A Historic Win: David Crowley Is Milwaukee's First Black County Executive

Apr 29, 2020

Voters made history in Wisconsin’s April 7 spring election by voting during a global pandemic. They also made history by electing the first black Milwaukee County executive and Milwaukee city attorney, and the first Latina and openly bisexual Milwaukee alderwoman.

In a three-part series, WUWM is bringing conversations from each of the candidates who made history. This is part one: Milwaukee County Executive-elect David Crowley.

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Anyone who has been paying particular attention to the Milwaukee County executive race knows it was unusual from the start. In the beginning, there was a crowded field that started off with six candidates. Two of those candidates got kicked off the ballot before the primary, spurring former County Executive Chris Abele to give a late and hefty endorsement to Crowley. Finally, when results came in almost a week after voters cast their ballots, the margins were razor-thin. On top of all that, Crowley will be sworn in on May 1, during a once-in-a-century pandemic.

But Crowley is optimistic.

“I’m feeling good. It’s definitely been an interesting time. I personally think that we should have never had an election in the middle of a pandemic. But, you know, folks came out and it was an historical moment," he says.

READ: What Lies Ahead For The Future Milwaukee County Executive

Crowley grew up in the infamous 53206 ZIP code that consistently gets referenced as the most incarcerated ZIP code in the United States. For him, being elected Milwaukee’s first black county executive is a signal of hope for communities of color.

“It just lets me know that we have to continue to work as hard as possible. So I'm not the last, that's for sure. The possibility is out there for people of color all over the state of Wisconsin to take up the mantle to rise to the occasion and run for seats like this, so we can improve the quality of living for everybody that we're representing," Crowley says.

He was elected to office on April 13. His transition period started the very next day. Crowley’s transition team currently includes: Milwaukee Bucks Sr. Vice President Alex Lasry, former Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Linda Honold, former We Energies Vice President Thelma Sias, Medical College of Wisconsin Senior Executive Greg Wesley, United Community Center Executive Director Ricardo Diaz.

Crowley says they’re looking forward to hiring the best and brightest talent.

“To make sure that we have great public servants in position to carry out the mantle and carry out the duties to have that healthy community. But again, putting Milwaukee County in the best place possible to make sure that once we are on this road to recovery, it's a recovery that works for everybody," he says.