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Tom Barrett steps down as Milwaukee mayor to become Luxembourg ambassador

Tom Barrett announced Wednesday that he signed his resignation letter, effective at 5 p.m.
Emily Files
Tom Barrett announced Wednesday that he signed his resignation letter, effective at 5 p.m.

Tom Barrett is set to resign as mayor of Milwaukee Wednesday at 5 p.m., after 17 years on the job.

Barrett will take the oath of office as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg Thursday morning. Barrett's appointment to the post was confirmed by the Senate last week.

At a press event Wednesday, Barrett said serving as Milwaukee’s mayor was both the hardest and most rewarding job he’s ever had.

"I want to thank the residents of the city of Milwaukee for giving me nearly 18 years of the biggest honor and privilege of my life," Barrett said. "I have absolutely loved being the mayor of this great city."

Looking back at his tenure, Barrett said he was proud of housing and business development, including in the Menomonee Valley. He touted the city’s work in reducing homicides prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"That all changed last year, the year the pandemic started," Barrett said. "And without a doubt, Milwaukee — as with many major American cities — has seen a resurgence of violence since 2020 began. And that is an issue, that’s a huge issue, there’s no question. And I think that’s a challenge going forward."

The next mayor will face that challenge.

Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier “Chevy” Johnson is acting mayor for the next few months.

Johnson will vie for the permanent position against at least seven other candidates. The Common Council is meeting Thursday morning to schedule the mayoral vote for the spring election on April 5 with a primary to narrow the field on February 15.

As for Barrett’s plans, he said he expects to move to Luxembourg in January. He and his wife plan to keep their home on the west side of Milwaukee.

Emily is WUWM's education reporter and a news editor.
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