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Jackie Q. Carter makes history as Milwaukee's first person of color and first woman port director

Meet the new Milwaukee port director — Jackie Q. Carter.
Jackie Q. Carter
Meet Milwaukee's new port director — Jackie Q. Carter.

Many Milwaukee residents hardly ever think about Port Milwaukee until they're driving over the Hoan Bridge and look at the docked cargo ships or a cruise ship arriving.

Port Milwaukee has a whole ecosystem within its 467 acres. It promotes shipping and commerce throughout the region and deals with domestic and international ships, plus rail and over-the-road transportation.

Jackie Q. Carter was recently named municipal port director. Her historic appointment to the position marks the first time that a woman and the first time a person of color has held the position.

For Carter, the notable accomplishment is a testament to years of hard work as well as the responsibility she feels for others who will come after her.

"There are not a lot of people in this industry that look like me, but I do believe that we all end up where we're supposed to. ... I think my responsibility is making sure that I'm not the last and making sure that there's community engagement where we're able to expose young people to all of those different options that exist right here in the community," she says.

Anna-Lee C., DearMKE
A view from the Hoan Bridge.

A Milwaukee native and lifelong resident, Carter was raised by her grandmother on 33rd and Walnut and attended Milwaukee Public Schools, graduating from Marshall High School before pursuing an accounting degree at Milwaukee Area Technical College. She then attended Alverno College for a degree in business and professional communication before going to Concordia Universityfor an MBA in public administration. While working toward her MBA, Carter began working for the city, which eventually prepared her well for the nonprofit sector.

When it comes to directing the port, Carter says, "I think it's important for people to understand that the port really plays a real business liaison role for the city and for the region. So, we help businesses to get their products to international markets and then we also help to bring international products into this region."

The port is responsible for such critical operations as maintaining rail efficiency and safety, dock upkeep and general infrastructure. "I think it is interesting that people don't necessarily always consider the port as part of the city ... but [it is a] steward of the residents and their tax dollars," she says.

The port also works closely with the American Great Lakes Ports Association and American Association of Ports authorities.

A fairly recent development for the port is the incorporation of cruise ship stops. Carter shares her desire to expand those capacities even further and construct dedicated docks to accommodate larger vessels.


Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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