“I want all young people in Milwaukee to know they could be medical professionals, they could be business executives, they could be skilled trades people, they could be entrepreneurs, they can be artists, they can be educators and yes, they can be mayor,” he said.
He emphasized that his background shaped him, and he will bring those experiences with him to the Mayor’s Office.
“I will bring solutions and approaches to the Mayor’s Office, that others, with more traditional outlooks, have previously not offered,” he said. “I will lead this city, with my full energy, with the highest level of integrity and with an unwavering focus on building a better, stronger and safer city.”